Site Specific Installation, Sound and Performance
x-church, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire
Rehearsing Sound 4:19
The Rehearsal is a site-specific installation using assemblage, sound and performance. It was constructed in the nave of St John the Divine’s deconsecrated church in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, as part of an international group show in May 2022.
In this work, on-the-point-of-collapse ephemeral materials from the marsh were suspended and balanced precariously on the west wall and through the vast nave of the church. The delicacy of materials and their imperceptible movement combined with subtly changing conditions of light and sound connected the viewer to the mystery and stillness of the monumental building. The materials’ vulnerable beauty and uncanny presence, a reminder of the uncertainty and contingency of all life. That this structure existed in a permanent state of possible collapse for the duration of the exhibition was something I had hoped for.
Meaning emerges inescapably by paying attention to what is presented and in this work I wanted to
‘sharpen the ears’ and, ‘heighten the senses.’
Without fail, viewers adapted quickly to the demands of their new surroundings. Amending speed and movement and engaging all senses in a 360 degree awareness in, and around this work was crucial. The presence of other humans too, played a significant role in this encounter - it is astonishing how peripheral vision and archaic listening techniques surface when needed. These ancient basic senses remain vital for sustaining life and surviving well.
It was also important to embody something of Lincolnshire’s dynamic landscape in the work. In response to environmental disturbances, marshland can move across the surface of the earth in comprehensible timescales. Its self-organising properties and ability to adapt and change quickly are essential properties for its own sustainability and survival.
The camera's self-timer and slow shutter speeds helped document my cooperative but precarious performance. In each photograph, the boundaries between human and non-human forms become increasingly blurred as I attempted to manifest my encounter with land as a state of ecological coexistence. I am relieved to have captured something of this on camera and in reviewing these images recall William Kentridge's description of his own creative process. He describes this as ‘immanence coming into being’ and an 'ongoing discovery of the structure and content of the work’.
As a single human performer, I am not perceived as much of a threat but my ‘formal presence’ in the work acts as a reminder that as a species I am a devastating geological force. I play my role precariously well, but in this I am acutely aware that precarity resides not only in my own challenged physicality.
A commitment to monitoring the work’s existence was intrinsic to the work. The laborious, repetitive actions of protection, maintenance and rebuilding conveyed something of the futility of the human condition. In this performative role, I am custodian. This is a neither sad nor joyful state, but more of an impulse for care-giving and even though tenderness is thought by some to be a neurobiologically primitive basic emotion (traced back to the pre-mammalian reptiles), I wonder if I engineered this role as a strategy for managing my own anxiety about the not-known future we all face.
I am absorbed. Placed and displaced.
In search for an encounter with more-than-human, I turn to the unseen to heighten the process of sensing. From this viewpoint, it is easy to see that the world is not things, but processes, transformation, shapeshifting, and slowly morphing habits.
Many elements that are abundant on earth, are also found in the human body. They play an important role in how the body and earth’s systems function. That human and non-human are united in this way, and through their shared histories and uncertain futures, seems to have been forgotten by today’s ‘humanity’.
In this image, human and non-human appear to be merging. My unstable human form is dissolving, and, from this viewpoint, it is easy to see, and feel, that the world is not things, but the very processes essential for survival: transformation and shapeshifting. In this work, I wanted to reveal something of the common ground between the nature of humans and earth and dispel any illusion that humanity is in charge.
What matters now is mutuality.
Assemblage, sound and performance
Lincolnshire willow rods, marram grass roots, giant hairy willow herb, recycled lifeboat-orange builders’ line, knitting wire, perspex, dressmakers’ pins, florescent light, sound, human, sash window weights, DJI Mavic Mini Drone
8m x 6m x 5m