Nicholas Hedges

Artist & Writer

"Today we move because somewhere in the future they're remembering our existence."

 

Serre Palimpsest

Airport Crash Truck (mp3)


Past Exhibitions & Residencies

A Line Drawn in Water
October 29 - November 18 2010

Mine the Mountain (3)
June 7 - 26 2010

Mine the Mountain (2)
March 6 - 19 2010

The Woods, Breathing
January 27 - February 8 2010

Poster for Echo exhibition

Echo
September 9 2009

Poster for Murder Exhibition

Murder
July 17 - August 2 2009

Poster for The Tourist Exhibition

The Tourist
April 1 - 4 2009

Poster for Mine the Mountain (1)

Mine the Mountain
October 1 - 8 2008

Artist's Statement

"The Past is Time without a ticking clock. A place where paths and roads are measured in years. The Present is a place where the clock ticks but always only for a second. Where, upon those same paths and roads we continue, for that second, with our existence."

The remains comprising our present-day environments are overlaid with a weave of unremembered lives, narratives and events, which in a moment can be revealed through even the most mundane objects and surroundings.  My work seeks to explore these revelations, through the use of text, movement, image and sound.

Click here to read more | Gallery | Flash Gallery

Blog: The Road to New South Wales

On Monday 28th January 1828, a sawyer by the name of Richard Burgess was travelling from Abingdon to Oxford with a cartload of bone for sale in town. On the road to Oxford, Burgess met with three men; Stephen Hedges – a young Abingdon man in his late teens, Henry Stockwell, originally from Aberdeen and a few years older than Hedges, and a man called John Harper. Hedges - described later by Stockwell as the ‘captain’ as regards the events about to follow - asked Burgess if he was going to Oxford and whether he’d carry a parcel for them. Burgess agreed, at which point Harper left the group, while Hedges and Stockwell continued on towards Oxford with the cart.

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The Somme

Blog: Landscape DNA: The Simultaneity of Stories-So-Far

When trying to access the past through walking, an awareness of the present – of being present in the world - is vital, and the natural world – the world of trees and stones – does that for us. Understanding the fact that the past was once the present, helps us in some small way to empathise with those lost to the past. The present moment is a space, one which lasts only for a second – a space comprising the simultaneity of what Doreen Massey calls ‘stories so far’ or what I have called ‘durations’. And it’s in that space that life happens. Behind us and in front, beyond the physical boundaries of that second we are absent. The text is written, or yet to be written - the present being the moment of writing. Gormley’s sculptures then articulate this line between presence and absence, past and present. In that space, in which we continue with our existence, we hear the birds, we see the sun, feel the wind and rain. In that space, all our hopes are held, all our fears and regrets. Into the space we carry our past in the form of memories. It’s the space of the everyday - one which we often take for granted. But it’s a space we share with everyone who’s ever gone before us.

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The Gentleman's Servant

If you visit the Westgate Library in Oxford, and make your way to the second floor, to the centre for Oxfordshire Studies; if you ask to see the microfilm of Jackson’s Oxford Journal for February 9th 1771, you will find, somewhere within its pages, the following notice:

The Gentleman's Servant

The text contains just 80 words, but many questions come to mind when I read it. Who was this man? Where was he going? Who was he working for? What was in the portmanteau? And who wanted to know? What had he done that the need to 'speak withal' was worthy of a reward? And why was the notice only published two months after the man had left town? Would anyone recall seeing him so long after the fact?
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Current Exhibition: Mine the Mountain

The Woods, Breathing

June 7th - 26th 2010

The North Wall Arts Centre
South Parade
Oxford OX2 7NN

The journey into my own past and that of my ancestors began following a visit to Poland in October 2006, during which time I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. Since that time I've visited other camps and the battlefields of World War One, looking for ways of identifying with those who not only lost their lives, but were lost to the world completely.
Mine the Mountain website

Blog: The Somme

The name Somme is, in the minds of many, synonymous with death, a byword for futile and indiscriminate slaughter. Think of the Somme and the image of men walking towards their deaths comes to mind. Think of the Somme and one date stands out above all others; 1st July 1916, the day the battle began. The battle itself lasted over four months, up until November 18th, but the 1st July is as infamous a date as any, being as it is the blackest day in British Military History. By the end of the first day’s fighting, British and Commonwealth forces had lost almost 60,000 men, with 20,000 of those killed or missing in action - a number which is almost impossible to comprehend. The exact number of casualties over the entire course of the battle (1st July – 18th November 1916) is unknown, but Allied forces lost some 620,000 men with over 145,000 killed or missing in action. Germany suffered around 465,000 casualties with almost 165,000 of those killed or missing.
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The Somme

Postcard sent on 28th June 1914 - the day of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Click here to see the other side.

