Nan Shepherd night
Creating ritual to celebrate place and people.
A walk into what seems like an everlasting dusk. The final light of the sun refusing to go and the moon waiting patiently to release her silver glow but we were grateful for the extra grey golden light leading us around the muddy banks of the River Lea. It's Nan Shepherd night and we are celebrating the life and work of this great Scottish writer. Deep into February, the winter seems to be going on forever and the air although cold, is crisp and clean.
Following a circular, twilight walk we arrive back at my flat, a small group of friends ready for an evening of food, drink and poetry; what better way is there to spend a cold, winter evening? Nan (Anna) was born on 11 February 1893 and died on the 23 February 1981. She spent hundreds of hours walking into the mountains close to her house near Aberdeen. Nan was a localist in the best sense of the word and wrote extensively about her beloved mountains; the Cairngorms. Over many years she formed a close and intimate relationship with them.
Summer on the high plateau can be as delectable as honey; it can also be a roaring scourge. To those who love the place, both are good, since both are part of its essential nature. And it is to know its essential nature that I am seeking here.
-The Living Mountain.
The living mountain is short (108 pages) walking meditation inspired by and in collaboration with the ever changing Cairngorm mountains in the north east of Scotland. Nan observes with microscopic precision that which is right in front of her.
The freezing of running water is another mystery...But the struggle between frost and the force of running water is not quickly over. The battle fluctuates, and at the point of fluctuation between the motion in water and the immobility of frost, strange and beautiful forms are evolved.
-The Living Mountain.
Her poetry, similarly observes nature so closely that when reading her words it is easy to conjure the images, sounds and smells of the mountains. It's as though the words themselves were spells made to make nature rise and dance in front of us.
O that early morning fluting,
Rising tranquil though the snow!
Tranquil, did I say? That rapture?
Those ecstatic thrills? -Ah, no.
All to short and too uncertain
is the blackbird's time of song.
A few brief months to sing in. out of
Years as brief is not so long
Each bird in turn may learn the music
That has no measurement in time,
But whoso hears one note has hearkened
Already an eternal chime.
-Blackbird in snow (In the Cairngorms)
Many helpings of pie and bottles of beer later I reread the final paragraph of The Living Mountain. I thought about the landscape around me. The sight of the sparkling, towering lights of canary wharf seen from my balcony. The squawk of moorhens and the rustle of rushes in the canal outside my flat. The distant roar of cars passing along the A12. I looked out from behind the doors leading onto the balcony and I took Nans advice; I stopped looking out at the landscape and I put my coat and hat on and went into it.
I believe that I now understand in some small measure why the Buddhist goes on pilgrimage to a mountain. The journey is itself part of the technique by which the god is sought. It is a journey into Being; for as I penetrate more deeply into the mountains life, I penetrate also into my own. For an hour I am beyond desire. It is not ecstasy, that leap out of the self that makes man like a god. I am not out of myself, but in myself. I am. To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain.
-The Living Mountain.
Sky in their eyes. V&A
Another collaboration with artist Rui Xu and this time we were given the beautiful Raphael Gallery in the V&A museum. A herd of Antelope. Each of us carrying our own spirit and personality we performed the dance of the antelope through this expansively grand space wearing the most exquisite masks.
Oh my! What a crazy summer. I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks in Italy in August and I got to see some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was such an adventure and possibly the longest 3 weeks of my life!
I spent the first part of my trip travelling completely free with only myself to entertain which is a relatively simple task; or at least it is when you're in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Florence! Of course, I fell in love immediately and spent my time there mostly outdoors staring at buildings, eating gelato and drinking wine. As my train pulled away, I had a little cry of sadness.
Then Rome. Oh god! Rome.
It took me 2 days of beating through tourists and attractions to find the real heart of the city and then, of course, some real treasure.
From Rome, I caught a train north to Bergamo. The north of Italy is so incredibly beautiful and full of lakes, apple orchards and castles. The last 2 weeks were a blur, 2 shows, 2 weeks and 130 children. I was staying in Trento, travelled down to Verona, then stayed in Casaleone. I got home and slept for 2 days.
