Merched Chwarel(Quarry Women) is an Arts Council Wales funded collaborative, issue based, bi-lingual R&D project with Marged Pendrell, Lisa Hudson and Julie Williams. Although we have different working practices, backgrounds and relationships with the quarries, we share an interest in psychogeography, walking, mapping, traces, found objects, drawing and mark making, and in an aesthetic that reflects a temporal, cultural and linguistic sensitivity. We also share a desire to expand our own practices by learning from and working with each other. Our R&D project is based on walking together in 5 different quarries.
Thestrands of our research cover:
Psychogeography: Building on work with the inverted spaces of quarries (hollowed mountains), and autobiography in the work of quarry-worker descendent Julie, to women's oral and archaeological histories of Lisa and Lindsey, we want to find out what is the women's take on the psychogeographical aspects of quarries?
A connection to place, walking and mapping as an art form: Building on the walking practices of all of us, but particularly of Marged and Ruth, and the resurgence in walking based art forms, we see the need to expand the research to find out what of women's footsteps and the physical presence of women in a previously male-dominated environment?
Working with the ordinary, the every day: Our work to date has shown the extraordinary that comes from the 'ordinary' lives of forgotten women and places, of the strong connection that is made with contemporary communities of this approach, and of the political, cultural timeliness of interventions in the land: How will the ordinary 'her-stories' of us, and other women expose the extraordinary?
Culture and Language: We share an interest in Bala's conceptions of 'custodial aesthetics', of a role for artists "who use the specifics of their cultural, historical, political and social heritage in a variety of ways; some literal and some oblique, blatant and latent". What are the custodial aesthetics of women and the quarry legacy?
A collaborative approach: As a group of women, we will question the vision of a 'sole (male) artist': Is it possible to be fully collaborative, and make work that expresses something whole? Does our relationship with our landscape change when seeing/experiencing it on a deep level with others who may have different experiences? What does collaboration mean exactly?
We have started to address these questions by developing a dialogue as we work together, layering up and contextualizing our enquiry with the focus being on exploring contemporary relationships to the quarry legacy, including with the invisible female 'his'tory. Here's our blog - thoughts from each of us on the R&D process, including the nature of our collaboration: https://merchedchwarel.wordpress.com/
Here are some of the things I've been exploring as part of the R&D:
Some pages from my project journal...
Mixing SATOR square inspired word squares (7 x7) with Rorschach Blot tests made from words written in mud from Porth Penrhyn.
Merched Chwarel at the Open Day, Amgueddfa Llechi Llanberis Slate Museum... people chose a postcard and wrote one word describing how they feel about the quarries on the back
Some experiments with sound
We held our 'sharing' of the results of the R&D programme at Amgueddfa Llechi Llanberis Slate Museum on 1st March. Lots of positive feedback, interest, insight and some great challenging questions and suggestions for us to think about as we consider what next.