A work in progress
I have always been a collector of things, especially old, discarded things. When I was about ten, my parents dug six foot drainage trenches, and I spent days down the holes, collecting the pottery and clay pipes and old bits and pieces. I loved the connection to the past, to others who had lived in the house, to 'the fragmentation and dismemberment that are the natural destiny of all things' (as Jaris-Karl Huysman says).
But these things, and the process of hunting for them, is not just about the past. Will Viney (see https://narratingwaste.wordpress.com/) writes about them having a lure that hints of a possible experience of being, one of connectedness, where time is more circular, where it is possible to sense the universe of matter swirling in and through us. It puts us in our place in the world, and connects us to others past, present, future. As Will says, "The magic, telling and evidential status of waste is … because it has entered a peculiar form of time, one that emerges out of its status as a 'had-been', a remainder or trace of action whose relation to the past is suspended in its presence, making its presence, its actual being or 'reality' shot through with an absence that animates it as a thing that has come to be by having been".
Our garden here, steep as it is, is a cascade of bits of pottery and glass and metal. While rebuilding the terraces this year, we buried down into three middens, unburying enormous numbers of fragments of plates, knives, forks, pots, pans, shoes, guns, children's toys, fire grates, bottles, jam and marmalade jars and tea pots. I have collected all that we uncovered (more remain), and thanks to some neighbours, have been given the use of a barn up the road to lay them out and work on them.
One of the remarkable things about this line of inquiry has been how many people have started bringing me objects that they have found. Since pre-historic times, people have exchanged fragments, often fragments standing for the complete object, to 're-presence' people and places related to the objects' origins in other places. The archaeologists have called this 'enchainment'.
I was lucky enough to receive R&D support from National Theatre Wales' Waleslab to develop my work with the 'trysor' in April 2015, and it has since then evolved into a major line of inquiry. See more about the project on the 'Digging Down' page.
Symffoni Bethesda: Offering (Afon Ogwen Remix)
For an installation/performance at the River Ogwen Festival, I'm experimenting with hanging discarded and lost objects found in the river next to the sculpture park site. Conducted as an archaeological dig, I'm recording the process of collecting, sorting/cleaning/categorising and displaying the objects. On the day of the festival (5th October 2014), people were invited to take any objects that appealed to them. On the day, more than 40 objects were removed. The dispersed collection is recorded with details of each of the 200 objects collected, together with a note of their fate (taken, washed away, left, thrown back in the river). Everyone who took an object gave their name and had a photo taken of their hands with their object. The objects, used, discarded and now wanted again, went onto the next phase in their lives: a little pottery ear was to become a necklace, bricks with holes in them to become gate weights, a broken plate to be used to feed the chickens, a shard of pottery to become the basis for a children's story, and some of the old twisted chicken wire was to become the manes of an enactment of the Trevi Fountain horses.
Next step is to write up the project, to decide what to do with the remaining objects, and perhaps to follow up the new lives of the taken objects in some way, as a dispersed collection, perhaps?
While on a residency in Cornwall, I found traces of artists previously in residence, as well as older traces in the old midden behind the house, and created a few quick pieces of work...