Nature is the subject of Long's art. Often literally. In 'A Line Made By Walking' from 1967, he made a line by walking - up and down a field in Wiltshire until the flattened grass became evidence of his presence, though he himself was absent from the haunting black and white photograph -an eerily empty scene which invites you to speculate on what may once have happened there. It was one of those uncategorised projects which straddles performance and art so no wonder Bill Drummond later championed Long.
It was in Drummond's enjoyably rambling account of his project to replace all recorded music with semi-spontaneous choral gatherings, 'The17', that I recently encountered Long. Then I realised he'd also featured in Drummond's '45', crops up in Rob Young's quite brilliant book about music, landscape, England and Englishness 'Electric Eden', and is currently among the exhibitors at British Sculpture In The 21st Century.
Generally, I don't even know if I like sculpture. As a mode of expression it feels about as useful as doing needlepoint with a log. But Long's work captures that strange, elemental, semi-sensual sense which being within a landscape can invoke.
Drummond happily shelled out 20 grand for Long's photograph A Smell Of Sulphur In The Wind, created while the artist walked across Iceland. But then something went wrong. This is what the press release over at Drummond's Penkiln Burn site says:
In 1998 , Drummond realized he no longer had an ongoing relationship with the work. In response to this realization he decided to sell it for the original $20,000; take the money in one dollar bills to Iceland; start walking from the top of the island to the bottom; stop off at what remained of the stone circle made by Richard Long; bury the $20,000 at the center of the circle; take a photograph of the enriched circle; complete the walk across Iceland leaving behind the 20,000 dollars to their destiny.
When no offers of 20k came, he decided to cut the photograph up into 20,000 pieces and sell each one for a quid. Or a dollar. It isn't clear what - if any - currency Bill Drummond generally recognises. The relationship between art and commerce, creation and consumption seems to be one of his most urgent obsessions. This seems a complicated way of working that problem out, which makes me think it could work. The pieces don't seem to have sold out yet.