P O M B A
A couple of months ago I connected with the Pomba Girls; a network of female performers who come together, transform and unleash. The inspiration for this fierce all female performance tribe comes from Rio de Janeiro and the "Pomba Gira" a female empowering festive spirit belonging to the rituals of Brazilian Umbanda. Since then we have unleashed the Pomba spirit at Lewisham peoples day, Lovebox and Wilderness and what sparkling, fun it has been! Big up to the Pomba ladies!
Surrounded by the truly ancient, where the birth of theatre originates, where democracy was born and where the relics of ancient culture directly inform the modern day to day lives of Athenians.
Athena; patron goddess of Athens and goddess of wisdom, domestic craft and war. She was very unique and had no mother but was born directly from Zeus' forehead fully clad and grown in armour. Athena was a warrior goddess, born with spear and shield. You can see her sacred Olive tree below, although this isn't the original tree it still stands to symbolise peace and prosperity as well as resurrection and hope,
Hill of the muses:
According to the ancient traveller Pausanias, the Hill of the Muses is the highest of three hills to the West of the Acropolis and was used, in the age of myth, as a stronghold of the Athenians against the Amazons. It was later used as a strategically significant fortification in important military operations.
Obviously I couldn't resist a picture of the The Theatre of Dionysus from the Acropolis! Dionysus is one of my personal favourites and is God of the grape harvest, wine, ritual madness, theatre, and religious ecstacy - what's not to like? I love this idea of ecstacy originally derived from the Greek ekstasis which means to be standing outside oneself/ to be driven out of ones senses and "removal from the proper place" and at same time being associated with theatre, ritual and religious practice and worship.
I wanted to share some notes with you. I have had them for many years, tucked away in a box that I have carried around from place to place. Some years ago, I made piece of work as part of a festival exploring forgiveness and reconciliation in Coventry. A city rich in history and a place known for its openness to people in need. The piece was simple; people were invited to hang notes of forgiveness on a line (washing line style) and let the summer breeze take them away. I've never shared the notes, I suppose they've always felt like secrets that I haven't wanted to tell but in times like these it's good to be reminded that we all hold pain and darkness inside us but we are all one people, deserving of happiness and forgiveness. Here are some of my faves:
My personal favourite:
What did the donkey do...?
Spring is starting to sprout. Thank goodness. I have been hibernating this winter and allowing myself to simply enjoy the small things with no ambition. I have read lots of books, done lots of research and have been writing and editing lots of bits and pieces which I hope I will start sharing soon! One of things I have been doing this winter is training to be a LAMDA tutor and now I'm finally ready and will be taking on my first students in the summer term. Take a look:
Berlin is one of my favourite European cities. I never tire of it. There is always time for picknicking by the lakes and drinking beer. My kind of city.
So much love.
Hi Becy <3
Motion Capture Troupe
Here's a motion capture update! Following the training and work I have been doing, I was invited to audition for a motion capture troupe where professional actors and performers would train and grow together as a collective, specialising in motion capture performance. Pleased to say, I got in and was asked to join the troupe. So here's to exciting times ahead.
This is us:
Edinburgh. August. Hello.
It's been a while, But it's been a busy, busy summer. Lots of fun and excitement and now as Autumn starts to draw in, it's a nice time to reflect. After doing a couple of previews at the Rosemary Branch theatre in July, we all headed up to Edinburgh in August for a 4 week run of Living a Little, performing every night (except 16th). What a crazy journey it was. The days... the shows...they passed by in a dream like blur leaving me at the end of the run unable to remember huge chunks of it. It was like standing at the top of a foggy mountain path, unable to see the beginning of the path you just walked. I could recall these swells of emotion, at times feeling complete loss and frustration, the next day feeling this incredible female power and ecstasy.
What an experience though! So much fun, mayhem and complete ridiculousness. Couldn't imagine Edinburgh being any other way! Now, for London.
