A Hostile Environment (2019)
c-type photograph/lithographic print
59.5cm x 42cm
A photographic image shows a patch of land. It is the edge of a field in Kent, after harvesting by migrant labourers, shot from above, in close up, at sunset; an area of soil just big enough for two people to sit next to each other, embracing. It’s a hybrid idyll of an autumnal British landscape; ploughed earth, stubble, fallen oak leaves and acorns, a few apples, a sprig of yew, a fig leaf (an alien’s expulsion from eden?), a flint, feathers from a bird caught by a fox, a fox hole…etc
The various psychologies of national identity seem to orbit around fantasies of ‘rootedness’ in land, apparently inherent connections between the human and particular areas of soil, natural affiliations between a pure, unsullied, unique patch of ground and a specific community of people who have always had an exclusive relationship and knowledge of that finite territory, a territory always too small to allow in those others who might also potentially contaminate it and spoil this timeless, fundamental patch of earth and its magical capacities to evoke belonging and kinship to a select few.
In order for an ‘outsider’ to win a few limited rights to become a British citizen, and therefore experience a degree of acceptance within its landscape and institutions, the British Government cleverly devised a test of knowledge about particular aspects of the UK, ‘The Life in the UK Test‘. In order to attain a form of belonging a foreigner would need to have learnt numerous obscure but apparently essential facts.
A text over the photographic image lists the various glossary terms that changed (a form of ‘refinement’) between the 2nd and 3rd editions of the ‘Life in the UK Citizenship Test‘. One shows glossary terms removed from Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship, 2007 (2nd edition) by the new glossary in Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, 2013 (3rd edition), another list shows the glossary terms consistent to both Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship, 2007 (2nd edition) and Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, 2013 (3rd edition) and a final, much smaller list shows glossary terms added to Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, 2013 (3rd edition).* . As though for an archaeological dig or forensic investigation the image is superimposed with a series of arrows relating apparently innocuous but distinct parts of that patch of land to the various new terms in that final category. It is as though the notion of attachment between person and land has been enacted upon, or discovered within the ground itself, elements in the image providing an arcane mnemonic system for an outsider to learn and embody the peculiarly limited, barren and archaic notion of Britishness that these words seem to describe.
* Glossary terms removed from Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship, 2007 (2nd edition) by the new glossary in Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, 2013 (3rd edition):
abusive, academic course, access (internet), accountant, addictive substance, adultery, afford, amphetamine, anonymous information, ante-natal care, applicant (employment), application letter, appoint (employment), arbitrary (law), aristocracy, assessment methods (education), asylum , asylum seeker, ban, betting shop, bid (money), binding (legally), birth certificate, birth parent, birth rate, bound (legally), breach of contract, British Empire, broker (finance), building society, built-up area, bureau de change, burglary, bursary, business accounts, cable company, cannabis, captivity, carriageway, carriageway (a dual), cast a vote (government), caution (employment, law), cautious, census (government), charity (give to), childminder, circulate (money), clamp (transport, police), clarification (language), cocaine, code of practice, colleagues, Commonwealth of Nations, community events, compensation(money), compulsory testing, concern, concession, condemn to death, confidential information, confiscate (law), consecutive, consumer problems, contraception, contribution (finance), corrupt (behaviour), coverage (media), credit card, criminal, criminal offence, Crusades, currency (money), cut off (service), debate, debit card, decline in number, defeat, defer, degrading (treatment), deport, deposit (housing), deposit (money), descent (of), desert someone (law), detained by the police, detect crimes (police), direct debit, disability, physical/mental, discrimination, dismissal, disputes, disturbance (law), divorce, domestic rates, domestic violence, dominion, dump, dwelling, dynasty, ecstasy, elect a person, emergency services, employ, employee, employer, engagement (family), enterprise (business), entitled (law), ethnic minority, European Union (or EU), evict (housing), evidence, collecting, exchange rate, exiled, expel, exploitation, expression, freedom of, facilities in the community, false statement (police), famine, fiancé, fiancée, fine (law), flooding (housing), forced labour, free press, gambling (money), gap year (education), grant (money), guerrilla war, guidance (law), hard drugs, harassment (behaviour), health authority, health hazards, hearing, in court, helmet, heroin, higher education, holding public office, Holy Land, humiliated, immigration, inappropriate touching, indecent remarks, independents (politics), inflation (money), infrastructure, inheritance, inhuman (behaviour), in-patient, insulting words, insure, intentionally, interest (money), internet