Ian Land’s Blood Lake is a haunting photo sequence returning to the scene of a thousand-year-old crime—William, Duke of Normandy’s massacre of the Anglo-Saxons under King Harold at Senlac Hill, kicking off the Norman conquest. The black-&-white photos are of present-day wastelands, every bit the eerie aftermath of history’s bloodshed: paths leading nowhere, brackish waterways strangled in thicket, inhospitable hard ground overrun with roots, pointless poles, and unreadable plaques, all ominous and unmistakably misanthropic as a Svankmajer faucet disgorging stones.

The images are accompanied by accounts of the battle from contemporaries and later chroniclers, filling in gaps in the landscape with strange and chilling details of its victorious perps: prefab castles barged in from France, William’s near-faceplant onshore saved by a quick-wit retort to boost morale, his threats to his soldier-prisoners to struggle on to the death, and the resulting gruesome handiwork they ultimately unleashed.
At a time of raging plague propaganda’d into normalcy, with populist foot-shooting fractalled off into endlessly dark horizons, it’s instructive to dig through the evidence of past atrocities, to see what depths lie just beneath the surface and to reckon the cost that brought you to it. Hegel’s diagnosis, that “peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it,” is plainly visible in the contours of the very ground we live on for those with eyes intact to see it. And for those without, the long arc of history’s scythe carves straight through our lives regardless, but with that much more surprise in store that it’s later than you think and earlier than you’ve ever bothered to learn about. Good grief, and a sanguine treat for Halloween.
Michael Tencer

Michael Tencer

Purveyor of fine reading material printed on soft paper