Motion Capture and Creatures
I've been creating creatures! A couple of weeks ago, I did an introduction to Motion Capture/Creatures workshop at Sadlers Wells with Sarah from Shapes in Motion. We used our bodies to create creatures (fictional) building from Laban techniques and exploring creature interactions, space and environment. specifically creating in a movement language that translates into Motion Capture performance. It's like learning a new language and it's a very new language that many people are still getting their heads around and exploring and this workshop helps us to understand how we need to start thinking about it. For example, how we need to use our body so that it not only translates onto film but how it translates in a way that makes it easier for post production specialists to create these creatures on top of our human body and therefore how we allow space for that in our body and movement language, It was great fun to be thinking primarily through the body and escaping from the confines of the human body by imagining something bigger, whether it be a huge dragon reptilian or a flamingo/feline hybrid! The workshop was full of play, it's so much fun not being human for a couple of hours. Here are a few snapshots taken by Helen Maybanks.
I've been committing to 30 mins on my yoga mat everyday and not relying on going to a class but just exploring in my own space. Some days 30 mins is enough and all I have time for, other days I do more and keep going into a full shavasana meditation. Each day is different, sinking into blue and feeling infinite and vast.
Los Angeles.After spending a couple of days in Coventry, my home town over New Years I hopped on a plane and spent a month in L.A in the glorious Californian sunshine.
Down Town L.A. Faded glamour.
Franklin- California is actually getting some rain this year. Grey L.A
The Getty Museum. My penultimate day in L.A and one of my favourites too! We got a bus over to the Getty museum and spent most of our time walking around the outdoor spaces and finished our day watching the sunset from one of the top floors. As we were watching the sun go down, a man (who happened to be from London) asked to take this picture to show us what it looked like from where he was. All of the landscape is perfectly framed by the building itself; with viewing platforms that create focal points to gaze upon the beautiful surroundings.
Got myself a couple of new headshots, taken by a lovely man named Arthur.
This year I have been working with fashion designer and artist Rui Xi whose works encapsulate the ancient traditions of Chinese calligraphy and aesthetics and contemporary fashion design.
This video gives some context to Rui's work and allows us to glimpse into the process of her design and specifically this exhibition which was in the Upper Gulbenkian Gallery at the Royal College of Art earlier this year.
Some good old fashioned Shakespearean fun:
FROM XUAN TO BLINDNESS...
I was so thrilled to be a part of Rui Xu's exhibition From Xuan to Blindness at the Royal College of Art a few weeks ago. It was an almost spiritual experience and unique privilege to wear such beautiful garments. Moving through ideas of Xuan and taking on the nuances and details of Chinese calligraphy and characters, the body needed no prompt to move and be inspired. Taking on the essence of the garments and listening to the sounds of the breath and Xuan, the body moved joyously, organically through the space, encountering other bodies and allowing those experiences to grow into something and letting them go when they had finished.
It reminded me of a quote by the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi:
"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
Letting go, accepting and welcoming change. As we creep into Autumn I'm already excited about new things to come and the new light and changing leaves.
DO MOUNTAINS GET LONELY TOO?
Recently co-performed a beautiful new live-art work by Felicity Rose Barrow called 'Do Mountains get lonely too? at Rugby Art Gallery. The older I get the more I come to love the raw beauty of the Midlands, as odd and small and boring as I always thought it to be. Now any excuse to go back. This was honestly one of the best things to perform, it's beautifully written, it's funny, silly, sad and apocalyptic and melancholy:
"Two mountains are situated directly opposite each other in a landscape. They love and long for each other, but can only imagine what it would be like to touch each other. One night, when the landscape is emptied of hikers, the two mountains have a telephone conversation with each other. The moon turns in the sky, and another conversation begins to run parallel; the unbearable chasm between them that can never be breached."
Check out more of Fliss' work here: http://www.felicitybarrow.com/
The luminous Rosie Bolton was the moon, a woman who lights up many a dark sky! SO much lady love.
Filmings, happenings... Silly elf.
For the last few months I have been setting up a collective of creatives and performers. Now co-directing the little company we have made, we have workshopped together, drank copious amounts of coffee, talked endlessly and now we have entered into rehearsals. Yippee!