The Place That's Always There (Trees) 3

The Place That's Always There (Trees) 3

Blog: The Victorians

"Elijah Noon and George Hedges were fined, the former 7s. 9d. and the latter 10s. 6d. for being drunk and riotous at Summertown on 29th Dec. last. P.C. Culverwell substantiated the accusation and stated that the defendants were stripped to fight, when he stopped the disturbance going on." The Elijah Noon in this story is the son of my great-great-great-grandfather, Elijah Noon Sr. who of course we know murdered his wife. George Hedges is my great-great-grandfather who married Elijah's sister, Amelia in 1869, not long before the fight took place. What it was all about, of course I cannot say, but it seems that both George Hedges and Elijah Noon Jr. were often in trouble.
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Sketchbook Blog: Old Newspapers

"Whereas a person (supposed to be a Gentleman's Servant) went out of Oxford, December 12th 1770 over Magdalen Bridge and took the Watlington Road riding a horse with a long tail and leading another with a cut tail on which a Portmanteau was tied: whoever recollects seeing the same person and can give information of his name and place of abode so that he may be spoke withal, shall on such proof receive half a guinea reward from the printer."
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What is History?

Subconsciously, when looking at this piece of writing we perceive not only the text and the meaning of the text, but the walls and the outside world. We experience at once a sense of in here and out there which of course augments the feeling of being imprisoned as imparted by the words themselves. There is an obvious sense of confinement which we are experiencing with our bodies. In other words, this writing isn’t just the translation into words of how a man is feeling (such as we might read in a poem in a book) but the wrought distillation of his entire being at that moment in time.
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Blog: Back to my First School

The changing rooms were always, to say the least, basic; sheds comprising holes, breezeblocks and a corrugated roof. They were insubstantial then and just about standing in their decrepitude now, but the pool itself, if anything does remain is now lost in a jungle of trees, brambles and weeds. I couldn't imagine a scene more different from what I could remember; indeed, if the whole plot had been cleared and a new block built in its place it wouldn't have seemed as changed. It was shocking to see that part of my childhood had already become in part a ruin - but not just a ruin, rather, one undiscovered in the midst of sprawling vegetation. The swimming pool had become the equivalent - albeit less dramatic - of a Mayan temple lost in a Mexican jungle.
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Travel: Sicily

One can certainly understand why people have always been in awe of Etna - it inspires such emotions when seen today, whether from afar or up close. It makes one feel very insignificant; it makes history itself appear insignificant, particularly when one considers the recorded eruptions as far back as Virgil. The distinction between the natural world and natural history and that of the recorded history of man is clear. To us, Virgil appears - indeed as he is - as very distant figure. To Etna, the intervening time, as slow to man as rocks themselves, must pass like yet another lava flow.
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Places: Highgate Cemetery

The way into the cemetery itself, from the courtyard, is via a flight of steps. When standing in the courtyard, the cemetery cannot be seen; it's only when walking through the archway leading to the steps, at the top of which one can see the greenery and the first of the monuments, that this vast cemetery is slowly revealed.
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Graphite and Emulsion Painting

Projects: The Tourist (Work in Progress 3)

In researching my family tree, it's been easy to see my ancestry as a series of nodes linked by lines connecting parents to children, husbands to wives and so on. My individual heritage is mapped like the map of a country with nodes (towns etc.) linked by lines (roads). As a basic diagram of relationships this of course is fine, but as a means of understanding how I've come into existence, it is wholly inadquate.
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Projects: The Slow Road for Old Shadows

This project is an investigation into a landmark I've always found beguiling. It's little more than a small stretch of road that runs across Shotover and which once carried traffic between Oxford and London. Potholed and rutted, a confusion of mud, stones and puddles, there’s always been something compelling about this place and through my research, I hope to uncover just why that is, producing a series of works with which I can share my conclusions.
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Sketchbook Blog: Maps

The closest map - in terms of date - I could find relating to my great-great-uncle's war, was one of St. Julien which dates from July 1915, just two months after his death in the Second Battle of Ypres. I'd wanted to get an idea of the trench system he would have been known at first hand and as I looked at the trenches shown (only German trenches were shown on this map) I found a road named after my home town; Oxford Road. Ironically, alongside this road was a cottage (one must assume there was little left of it at the time) which had been dubbed Monmouth Cottage - my great-great-uncle was from Monmouthshire.
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Family Heritage Blog: Amelia Hedges (nee Noon)

