Michael Glickman recalls the 1999 ‘Basket Weave’ with fondness and voices his opinion on the ‘solar system’ replica formation as ‘The Voice of Reason’ tongue-lashes the guilty…
THE BEST THEY CAN DO…
The Bishops Cannings Basket arrived on 6th August 1999 at the end of what had already been an extraordinary season.
The development of seven-fold geometry, initiated the previous year, culminated with the lovely Roundway ‘splash’ formation which will probably remain the most beautiful seven of all time. The amazing positive/negative square fractals of Windmill Hill and Kennett, the elegantly proportioned star of the Devil’s Den, the crescents - swirling at Cherhill and interlocked at Barbury Castle - and the Isometric Cubes of Honeystreet and Allington Down contributed to another awesome year’s portfolio.
And yet the Basket, sneaked in towards the end of the season and promptly cut out by an irate farmer, still haunts me as possibly one of the most significant gifts the phenomenon has ever offered.
To understand it fully, we should go back to the Longwood Warren formation of 1995, laughably named by those of the “Ooh-scary” school of research as ‘The Earth is Missing’. A meaningless, dark and ultimately disgusting name. The Earth was not missing at the time, it clearly is not missing as I write, and I believe in the future it will be missing only in the bleakest and most superficial of imaginations. But I digress!
There has been much excellent work on Longwood Warren, in particular the astronomical analyses by Jack Sullivan, but I want here to concentrate on another single remarkable characteristic.
Before Longwood Warren, the crop circle medium was laid crop. The drawing stylus could be imagined as flattening the wheat. But, uniquely, this formation reversed the code. The elegant circles and orbit lines were ‘drawn’ in thin lines of standing crop in a laid field.
This was the equivalent of changing a drawing protocol from black line on white paper to white line on black paper, but the real technical implications of this are shocking. Perfect circular standing walls, about eight inches wide, were left presiding over a field of flattened wheat. Pause for a moment and consider how difficult this was to achieve.
We had never seen this before and we were not to see it again until the Bishops Cannings Basket, where, again, thin rings, smaller this time, were left standing out of a laid (this time woven!) field. There was much to read geometrically and numerologically, too. Another seven-fold, with each petal formed of four elegantly diminishing rings (28), was joined at the centre by the smallest single ring making a total of the magic 29. Nothing remotely like the basket-weave of the floor had ever been seen before and, while there were a couple of weaves in 2000, they were never again to achieve the Bishops Cannings standard.
The circles avoid competition. To suggest that this formation gave us the best ground-lay ever is somehow distasteful. But it’s true!
It took over a year for the unrelentingly unpleasant and by now implausible Mattie Williams to claim that he had made it. This teaches us another lesson: there is no depth of cunning to which he will not go. It is now rumoured that even his fellow hoaxers and claimants see him as a liability. A loose cannon on deck buffeted uncontrollably by his personal demons.
I wrote the above before Williams and his crew had constructed the replica Longwood Warren solar system in East Field. I have not read the script for which this piece of set-design was commissioned, but rumour has it that the idea of the world being missing is very much the basis of the paranoia/confrontation scenario which in our culture is a guarantee of a film’s viability.
It is touching that Dr Colin Andrews has found himself a gig as “consultant” to the film. Even more touching perhaps is the news that Busty Taylor acted as bouncer for Matthew Williams, holding visitors at bay until the lad deigned to let them enter. Oh, how important they must all feel! Publicly and proudly holding court over a fake. We await the reports of the profound and moving spiritual effects they must have experienced. Word has it that Colin and Busty were employed, after filming, to mess the ground lay up with their feet in what can only be presumed as an attempt to avoid investigative comparison, or a twisted effort to deny the full pleasure of a copyrighted artwork to any other would-be filmmakers. Either way, there was somehow great symbolism in this act.
And what of the formation? Given that 95% of the problem is design and geometry, subjects in which Williams and team regularly reveal themselves to be below-par, this was a golden opportunity. They had, simply, to replicate a previous formation. How did they do?
The lay was aggressive and mechanical and clearly showed immediate evidence of board marks at a ground level. The original was distinguished by the smooth curvature and precisely even thickness of the wall. They failed miserably here. Look at it and compare. Compare, above all, the internal angles. (Perhaps I am giving something away here, but what the hell! It’s about time they learned a few advanced monkey tricks and got themselves out of kindergarten.)
Internal angles are very often what separates the men from the boys, the real from the false, the amateur from the professional. Matthew, look at the way the orbit line joined the planets in the Longwood Warren formation. Sharp, elegant precise. Now look at the same detail in your attempt. Gloopy, like melted wax.
HTV asked me to critique the recent Team Satan Beckhampton formation. I said it was like the over-elaborated busywork of a teenager with a new compass.
After all the claims, boasts and assertions, is this REALLY the best they can do?
'Basket Weave', Bishops Cannings, Wiltshire, 1999 ((C) 1999 Ulrich Kox & Peter Sorensen)