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Digging Down is a project inspired by found fragments and objects; the things we find and collect, but are not quite sure why. It started life when my (fairly) manageable ad hoc collecting of the fragments of pottery, glass and metal was disrupted by the discovery of three victorian 'middens' in our steeply terraced garden. Working with our dry stone wallers (Gerallt, Dei and Eifion), I found hundreds of old shoes, bottles, paint pots, children's toys, shoes, metal cots, marmalade jars, pans, seives, glass bowls and plates. As my horde of 'trysor' grew, I had started to feel a little like Fuselli's 'Artist Overwhelmed by the Grandeur of Antique Ruins'. We collected crates of the stuff, and I started to question when I should stop, noticing the almost compulsive need to get more, despite not knowing what to do with what I already had.
I was lucky enough at that point that Simon Coates, National Theatre Wales, rescued me by suggesting I applied to their Waleslab programme. This was a turning point, enabling me to embark on a programme of R&D, including performance and site-specific installation through collaboration with others. The questions I was trying to answer through this Waleslab funded R&D were:
- why am I compelled to gather these things?
- do others feel/do the same?
- what is the potential of these fragments and objects as a way of engaging with others, to dig down into the meaning of life, the universe and everything?
Waleslab supported my work by paying for two collaborators (Sam Frankie Fox and Chris. Dugrenier), a dramaturg (Louise Osborn), a project manager/light and sound (Jony Easterby), and Gert Vos, our chef (Oren). The R&D resulted in hosting a caban-like 'sharing' event with an invited set of participants, (with light, music, debate, singing) and two open invitation pop up Oren restaurants on the subsequent two evenings.
And since then....
The way that we combined research, local history, song, performance, movement, documentation and conversation has given me indications of a new working practice, perhaps one that could be called 'dialogical art' or 'dialogical performance', where traditional boundaries between artist, performer, participant, audience are blurred, so that participation is at the heart of the creative event. This way of working brings in my background as a professional facilitator, as well as enabling me to explore site-specific work, installation and collaboration with others.
After the NTW R&D phase, I ran three pop up restaurants with Gert Vos, and a stand at the local fair, Gwyl Ffair Nant. See blogs from Autumn 2015.
In April 2016, I put on Digging Down II at Storiel and Pontio in Bangor, a travelling 'Curiously Collaborative Museum of Lost, Found and Broken' working in collaboration with artist Marged Pendrell. The Curiously Collaborative Museum re-imagined the museum as a place for creative participatory collections and experiences of objects and personal stories. What would it look like to defy the expert-based model of collection and display, and replace it with soliciting contributions of 'worthless' lost and found objects, together with curation from the public?
The museum offered:
• A 3-suitcase starter collection , from pebbles and sticks to fragments of pottery and lost shoes,
discarded bedsteads and bit of old letters
• An opportunity for you to bring along fragments or objects that you have found,
to add them to the museum (temporarily, or permanently).
You can try your hand at curating and making collections and displays in any way you like.
• An invitation to respond to the fragments and objects on display
– writing, song, dance, sculpture, sound-scapes, drawings… in any medium you choose.
- café with panad and cake.
More than 100 people came, and feedback was very positive (see blog post for April 2016), and Marged and I are keen to take it further.
We are now able to offer the Caban-style Digging Down event, in combination with or separate to the Curiously Collaborative Museum. Perhaps some kind of travelling digging down caban, moving to different locations... I am also further exploring themes from Digging Down in Merched Chwarel