This unusual aspect of bunker forms – absolutely different from the forms of ordinary constructions, scandalous on a snapshot – paradoxically is able to go unnoticed in a natural environment. This factor can be found in certain nautical forms, as if hydrodynamic, aerodynamic, and aerostatic allowing for the flow of fluids had the same power on visuality.
Paul Virilio, Bunker Archaeology
Barbara was situated on the low littoral of the Atlantic Wall, directing fire from the line of artillery bunkers which made up its coastal battery. The slits aligned along its upper portion allowed for the sectorization of the firing field. Barbara’s context and construction underscored the continuous matter of the liquid element. Unlike other buildings, water-tightness was not just concerned with the flow of water, but with the fluidity of projectiles and their impact. The mass of the bunker was formed by concrete according to its liquid principle as a continuous element. Rather than founded, the bunker floated on its centre of gravity, adrift on the shifting expanse of a landscape belonging more to the sea.
I chose Barbara as the subject of an iteration of intaglio etchings. I was interested in foregrounding the bunker as a graphic image in isolation from its context and in the resultant incongruity of the ‘bunker postcard’ nature of the print. The liquidity of the ink recalled Barbara’s cast construction and coastal context. I used ink in several different ways; setting it into the etched plate and transferring it to the paper under compression in the printing press, but also by using more ‘painterly’ techniques to add texture and density over the etched plate.
The etching plate develops through the accretion of processes which temper the surface. A sequence of techniques incise, texturise, burnish, and erode. These processes recalled Barbara’s weathered, stained surfaces and the gradual wearing down and change of state of a once-liquid solidity through relentless exposure to land and sea.
Barbara’s outline is drawn into a coating of acid-resistant hard ground. The plate is heated and cooled to set the ground. The outline is then etched into the plate, with the intensity of the image determined by the strength of and exposure to the acid.
Subtle shading is achieved by drawing into soft grounds before etching in acid.
Tonal variations are made by ‘stopping out’ areas of acid resistant particles dusted over the plate. The depth of the acid etch and intensity of the ink is varied by exposing the plate in acid for different periods of time.
Inking and Wiping
The plate is inked and carefully wiped and burnished to refine the image. Having established the base print, I painted ink onto the plate to deepen the image and blur the figure of Barbara. The painted plate for the final print camouflages Barbara, recalling the uncanny invisibility of bunkers in their landscape.