The month long studio residency I did at CAST (http://c-a-s-t.org.uk/) throughout August was an extremely interesting, eye opening and experimental time. The work I produced was some of my favourite work to date and I believe the freedom, lack on subconscious need to fit a mark scheme, the size of the studio space and time alone was essential to these outcomes and very effective.
Having been super interested in colonialism for the past 12 Months since a fantastically moving and inspiring exchange to Vancouver, Canada last August, I felt I began evoking the challenging thoughts and concepts I’ve wanted to communicate.
A short film also accompanied the installation, click link below to watch:
It was a very methodic and rhythmic process of plodding through thought without pressure of expectation to an end point that seemed to make sense.
The video piece was presented on a laptop at the side of the installation however, if the opportunity arose where I could put the instillation together again, I would like to run the video through a TV with better headphones. It is an experimental digital film exploring a scaled down scenario relating to the colonialism found in England. A scene on the left showing ‘up country people’ from more privileged, educated backgrounds undertaking an archaeological dig in southern Cornwall. Scene on the right of mainly local Cornish folk enjoying the annual ancient pagan festival held in Helston in early May known as Helston Flora festival. There is a juxtaposition of the two. The story is always the same, the highly educated privileged academics on the left, digging up the ancient local history of those on the right, with those on the right likely to never obtain or gain access to the findings of their history on the left. A scaled down metaphor of the structure of Anthropological and Archaeological scientific findings ingrained into social structure and lack of accessibility given to the less privileged. In parts of the video, I insert my own presence into the scenario through the sound of my voice. I did this to explore this kind of chain of research happening. By not eliminating myself from the storyboard, you are presented with: the artist studying the archaeologists and there being a direct connection between me and the archaeologists due to the communicative exchange, and then the archaeologists arguably studying the histories of the people on the right yet there is a disconnect between the reality of what they are digging for and the current reality of these people generations later. The archaeologists arguably digging in the land of the local’s ancestors yet lacking connected with the the locals of now – I something that is continuously repeated throughout this field. Also, by inserting the presence of the artist into the left scene with the archaeologists, I highlight the reality of the artist sharing the same privilege as the scientists; also disconnected from the reality of the native, local persons.
I was basically experimenting with representing social power and privilege structures found constantly interwoven into society all over the world but here specifically in Britain. And doing so in an experimental documentary kind of way.
No for the physical instillation, I’d like to start by highlighting the the materials I worked with. With a combination of hay and ship sails as the main material used in the work I can begin by mentioning the material implications of the home and away. Home being the hay and away being the ship sails. Already the essence of journey is implied. My intentions of using the hay was to communicate a sort of rural, traditional folk imagery with relevance to the working class and ‘common people’ of Britain which follows suit with the rest of the world; it’s not likely that hay or straw would spark associations with the upper classes of the world. I then explored tying the hay into bundles which naturally bared relevance to imagery within tribalism, paganism, witchcraft and unidentifiable mythical creatures. This helped stitch together loose thoughts on indigenous peoples, cultures and religions of England before it began being colonised by Europe starting with the Romans in 43 AD, and since then these cultures and religions have continued to decrease.
The sails on the other hand were sourced from a local sail maker in Falmouth who gave me a bunch of cut-offs and scraps from his workshop. After being glued together in collage fashion, they became striking, flag like and conveyed an essense of pride and power. My intentions with the sails revolve around an air of Britain’s subconscious Colonial pride; the sails representing that over sea voyage, journey and conquering that took place during colonial conquest. However, I wanted to communicate this in a kind of subtly tribal fashion. I’m not entirely sure of the reasoning and link between presenting the sails in a way that looks like stretched or hung animal skin but it’s along the lines of challenging what England would present in terms of a skin that represents them. The sail/ flag imagery representing Britain as rooted in colonialism, patriarchy and taking what is not theirs to take. Rather than presenting say an indigenous animal skin that is worshipped and honoured for giving every part of itself up for the likes of human consumption and use. Britain as a nation has no care for nature the way other cultures around the world do and these are the cultures that Britain aimed to destroy.
Finally, an element of the installation was a metal dustbin filled with carved apples bobbing in water. This may remind you of that old traditional village feit game, apple bobbing yet these 53 apples have the 53 commonwealth country outlines carved into them. With this I aim to challenge the notion and approach that the predominantly christian community that fueled Britain’s desire to conquer had when they spread their mark around the world… absentmindedly biting into whatever country they picked up next.
It was a passionate and interesting endeavor that flowed through many circles of thought. It was also a massive help and step forward into 3rd year where I will continue to manifest the same themes.