A little throw back to this time last year when we were just finishing up with Back to the Future with Secret Cinema. Mary Sue hasn't resurfaced yet but there's still time!
Snow White with TEN and Snack Family.
Last year I did some filming with TEN Entertainment and Snack family. The video was recently released so here it is in The Quietus:
Happy New Year, wonderful people. I've started the year all things Japanese reading a paper published on the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy about Japanese Aesthetics. Very Interesting, lovely thoughts to start a new year. Read it if you have time, it's very interesting:
“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
— Ernest Hemingway
Happy Halloween Lovers...Be good and share the candy.
In the Absence of Archives
What a bloody lovely location to perform in and on a beautiful crisp evening when the air is cold and the moon is full. After laughing in the face of health and safety and tearing this fencing down, a fire was built and the evening commenced.
Filles du dèsert
I am currently working on a piece (as titled above) that explores women in the wilderness, taking inspiration from Artemis, goddess of the wilderness and the hunt. She is affiliated with the moon, the keeper of young girls and alongside her brother Apollo, they act as harbingers of sudden death and illness. She seems an appropriate and interesting source to take inspiration from! I'm working with her and some of the women who have had a significant influence on the land upon which it will be performed- The Tremough campus/estate which is part of Falmouth University. Here are a few images from a photo shoot I did with Pete (http://www.peteprokopiw.com) to get some images for the show... Oh how lovely it is to run around:
Snow White and her Dog Men!Spent a few days last week with the guys over at Tentacle films filming a music video for Snack Family. It was a very Lynch-ian style shoot with lots of strobe lights, blue velvet and dog heads. Who knew Snow White was such a rebel? I didn't but she definitely knows how to have a good time! Snow White and her dogmen.
“I don’t want to earn my living; I want to live.”
— Oscar Wilde
Few little peeks at some goings on:
Some little bits from a stampede through London with Artful Badger and playing Mary-Sue at the Hill Valley Stores as part of Secret Cinema Back to the Future! Great Fun!
I'm back from a beautiful week in the Coed hill with a bunch of the most generous and hilarious clowns! Learning, growing, playing. I thoroughly adore such invested, intensive learning and being able to run around barefoot in such an stunning location and getting back in touch with nature. But now back to good old London and other, very different wonders.
“Error is not just acceptable, it is necessary for the continuation of life, provided it is not too great. A large error is a catastrophe, a small error is essential for enhancing existence. Without error, there is no movement. Death follows.”
So last month...or was it the month before (who knows when time is sweeping by so rapidly) I had a little poem published by Forward Poetry in a collection called Darkest before Dawn. It featured lots of really great poets and I was super happy to be a part of it. So happy I took a photo...
Over the weekend I presented this new work as part of a group exhibition in Newlyn. There were lots of beautiful works and people in the space, lots of poetry and wine. All works in the exhibition had in some way responded to the words of Simon Armitage.
This piece entitled 'Cradled in Gravity' was created around the idea of suspension, gravity and weight in relation with the positions of the moon.
BLUE MEETS BLUE.
The start of the month, I landed myself a challenge. To think up an idea and make a performance in just a few days! The work was to be shown as part of a group exhibition in Gunwalloe, Cornwall. I was very fortunate that my manlove keeps his ear to the ground for me and if there's an opportunity he throws my name right in there. So he was approached to put some paintings in the show and when the curator was explaining he said that I could probably do some performance as well if needed- which they did. So the next day, we went to view the space and it was one of the most stunning parts of the country. Overlooking the ocean, there are lawns and thin gardens and hidden wooded holes to create work in.
I decided to create something on the cliff top behind the fence away from the viewer. This was an interesting opportunity for a number of different reasons. One being the fact that my work would be viewed almost entirely by a visual arts audience. And also because I had consciously made the decision to separate myself from the audience, something I wouldn’t normally do. This was an interesting challenge and as the work was a repeated cycle (although each time I did vary the actions) I became conscious that I wasn’t sure I felt like a ‘performer’ anymore but had made some transformation into an art object being viewed from behind the line. An interesting position to be in after the previous work of ‘Swan Song for one’ where it was very intimate and enclosed but very safe and relaxed. This time precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff diving hands into thick congealing liquid and never being able to get fully close to the audience.
