Earthtomes

Mapping multi-sensory modalities: a research event exploring the theme of body cartographies curated by Dr Rachel Sweeney at The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool Hope University.  March 2016

The Earthtomes event revolved around a live Butoh performance led by international Butoh artist Joan Laage. Image of performance below.

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Butoh performers: Rachel Sweeney, Sally Dean, Dominique Baron-Bonarjee, Lee Berwick/Digidub.

Eight artists were selected to present time-based and site-responsive works engaging in themes of cartography and intracorporeality and that integrated body-centred approaches within digital media.

Featured Artists: Annalaura Alifuoco, Silvia Battista, Dominique Baron-Bonarjee, Fiona Candy, Kris Darby, Jonathan Gilbert, Simon Piasecki, Rachel Sweeney

For Earthtomes I provided radio headphones so that participants could experience a sequence of audio stories that I created using original recordings combined through digital collage.

The immersive sounds of footsteps brought attention to the presence of the body in motion and the acoustic qualities of places, spaces and moments – as they are stepped into life.

Participants could explore the theatre building and its surroundings as they listened. Access to drawing materials encouraged the production of tactile cartographic responses to their individual multi- sensory experiences of moving in acoustic space.

 
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Tree of Life.

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The Lucombe Oak, Dartington Hall.

In June 2016, I was privileged to attend Schumacher College at Dartington Hall near Totnes in Devon, England. It is the centre of the Dartington Hall Trust, a charity specialising in the arts, social justice and sustainability. Inspired by  founders, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhurst, the Dartington Trust is currently working towards their vision to be a pioneer of deep personal and societal change. This is influenced by the Elmhirsts’ original concept of “…expressing a ‘many-sided life’ and an ethos of openness, creativity and ‘learning by doing’.” (See Dartington Hall and Schumacher College websites for more information).

The gardens at Dartington have a magical beauty and shifting atmospheric moods, texture, form, light and shade. Many of the trees are extremely old. Pathways with flights of rhythmic steps guide visitors through the terraced gardens. Tacit, aesthetic metaphors are present in the garden’s landscaping, re-enforced by considered placements of lyrical sculptures and materials.

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Anthropological studies of indigenous peoples have used the term ‘animism’ to encompass beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in other animals, in plants, rocks, landscape features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, shadows – and trees. By taking up this focus, I’ve been able to learn of the growing understanding throughout the world that ecological renewal and sustainability depend upon spiritual awareness and an attitude of responsibility towards the Earth.  I’ve been making artworks  that can engage audiences via authentic sensory experiences, and  rediscover a symbiotic relationship with animate nature. Both for myself as well as for others.

Lucombe oak1Dartington brought opportunities to  experiment and trial techniques on the estate. ‘Lucombe’ is a hybrid form of oak that keeps its leaves in winter, and a magnificent specimen grows at the edge of the Tiltyard in the grounds of Dartington Hall (pictured above, in daytime, June 2016). For more information about the location of the Lucombe oak tree, a Dartington Estate map is here.

To explore possibilities and trial techniques, digital imagery was projected onto the trunk and into the canopy of the Lucombe oak, at night. This included anthropomorphic imagery, aiming to stimulate empathy for the energy and spirit of a living tree, and to question limiting interpretations of the sentience and agency of non-human entities.  Both video and still imagery were trialled.

Many thanks to Anna Goodchild for her generous, creative support and night photography skills. See more of Anna’s work here.

I’ve included a small selection of photographic moments from this activity. In this context, the photographs are an additional outcome: my primary purpose was to trial relevant techniques for working in the outdoors that have the potential to augment multi-sensory aesthetic experiences for audiences, in real time, in-situ.  As well as to learn about the world and have fun of course, through art practice. Thanks also to the staff at Dartington for their assistance.

The female imagery was re-purposed from ‘Gaze’ (March 2016), which used digital collage to visualise some ideas about time. You can learn more about Gaze and the development stages of the Anima Mundi project, here on my AA2A profile.

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Anima Mundi

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Examples of works from the Anima Mundi project, made during my recent AA2A residency at Liverpool Hope University. The project title is a reference to the ancient hypothesis of an intrinsic connection between all living things: the existence of the Earth’s soul.

Please click on thumbnails to open up larger images, use ‘back’ to return to previous page.

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Aiming to shift rational meanings derived from ‘horticulture’ or ‘botany’ to the more expressive and provocative. The acorn seedlings literally gave life to the works, in this case appearing like flames on altar candles.

