Monday, 25 August 2014

Ramble 1 OUT & ABOUT / some Crepuscular Activity

Since my last blog, Ramble 1 has been out and about twice more - at Cambridge Junction and Warwick Arts Centre...  And I also made a gentle walking piece as an offshoot of Ramble 1 for Cambridge Junction called Crepuscular Activity.

Crepuscular activity was a walk at dawn and dusk designed to slot into the Junction's 24 hour festival Nightwatch and offer a chance for attendees to escape the building and get some fresh air!  It was also a chance for me to explore whether I've been correct in resisting making a walking piece as part of Rambles with Nature and to be honest I think I have.  As I led those two walks I realised in the pit of my belly that the walking in Rambles with Nature is research - an ambulatory way to do some thinking, talking, observing - not necessarily where the art lies... in this project at least.  I still felt extremely lucky to get the chance to walk with a group of people at dawn and dusk though - I had some great conversations.  One of the meanings of the work Crepuscular is 'animals that are most active between dawn and dusk' - so in effect that was us - a group of animals engaging in the activity of walking at Crepuscular times. Conceptually I really liked this idea.  The route itself felt so different each time I did it (4 times as research in the daytime - Once at 9.30ish and Once at 3.48ish in the morning). It was utterly amazing how dark and unknown Clare Wood became at night and how deafening it was in the early hours of the morning because of the dawn chorus. It was also great to spot a small water deer in the early hours of the morning on a suburban road and hear some real owl hoots. Lots and lots of snails and slugs  were out and about during the nightwalk too...

In the end, because of research and a series of coincidences, the focus of the piece became The Owl - a bird that often hunts between dawn and dusk.  I was keen for the group to have a live encounter with an owl at the end of the walk (hired in of course :-) so, this in effect was what the "Walk in 3 Acts" was moving towards, but this just wasn't possible as we couldn't persuade anyone who owned one to come and stand in a field and wait for us at those particular times on a Saturday night.  Strange that! 

I did however still ask Lucy Cash to put together a short film of owl footage and photographs which I showed on an IPAD during it - again a link between our Ramble 1 together.

Crepuscular Activity feels unfinished to me as yet, I know where I want it to get to (and some other elements I want to include in it), but it's not quite there yet.  Great to get the chance to begin its making though! Thanks Cambridge Junction.  Also, supremely brilliant to realise that walking (even when informed/underscored by a tight idea/ thought) isn't quite enough as a finished work in the context of Rambles with Nature.  OR... perhaps I just haven't made the right walk yet...

Warwick Arts Centre - rambling hedge

One of the cinepoems at Cambridge Junction

Friday, 23 May 2014

Ramble 4 with Sue Palmer

Fake Box Hedge outside East Molesey Station Photo: Sue Palmer

There is a ramble which I haven't written anything about at all as yet - number 4 - a collaboration with Sue Palmer. This hasn't been intentional, more a matter of not being able to find the time to recount it properly as it's been quite extraordinary...

Our first day together was in mid November. We then met once a month until April - finally bringing together all of our research with a work in progress showing on April 25th.

Our research has taken us through a lot of territories: From Hampton Court Maze and William III of Orange to The Great Hedge of India, The East India Company, The Museum of London Docklands, up and down the Jubilee line from Canary Wharf to Stanmore to find Elizabeth Brightwen's grave and 'The Grove' (or remains of it) PLUS a hidden grotto (with just beer cans inside of it). We've also shared numerous books / articles and various online sites (to name but a few of the strands we've so far followed). It's felt really rich and unbelievably connected to everything - to where we are today in terms of finance, ecology, nature, politics and has illuminated many histories that have been forgotten. Histories that maybe we should have learnt from and still be discussing today.

On top of all of this, Sue and I had never worked together before, so this ramble was as much about us exchanging information about our respective practices as anything else. Would we like each others aesthetics? Would conversation and dialogue flow? I'm please to report we DID and it DID. It felt really easy, even down to the last confusing moments of working out how to order and present our research in a performative way in just a few short hours. Of course I had a hunch it would. Sue and I had had a couple of coffees beforehand on recommendation of the amazing Karen Christopher who thought we might have shared interests when I'd explained I would be making work based around the hedgerow. We'd also of course had a couple of email exchanges beforehand.