I never thought I would ever see what she looked like but recently I received a photograph of my great-great-aunt's christening. Winifred May was born in 1899 and was the daughter of my great-grandparents Ernest Hedges and Ellen Lafford. To celebrate the event of her christening, a group family portrait was taken in the back yard of the house and amongst that number was Amelia Hedges (nee Noon).
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Blog: Mine the Mountain - Installation

On Thursday and Friday this week I installed my two pieces at the Botanic Gardens and Deadman's Walk as part of my forthcoming exhibition, Mine the Mountain. What was interesting for me was how, even though I'd planned the work and visualised it in my mind, it appeared so different when actually installed - how new connections between the works were made due to the effects of things one wouldn't have accounted for, such as, for example, the sun. It was also gratifying for me how members of the public, particularly in Deadman's Walk were interested to know what I was doing, and more importantly, interested in the work and how it fits with the rest of the exhibition. Being able to speak about things directly is one thing of course, having the work do it for you is another.
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See images from the Mine the Mountain exhibition

Mine the Mountain : Deadman's Walk

Family Heritage Blog: A Murder in Jericho

So given the dire position in which my great-great-great-grandfather found himself in May 1852, how was it that he lived to marry Sophia Kinch and father seven more children before his death in 1889? Returning to the library I turned again to Jackson's Oxford Journal. I had thought at first to try and look at the Assizes records but these are held at Kew. I also tried to find the dates of the Assizes held in 1852 but to no avail. However, knowing that there were three Assizes in the year including one in summer, I assumed that Elijah's trial would take place soon after his appearance before the magistrates at which he was committed for trial.
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Places: Będzin

A strange sense of foreboding drifted above us as we approached, something to do perhaps with the steely grey sky and the enormous power station from which that strange and dreary sense seemed to claw its way out towards the sky. As we drove towards the town, we knew instinctively that this was a place we didn't want to stay in and the closer we got so this sense increased. But I wanted to see the castle, to see the place where a few of the victims of the Holocaust (as I'd found in my book of photographs from Auschwitz) had stood almost 70 years ago. At least there would be that. But there wasn't even that anymore.
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Family Heritage Blog: A Suicide in Cefn-y-Crib

I'd always heard that one of my ancestors on the Welsh side of the family had been killed in a mining accident, but I've never found anything to even vaguely corroborate the story. Of course accidents were common as my grandmother recalled, remembering how blinds would be drawn in all the windows when another body was brought back up to the surface. Having seen Henry Jones' grave, I decided to obtain a copy of his death certificate to see if perhaps he - having died young - had been killed in an accident of some kind. As it turned out, the truth was indeed tragic, but for altogether different reasons.
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Blog: Ancestry

As well as being a huge database of names, Ancestry can be seen as being a database of moments, the more of which we discover for ourselves, the greater our understanding of history becomes. This, in light of the project's origins at Auschwitz-Birkenau, is particularly pertinent; the Holocaust, as a defined historical event, becomes millions of moments and the Holocaust itself not one single tragedy, but a single tragedy repeated six million times. In effect, Ancestry allows users to map themselves onto history and the family tree becomes not just a network of relationships between hundreds of people but a kind of physical and geographic biography of the individual. Places we have heard of but never been to, places we have never known before become as much a part of our being as the place in which we were born and in which we live. For example, if there's a place with which I can most identify physically or geographically, then that place would be Oxford, the town in which I was born, grew up and in which I live. Its streets which I have walked and its buildings which I have seen countless numbers of times, all hold memories - and what are we in the end but these.
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See also: Memory: Family Tree

Blog: Walking in the Distance

Standing in Pantygasseg and looking at the surrounding hills therefore, I got the sensation that I had become a part of that distance, or that I was at least closer to it than I had ever been. I was reminded at this point of a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke's 'The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge' where he writes: "Is it possible that one believed it necessary to retrieve what happened before one was born? Is it possible that one would have to remind every individual that he is indeed sprung from all who have gone before, has known this therefore and should not let himself be persuaded by others who knew otherwise?" In Pantygasseg, I was indeed 'retrieving' the past and reminding myself that I was not only sprung from all who have gone before, but that I was also sprung from this very place.
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