cafe, interpreter, irretrievably broken down, Islamic mortgage, labour (employment), landlord, landlady (housing), landlord, landlady (pub), lane (transport), legal aid, legal procedure, legitimate children, leisure centre, letting agent, lock, longstanding, L plates, mainland, manufacturer, maternity leave, maternity services, mediation, medical consultation, mental illness, meter (housing), meter reading (housing), migrate (people), military service, compulsory, mislead (law), misuse, molestation, monopoly (business), mortgage, motor (transport), MP, naturalized citizen, not-for-profit, notice (to give), notice (employment), nuisance (behaviour), obstructive (behaviour), occupy a country, occupation (employment), offensive (behaviour), off-licence, online, on the spot fines, outpatient, packaging, padlock, paternity leave, patient (medical), patriarchy, patriotism, Peers, pension plan (pay into a), performing (theatre), perishable food, permit (law), persecuted, personal details, personnel officer, phonecard, pre-paid, pin number, places of worship, pluralistic society, pocket money, pogroms, pooled savings, possessions, pregnancy, prehistoric, prescription (medical), pressure group, privatised, process of precendent, promotion (employment), proof, prosperity, provinces, public (member of the), public order (law), public place, punctual, racial, racially motivated crime, racism, raising (family), rape, receipt (money), recruit (employment), recycle rubbish, redundant (employment), referendum, refuge, refund (money), remain silent (police), rent (housing), report a crime, residential trips (school), resign (employment), restrict (immigration), retail work, retire (employment), rise (in number, price), roots (family), scratch card, second-hand goods, security, self-employed person, separation (family), serious misconduct (employment), serious offences (law), sick pay, signatory, solicitor, standing order, start-up loans, State pension, stepfamily, subscribe to a magazine, surveyor (housing), suspect (crime), taster session (training), tenancy, tenant, therapist (psychology), timescale, toddler (family), torture, tow away a car, trader, tried in front of a judge, tuition fees, unemployed, utilities (public), vacancy (employment), valid, vehicle (transport), vetoed, to be vetoed, victim, vocational course, volt, voluntarily, vulnerable people, wages, welfare beneficiaries, will (law), withdraw (law), withdraw (money), workforce, working days
Glossary terms consistent to both Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship, 2007 (2nd edition) and Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, 2013 (3rd edition):
AD, allegiance, annexation, annex, armed forces, arrested (police), assault, Bank Holiday, baron, BC, bishop, boom, brutality, by-election, Cabinet (government), casualties (medical), charter (government), chieftain, civil disobedience, civil service, clan, clergy, coalition, colonise, commemorate, conquered, constituency, constitution (law), convention (government), decree (law), democratic country, devolution, dialect, domestic policies, electoral register, electorate, eligible, ethnic origin, executed, first past the post, General Election, government policies, guilty, heir, House of Commons, House of Lords, Houses of Parliament, household, innocent (law), judge, judiciary, jury, legal, legislative power, liberty, magistrate, marital status, media, missionary, monarch, national issues, nationalised, nobility, office (to be in), Olympics, Opposition, party politics, Patron Saint, penalty (law), plague, Pope, practise a religion, prime minister, prohibit/prohibition, proportional represention, pub/public house, public body, Reformation, refugees, residence, rival viewpoints, scrutinise, seat (Parliament), sentence (law), Shadow Cabinet, Sheriff (law), slavery, Speaker, stand for office, strike (to go on), successor (government), suspend, terrorism, theft, trade union, treaty, uprising, voluntary work, volunteer, war effort, Yellow Pages
Glossary terms added to Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, 2013 (3rd edition):
architect, arson, cathedral, civil war, composer, criminal law, franchise, gothic, House (history), illegal, medieval/Middle Ages, oratorio, Pale (history), portrait, Presbyterian, Protestants, Quakers, rebellion, rural, sonnet, The Phone Book
With thanks to the research by Professor Thom Brooks.
Chodzko’s The Hostile Environment was used as the publicity image for the Platforma Festival 2019
A Hostile Environment (2019) is closely related to a series of other works by Chodzko that are based around a small, finite piece of land and the complex psychologies that connect with it eg; Settlement (2004), cell-a (2006), Involva (1995). Some of these works (particularly Settlement (2004)) also incorporate or allude to legal contracts and, or are intended as ‘evidence’ in order to redress an imbalance of power or facilitate a new vantage point eg; Better Scenery (2000 -), The Gorgies Centre (2002), Garden (2007), Corner (2007), etc. The notion of mud or earth containing knowledge, a guidance towards a future transformation is also explored in, for example, cell-a (2002), Settlement (2004), Sowmat (2007) and Holding the Earth this Way, (2022).
A ‘Haywain’ Moment (2014)
Slip. A Flying Prison (2011)
That night, in a clearing in a walnut forest, lit by the city lights, the carnival changed, in order to tell a new story. (There is no translation) (2015)
The Pickers (2009)
Untitled Stile (Teenage Version) (1991)
The woods shall rise up in those places where you pause (1995)