The first thing Sue did, before we even began meeting was share her brilliant video about Hedge Laying. So that seems as good a place to start as any. Click on the link below to see it and here's some info about it first:

John Calder - Hedgelayer, Charcoal maker and land artist, in conversation with artist Sue Palmer, about working with hands and feet in relation to the West Dorset landscape - the 'and' of the hand. The conversation took place as part of the project 26 and 7 Bones, made in collaboration with Sally Watkins in 2012. The video has been edited to focus on the specifics of the art of hedgelaying.

Hedge Laying Video

Sue's Art / Nature blog can also be found HERE. This link actually takes you straight to an interesting post by Sue about the relationship between hedge trimming and society's current obsession with hair waxing (yes, you did read that right).

Anyway, back to the Ramble... For our first day we went to Hampton Court Palace to visit their famous maze. Our reasoning being that it seemed like a good idea to go somewhere specifically to get lost. Here I discovered that Sue talks to everyone and through doing so manages to find out facts that aren't on the walls or in official books. Most of our snatches of conversation with staff, passers-by, volunteers etc began a conversation between ourselves and definitely had an impact on our 'Performutation' (our invented word that describes the form of our final 'show and tell' performance).

Hedge of Costumes at Hampton Court Palace Photo: Sue Palmer

It seemed on our second day together that visiting the Museum of London (Docklands) was most appropriate. I had mentioned some information I had read about The Great Hedge of India and Sue had by that time read the book that coined the name by Roy Moxham (a recommended read by the way). We wanted to find out something about The East India Company and liked the museum's proximity to Canary Wharf and wanted to see some of its corporate box hedging and see if we could spot any hedge-fund managers (!).

Canary Wharf model in the Museum - photo Sue Palmer

We actually didn't find too much on the East India Company as it turns out, but had some more great conversations and it felt really clear where we should go next, a decision underlined when we were confronted with the Jubilee Line map as we were leaving.... Stanmore, where Elizabeth Brightwen's grave was and the remains of The Grove (the home she made famous through her books).

I'm not going to talk much more about what we found there as I want you to come and see our performance at some point in the future! However, it might be interesting to know how we spent our days:

  • Day 1 Hampton Court Palace.
  • Day 2 Museum of London (Docklands)
  • Day 3 Stanmore
  • Day 4 Spent seperately (to enable me to catch up with Sue's lightening sharp research and for Sue to do some more. I also bought a Shruti Box and wrote some laments).
  • Day 5 In my kitchen in Rotherhithe reviewing, plotting and task setting. We shared our first moments of making on this day (in between we'd watched some of each others work online).
  • Day 6 In the old mortuary at Time and Talents making, sharing task outcomes and putting the material in an order (in between we'd each agreed to make 'a short hedge a day' for a week. This could be words / material / an action / an image).
  • Day 7 In BAC showing and sharing...(in between we'd both done a bit of polishing and processing).
Our sharing felt unknown. We had no idea if what we'd created would work or be of interest to others, but luckily it seems it was! We were described as 'detectives presenting our findings' in audience feedback and it genuinely seemed affecting to those watching.

There is of course lots of work still to do though and we now just need to work out how to secure some more funds to finish the piece (that old chestnut). There are a couple of extra areas of research we'd also like to do and are off to see Roy Moxham's collection of bird eggs next week (Roy is the author of The Great Hedge of India whom has kindly invited us round)....

So, that's where we're at.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Ramble 2 - Done and Dusted

Ramble 2  - Rings Loops and Doublebacks was shown at Undercurrent  April 11-13 including two great performances by the St Mary de Haura Handbell ringers. They performed a carefully selected set of five songs on both the 12th and 13th at midday which was as follows: 

The Ashgrove, The Oak and the Ash, Green Bushes, Oranges and Lemons, St Peter and St Paul

The sound was really exquisite.  Ethereal at moments... And moving... I don't think this will be the last time I work with handbell ringers! I will post some photos of them in action soon.
So how had the installation changed from the work in progress version of the piece?  Well...

- Scott and I reworked the sound loops.
- The tree got bigger.
- Some special holders for the speakers were made (so the golden horn literally slotted into them).
- The room which they were presented in was carefully 'dressed'.
- The Memento packet changed a little.
- The large bit of text I wrote (almost and artistic rationale for the piece) was presented on a kind of stand.
- More gloves had embroidered flowers sewn onto them (thanks mum!)