The backdrop to the performance was a wide expanse of ocean and sky, hence the name blue meets blue, I decided to root the work in the stories surrounded Pasiphae from the Greek myths. Her story became known to me quite a few years ago whilst in my final year of university. So she immediately popped into my head. She is the wife of Minos and when he fails to sacrifice the Bull from the sea a spell is cast onto his wife, Pasiphae which makes her fall in love with the bull. Because she is in love with the bull she wants to make love to it, so she asks Daedalus, the architect to help her build a costume construct to disguise her as a cow. After they make love, Pasiphae is impregnated and gives birth to the Minotaur and so the story continues into Theseus and the Minotaur. Within this story I thought about these ideas of love and fate, which opened up the question of whether we chose who we fall in love with or if there is something larger (fate) at play. What I found interesting was the fact that Pasiphae had no choice in her loving the bull, she was bewitched and through the fault of her husband she became desperate to access the love she felt for the creature.
A lot of the stories around Pasiphae resembled silence to me and she seemed to be swept along by her fate and her husband. I had to think simply, as I didn’t have much time to make and create. The setting was beautiful and the silence worked extremely well and so it was possible to focus primarily on the visual. What came out was a repeated cycle that combined elements of rituals from birth and death, sacrifice and silence.
Swan song for one.
Here is a sneaky little picture...
Although it wasn’t quite like this, the bottom end was curtained off too and inside the light was soft and white and pure. On the day it ended up being around 20 back to back performances repeated one after the other. My mouth was delivering this poetry, this story and I was there, I was fully there but my body and mouth had gone into a complete trance and it felt as though I were floating.
Discovery, at the Poly
This week I am a resident maker at The Poly in Falmouth. Cross Collaborations, myself and other performers and artists are all making work around the Poly in response to the building and alongside the history society. The final showing of work is Sunday 30th June. I am creating a piece for one audience member at a time inside a box.
So...Welcome to my box.
Day 1: Playing with fabric and feathers inside the box. What fun! Little bit of cabin fever but so relaxed I fell asleep.
CLOWNING IN NATURE
This has taken a long while, I'm not sure why, maybe time is just slipping through my fingers or maybe it's just taken me this long to digest the experience. Who knows? I spent a week in April, which feels like almost a lifetime ago in the middle of the Llandrindod wells with around 22 other beautiful clowns as we clowned about in nature with Phil Burgers. I cannot go into words what a wonderful and profound experience it was. I truly found part of myself within this wonderful and weird world of clowning. Not in being funny or making people laugh but being free, and honest and discovering my own sense of self and being people on that journey with me.Mid way through the week I definitely went through my crisis, having no sense of impulse and disconnecting from the people I needed to get through, but out of the hole we inevitably crawl and there I found it. A moment where it became possible for me to surprise myself, for my body to surprise me from it's impulses and for me to remain completely connected with my audience and truly go on a journey with them.
I am completely addicted.
Last week I had the opportunity to go to Bristol and take part in three days intensive workshops under the title, 'Creating a space to fail.' The workshops were lead by Live Artist Thomas John Bacon and four of us were invited to bring a solo work/action to present and deconstruct from the perspective of failure.
The three days were really intense and the work presented at the end was in no way recognisable to the one at the start. After showing, we then put constraints onto our work; no language, no props, no movement and I found that I was able to get to the real heart of what I was trying to say; what is the true intention? How do I make that true to me and myself and my body?
-A desire for connection through the awkwardness of intimacy.
These words constantly kept creeping up within my work and where my true intentions lay and so I began to create from this. A brilliant learning curve and I got to work with brilliant people and experience their work in a way we don't normally have the opportunity to, which was wonderful.
The week culminated in a weekend of live art and noise along with discussions with the artists. Unfortunately I had to take myself back to sunny Falmouth so wasn't able to stay and see the work but you catch some highlights here:
Happy April everybody!