In May I should have been walking with co-artist Lorna Brunstein developing a programme of work for installation at the Lake District Holocaust Project. Sara's Last Steps would have taken place during a weekend of events commemorating the arrival of a group of Jewish child refugees to a location near Windermere in 1945. The weekend included a planned reunion of those still living and able to travel plus their families and descendants. Sadly the virus has put paid to that and the project is on hold.
It is our intention to develop the project and if possible stage the walk and the installation at some point in the future. Our intention was and remains to explore moments from the experience of the Windermere Children, to walk and ask questions, to think with our whole bodies in the spaces where those young refugees began to find sanctuary and exile towards generating contemporary resonances. The project is a further development of the creative collaboration with Lorna Brunstein,, Forced Walks; the invitation to participate in this Lake District project remains open. More information at forcedwalks.co..uk
Walking the Names online
Walking the Names goes online as the virus closes us down to isolation and social distancing. An informal trawl of those who had joined the first few monthly walks resulted in nearly twenty walkers interested in taking part on line. Each walker was issued with 20 names from either 1862 or 1863 entries in the Register of Burials at the Bath Union Workhouse Burial ground just off the Wells Way. This brings a whole new set of voices to the project and as they get stitched together it promises to be an interesting piece with contemporary voices and reflections.
In this time of the virus, overhearing dangerous eugenics talk of herd immunity and collatoral damage, it seems to me that the people of Bath who died of poverty in what was still one of the richest cities in the world are a presence worth remembering and reflecting on. From their unmarked graves in that unmemorialised burial ground they call on us not to forget. We reflect on their presence and the contemporary resonances: people who become defined as other, and then considered not to matter and are finally discarded.
Why walk and read the names aloud? For me its something about bringing those individuals to mind and body, even if we cant do it together at the site of their burial. As we move and breath and give sound to the names on the page we generate a deeper richer knowing of that individual. We are literally re-membering them. Its is a gentle and emotional act of witness for the othering of the poor and vulnerable, casualties of a system that generated the wealth and serviced the wealthy. Especially poignant and punitive at the time given the Victorian culture of death, they were denied a ‘decent’ funeral, a respectability in death rather than shame to be passed down the generations.There is no memorial to their lives and there was no one to mourn them in death. These people died not from a virus but from poverty. This field of bodies and each of those individual lives speaks and I reflect on the rise of homelessness and an underfunded and increasingly privatised state unable to care for its casualties.
Strange that in this moment of the virus the underpaid gig economy workers who deliver food, the bus drivers and public transport workers, the long overlooked hospital cleaners and canteen staff all become heroes. We cheer a health service crippled by underfunding that pulls out all the stops to save us, migrant workers who are doctors, nurses and support workers and all their colleagues are applauded even as they check their residency status. Walking the Names in this time of the virus urges a reappraisal of care and responsibility.
Today we walked and read names aloud in our back gardens and beyond, moments of exercise, carefully observing social distance and examining perhaps our historical distance from workhouse dead to virus dead. Layers of past in the present touch and a new knowing perhaps emerges. As the media comes in and comments other than mine surface I will post them here.
More than 5 years in the making and hundreds of miles in the walking, (dis)enchantments and perambulations short films and soundscapes plus documentation was exhibited at Corsham Court, Wiltshire, The exhibition presented short films and soundscapes plus documentation of the creative practice as research for Richard White's PhD, In the cellar gallery in two linked immersive installations, work was shown from the Sweet Waters and Honouring Esther cycles of walks. Documentation including walkers notebooks and some of the other research outputs were presented in an adjoining room
iThe work presented in installation evoked the atmosphere and embodied experience of the walks, reflecting thoughts and impressions of the walkers. The approach taken with the film above is closer to documentary and offers an account of the Honouring Esther project, The film links to the other films shown from the Honouring Esther on Richard White's Vimeo channel here. The short sample below is a walkthrough of the installation showing samples from both ends of the installation, Honouring Esther work is shown first.
In addition to work shown in installation an interactive sampler was produced using Klynt and is available here
(dis)enchantments and perambulations: walking arts and reluctant heritage
Thursday 18 July to Tuesday 23 July
Corsham Court Long Gallery, Corsham
Looped short films and soundscapes. A walk ( Saturday 20 July).
Re-visiting two cycles of walks Sweet Waters and Honouring Esther. Juxtaposing the experience of walking for pleasure with coerced walking and forced migration. Honouring Esther attended to a Nazi death march and Sweet Waters explores the legacies of slave-ownership in Bath and along the River Avon. Both projects develop an iteration of a ‘walking-with’ approach towards revealing and countering reluctant heritage.
Thursday 18 July to Tuesday 23 July Corsham Court Long Gallery, Corsham
(dis)enchantments and perambulations: an installation
access via Blue Door, Bath Spa University entrance
Corsham Court, Church Street, Wiltshire, Corsham SN13 0BZ
NB: there is no parking on the Corsham Court site for visitors to this exhibition, this is a Bath Spa University event and does not provide access to the Methuen collection or the grounds.