And, well... I think that's the headline changes.  There were more of course... 

Hopefully the piece will get out and about again at some point. Ramble 1 has two new dates coming up so I'm sure it will.

For now here's a few images of the piece:

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ramble 3 - Some responses

So here is the original proposal for Ramble 3:

A purposefully quick ramble, #3 will consist of a series of performed conversations undertaken through, in and alongside a series of hedgerows. These conversations will be undertaken by members of The Working Party: Mary Paterson (producer and writer), Rajni Shah (performance maker), Suzy Shrubb (musician), Tracey Low (producer), Shauna Concannon (academic / digital artist), Tiffany Charrington (live artist), Lucy Cash (interdisciplinary artist) and Sheila.

We decided after some discussion to set some clear boundaries around our Ramble - particularly in relation to time (which we felt we were up against). And so at midday on Friday 10th January we met at the Meridean Line in Greenwich Park and precisely one hour later at the park gates. What happened in between was to be our ramble and up to each of us individually...

We invited two documenters to join us: Maddy Costa and RULER (John Hunter).

Ramble 3 will be probably be presented 'officially' at some point, but until it does here is some documentation from it:

From Maddy Costa: HERE
From RULER (John Hunter) video: HERE
From Mary Paterson: HERE

And Lucy Cash also wrote the following:

"In my room, the world is beyond my understanding, but when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud." Wallace Stevens

We started with no time and we ate time. With our feet. Or with a camera, marking the hour in five minute increments, a lens looking 'Due South'. Exactly south of where she (Suzie) wanted to be. She was there, and so were the squirrels and the green parakeets and the woman wearing bright pink leggings and jogging with her child-in-a-pushchair. Running up a hill (Shauna), in a January raw with stubble, and a massacre of roses.

Loving Memory, Ingrid Bergman, Ice Cream, Dawn Chorus, The Dark Lady, Ruby Wedding, Heavenly Rosalind, Peacekeeper, Silver Lining, Tequila Sunrise . 

Tiffany's words: massacre of roses. She was my rambling companion as the constellation of us scattered in the park with all its boundaries, and an observatory for an anchor.

A fondness.

For seeing us at a distance (Rajni).

Recognising a gait, an expressive turn of the head.

And all of it, all of it framed by the hour.

This January.

This day.


A stasis in the turning of the year, a tension running up against the desire for new. Low sun too heavy to climb in the sky, lumbering under the weight of a damp melancholia. But such a dear showering of sunlight, flying into my eye. A sunspell.

And history. There. Right around the corner: the oak tree now fallen and twisted, nevertheless marks the place where Kings and Queens stood and argued, (or kissed?)

The rawness, in all its darkness, invites tenderness and turning my attention from a bright glimpse of green moss, I see Tiffany at a distance standing amongst the trees. Time has tricked me, I've stepped into a painting of, 'A Woman At Contemplation'. I still myself, wanting to keep this moment, to hold it in the palm of my hand and curl my fingers around it. 

When we met there was an X in the sky - Photo credit: Lucy Cash

Tiffany at a distance standing amongst the trees - Photo credit: Lucy Cash

View of a window spied over the park "edge hedge" - Photo credit: Lucy Cash

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Ramble 3 - Begun and already over

Ramble 3 with The Working Party happened this week...  I will write something considered about it at some point, but for now here's a mercurial image of Suzie Shrubb taken yesterday by RULER (aka John Hunter) not too far from the Prime Meridean in Greenwich, at around about midday.

Ramble 2 - Work in Progress sharing...

Here's a few images to give a taster of the Ramble 2 Work in Progress sharing that took place on December 13th at Blast Theory Studios in Portslade.  The event was the culmination of my Undercurrent Slow Boat Residency (Oct - Dec 2013)... I got lots of great feedback and loads was learnt (of course it was!) and the final piece will be shown in April 2013 in Shoreham by Sea - further details to follow.  The sharing was really enjoyable. Aswell as the installation being there for audience / participants to test out, the St Mary de Haura Handbell ringers kindly came along and gave a performance PLUS an impromptu workshop...! I'm looking forward to sharing the piece in its final form in a few months time...