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For further background detail about this project please visit For further background detail about this project please visit

http://aa2a.biz/pg/photos/album/28280/new-art-growing and here: http://aa2a.biz/pg/photos/album/27787/anima-mundi

With cabinet maker Stuart Williams, in his workshop near Garstang, Lancashire.

February 2016

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New art growing…

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A small selection from my ongoing project Anima Mundi is on show in ‘inprogress’, a group exhibition by three artists participating in the AA2A project at Liverpool Hope University. The Cornerstone Gallery, 11th – 22nd April 2016.

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Project research and development: 

I planted approximately 300 acorns during  October and November 2015 and watched them grow over the winter months.

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New work: on the AA2A Scheme at Liverpool Hope.

In October 2015, I began a residency at Liverpool Hope University through AA2A (Artists Access to Art Colleges). Its a fantastic UK national scheme that supports artists and allows  them access to workshops and facilities over several months  to undertake a period of research or realise a project. Being part of the AA2A scheme at Liverpool Hope is opening up an exciting ‘laboratory’ where I can work with others to trial relevant processes, techniques, imagery and materials, as I move towards the next phase of activity. There is  information here at the AA2A.biz website.

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Responding to the Art School atmosphere.

The Cornerstone Building at Liverpool Hope University was once St Francis Xavier School and the building, an imposing example of 19th century architecture has been converted for its current use as an art school.  One of the pleasures of my AA2A placement has been having the time to meander through the building, absorb and respond to its mood and atmosphere. There are many stairways linking different areas of the building – workshops, studios and performance areas. I enjoyed using my camera to document  the  layered traces of the movement of others: the marks and patina that tacitly signal what kinds of activity are permitted and encouraged in the building.

Please click on a thumbnail to open up a larger image and use ‘back’ to return.

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Making Presence Felt on film

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A collaboration with director Mark Gill and The Chase Films, has resulted in a short film capturing the atmosphere and immersive qualities of the Northampton gallery installation. It features edited excerpts from the gallery soundscapes and makes links to a series of quizzical, material artworks that were ‘heard’ in the initial audio recordings, and then made and displayed in the gallery.  The use of headphones is recommended for maximum immersion and dynamic, binaural sound.

Listen: see what you hear…

Listening to visitors: a selection from the comments book

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By spending time in the Northampton gallery I’ve been able to have some great conversations with many inspiring people.

Thank you.

Here is a selection of comments written in the visitors’ book by some of the people I didn’t get to meet in person.

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A great collaboration between sound, materials and the awareness of oneself in a fictional world created in the imagination. I truly was immersed in the experience. Great use of materials to bring it all to life. The various textures, use of lights, the crunch of leaves in an imaginary space. To the moon and back by night. Your consciousness definitely touched me. Thank you.”  David 

Poses lots of questions, but not in a disturbing way. I liked the contrast between the marked floorboards (permanent impression) and the image / reflection (impermanent).  We should think more about our impact than about our appearance.” Amy (on Election Day 2015).

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The eye is a genie. He’s got trapped in a box because he got lost. He can come out if you say the magic word.” Poppy (age 4)

Once I’d realized that this wasn’t going to tell me all about shoes I found this quite fascinating. Most interesting as a music teacher (primary) I found this inspiring as a starting point for creative music making. What a shame I’m retired now- first time I’ve said that!” Jane

A wonderful focus on the concept and felt experience of embodiment and connection. Grounding and liberating, beautiful and spacious. If more of us were embodied more of the time and knew how to re-connect with body and self then that would help  a sense of containment and freedom that can heal and restore using the senses – intra and interpersonal well being. With appreciation.”  G.Y. Core Process Psychotherapist.

More on the sounds of identity in motion: the art of Foley.

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“Women are the toughest to imitate.”

Jack Foley started in the motion picture business in the silent picture era and lived through the exciting times when overnight the industry converted to sound moving pictures.  Jack is credited with pioneering the art of adding sound effects after the action had been filmed, because the sound captured in the film studios and with a camera during the live action, did not  record sound in a ‘realistic’ way.

Jack estimated that he walked 5000 miles in the studio doing footsteps. He characterized the footsteps of stars in this manner:

Rock Hudson is a solid stepper; Tony Curtis has a brisk foot; Audie Murphy is springy; James Cagney is clipped; Marlon Brando soft; John Saxon nervous. Women are the toughest to imitate,” he confided, “my 250 pounds may have something to do with it, but the important thing is their steps are quicker and closer together. I get winded doing leading ladies. Jean Simmons is almost, not quite, the fastest on her screen feet in all of Hollywood. She’s topped only by June Allyson. I can’t keep up with her at all.”

From:

http://filmsound.org/foley/jackfoley.htm