Free on street parking is available nearby at the end of the High Street, on The Laggar and on Priory Street, There is a car park by the Co-Op at the other end of the High Street
Confluence exhibition Stroud. I am exhibiting work here alongside Walking the Land artists and offering a short textual intervention with the Space, Place, Practice research group. We give the idea of enchantment 'a good frisk' according to one writer. The exhibition takes place at the Museum in the Park, private view Wednesday 17 April and other workshops through the run
A (dis)enchantment in Cheltenham walking in Pittville park with Cheltenham Tree Officer Chris Chavasse, a Speculative Art School...speculation... Walking slowly and at times without talking (the most difficult bit) considering the multilayered stories folded into this place and our entangled presence there.
Huge trees from the original planting propped up and surviving. Old.
Rattling notions of time and place and queering where is here...the stone itself.
The pumproom built out of stone 175 million years ago, sat on rock similarly formed at the bottom of warm Jurassic seas...where was here, then, what presences unacknowledged?
Ghosts trees and absences. The slaveowners who walked the park, for whom the estate was laid out by speculator Pitt. The architect Stokes, a slaveowner born in Jamaica who sold up in good time to slip through England and on to New Zealand ending up with 30,0000 acres of New Zealand sheep country.
The flow of wealth, its owners unmarked seep from colonised island to colonised island leaving the marked in their wake. Not a word. Don't mention the sugar.
One local resident in 1835 missed out on over £8k in government compensation on the basis of her ownership of 415 people on the Seven Rivers Estate in Jamaica. The enslaved people were mortgaged to a Reverend Henry Mair, man of the church.
Enslaved people received no compensation.
Does the stone capstan on the lake echo those who pushed it round at the tip of the slavemaster's whip crushing the sugar to make the wealth this park manifests?
To the trees, the romance of the holly and the oak no more indigenous than any other invasive coloniser. Its about time and speed, it depends on where here and there is or was.
The swift seeding birch gets in quick from eastern europe as the glaciers retreat and the heavy footed oak lumbers from the warm safety south of the Alps or the Pyrenees. They get across the North Sea before it was there. When the first Brexit was enforced by the rushing meltwater just 33 trees had made it to the safety of Albion' shore.
None of them native, really.
Considering the recent colonial arrivals and the plant hunters who brought them back... how their trophy hunting trips funded perhaps by slave generated wealth in turn colonised knowledges. and occupied the spaces of being. What do we really know about these trees what intelligence could we connect with in them ?
Joseph Pitt MP anti semite and anti catholic speculated on land in Cheltenham. An MP in some of the rotten boroughs of Wiltshire. The Great Reform Act was designed to clean parliament of the likes of him. He opposed electoral reform and was out before the Act came in. In 1812 Lord Suffolk wrote of Pitt to Lord Holland that he was,
a very strong instance why some reform in the representation is necessary. He will from a corrupt influence return 2 Members for Malmesbury, 1 for Cricklade, 1 for Cirencester and 1 for Wootton Bassett all including the votes in the town of Cricklade notoriously corrupt, and all this from his influence as an attorney, a banker, a land jobber and a money lender.4
Now the park is free for everyone to use and the planted dreams of Pitt's landscape architects are realised. Enslaved people have not been compensated. The planet warms faster than oak trees can run. Deep entanglements and responsibilities to consider, especially for white folk.
A walking with the park asking questions taking notes, tweeting..maybe a haiku in the park from someone. The conversation continues, the questioning opens doors, we feel the now brittle dry leaves that dinosaurs ate fresh.
Screening and artists talk
Thursday 25 January City Hall Bristol. 7.30-9.00 pm
Working and walking with survivor testimony as it fades from living memory
Presentation on the Forced Walks project: Honouring Esther. Bringing a story of resistance and hope out of persecution and hate. Short films and sounds from the walks in Somerset and Germany retracing the route of a Nazi Death march. Survivor testimony and contemporary resonance.
Working with co artist Lorna Brunstein I hosted the Forced Walks project, Honouring Esther, in 2015-17. We traced the death march that her mother Esther Brunstein survived...transposed the route to Somerset and then retraced her steps a year later. Part of a process of bringing Esther's experience home to us now and exploring ways of working with survivor testimony as it slips out of living memory. I made some films and sound pieces, Lorna subsequently created powerful installations with material gathered along the way. More here: https://forcedwalks.wordpress.com/
A Holocaust Memorial Day event hosted by Bristol Hannover Council, who, along with Bath Spa University and a host of supporters on Kickstarter supported the original project.
Exploring co-creativity back in September we went in search of antimapper, walking and sensing the silences, gaps and distortions in the official version of the City. Joined by co-creationists from Europe and South America I hosted a counter-mapping walk across the city. Beginning with 6 city sites.....
Co hosted with Katie O'Brien from 44AD and Christina Horvath from University of Bath we walked talked, listened, tasted the walls, touched the stones and told stories of other places.
At 44AD just opposite the Roam Baths, in the basement workshop the following day we reviewed findings, checked out printed up photos and recycled some of Bath's promotional materials. Working on my Bath anti map, an annotated version of a map of the city's official story, the group developed an instant counter-map on the wall. Here we are at work:
This was a developing co creation tactic for stimulating discussion and research on an urban area as part of the conference Co-Creation Network at University of Bath. Here is the squished and squashed map as it was left on the wall reassembled and further reconstructed as evidence of process.