Please note that all times and locations are subject to change
Jude Allen (June 9, 10.15 Great Hall)
Title: Human/animal transformation in twentieth century Literature
The twentieth century saw a progressive increase in the amount of human/animal metamorphosis narratives in Western literature which continues until the present day when, it could be argued, we have what almost amounts to a literary metamorphosis epidemic.
This paper will argue for a very particular type of literary metamorphosis in Western culture that, although experimentally beginning around the start of the twentieth century, only truly materialises in the last few decades of the twentieth century.
The type of story which I perceive to be on the increase is one in which there is ‘real’ metamorphosis.
I shall argue that this ‘real-ness’ of literary metamorphosis is only very recently possible, considering that there has previously (in latter history) been a tradition of profound resistance to bodily metamorphosis. In recent texts, metamorphosis is not resisted. One thing really is replaced by another and boundaries are breached. Human becomes animal.
I suggest the ability to interrogate and breach the boundaries between human and animal corresponds with a particular cultural perception of what it means to be human and a changing relationship to the environment.
I will illustrate my theory mainly using H.G.Well’s Island of Dr. Moreau published in 1896 and Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales, from 1986. I will consider how, through metamorphosis, both books explore the idea of species identity. Although both texts allow for the possibility of breaching that identity there is a marked difference between the two in respect of how positively that breaching is received.
Bio statement: During her BA in English literature at Bathspa University – Jude was introduced to Ecocriticism and human/animal studies where she began to consider relationships between different types of body. Her MA in Body & Representation, University of Reading considered the pornographic gaze which she argued was directed towards both women and animal bodies.
Jude’s doctoral thesis is about metamorphosis between humans and animals in literature and establishes the notion of the metamorphic text. She assisted in organising the Soil Culture Forum held at the University of Falmouth.
Jo Clarkson : Common Dandelion (film programme)
With a focus on the marginalised and often overlooked, I picked a humble weed and used the process of time-lapse photography to create this piece. Taking a photograph every minute over thirteen days allows the work to evolve as nature takes its course. The dandelion clock becomes a metaphor for the cyclical nature of life and death.
Oak created a structured improvisational piece with the Common Dandelion as its muse. His cello intensifies fleeting moments and enhances the melancholic performance. Our collaboration pays tribute to a normally inconspicuous metamorphosis.
The Common Dandelion encapsulates ‘transience’ and ‘enchantment’ which I have been studying throughout my degree. For me, it encourages a re-evaluation of many things I have previously taken for granted. Looking to the future I am keen to instigate further films, site specific works and events in collaboration with others.
Cellist: Oak Matthias • www.oakmatthias.com
email@example.com • www.joclarkson.com
Laura Cooper (June 8, 12.15 Great Hall)
I will talk about LURE. The film documents the activities of a deer hunter, Patrick Magurno. During the relationship between the viewer, the camera, Patrick and his prey become increasingly intimate. This account outlines the tensions inherent in the film:
‘LURE began on the US election day. The day before, I had met up with Patrick. I had put an ad on Craigslist to film a hunter, and skimmed through for authentic replies. Patrick and I agreed to meet the next day at 4.30am to go deer hunting with a cross bow. I had washed all my clothes and body in scent-blocking products and set off. We sat for hours in an elaborately camouflaged tent, waiting as the night gave into the light. Apprehensive, scared even at first now it seems important to have made this connection, and to have spent the election day in close proximity to a man with a weapon in the woods, who, after we finished shooting, was going to place his vote’.
It takes place in whitetail deer breeding season so Patrick performs gestures, sounds, scents to seduce or challenge deer luring them into shooting range. The camera traces this human animal translation. The project attempts to seriously consider other subjectivities, the hunter and hunted. The camera preys on the hunter as he preys on the deer. In considering the subjectivities of other animals, beings and things I am interested in what is learnt about ourselves as human animals.
Bio statement: Laura Cooper is a British artist. She received her MFA in Fine Art Media at The Slade School of Fine Art London . Group exhibitions include Voice and The Lens, IKON Gallery Birmingham  VideoGud program Stockholm Sweden  Eyes As Sieves, Global Committee Space Brooklyn NY. Solo exhibitions include Nomadic Glow, Centro ADM Mexico City Soft Revolutions, Space In Between Gallery London . Residencies include SAP Seoksu Market residency, South Korea , Centro ADM Mexico City 2015, 108 NY USA . Awards include Franklin Furnace Fund , International Artist Development Fund ACE for 3rd Land Art Mongolia Biennale Project.
Lori Diggle (June 8, 09.45 Great Hall)
Title: Asemic writing: lacuna, gesture, trace, erasure on a sacred site in Cornwall
The site of Glasney College, Penryn, looks at first to be a monument to collective amnesia, a boggy patch of ground mainly used by local people to exercise their dogs. But in the 14th century, Glasney College, a proto-university, produced a series of medieval mystery plays, the Ordinalia, written uniquely in the Cornish Language, before the building was dismantled in the 16th century.
Engaging with this site, tracing the scattered remains of the college building that were dispersed post reformation about the heart of the town, encountering defaced pages in the cartulary in which all references to Thomas Becket, the patron saint of the college, were obliterated, led to the discovery of double portals to another way of experiencing place, expressed as asemic writing.
This presentation will describe the process of building a poetics from gestures made, from the remembering body, while telling the story of ritualised engagement with the sacred site of Glasney, documented in a motion capture studio. The work – anchorhold – can be seen here.
Bio statement: I am a writer and artist living and working in the southwest of a England. I am currently in the writing up phase of a practice based PhD in which I am attempting to articulate a poetics of uncertainty by exploring relationships between histories and fictions in site responsive work about the past.
Christos Galanis (June 9, 10.45 Great Hall)
Title: Speaking with Yew Trees and Mountains: Two Contemporary ‘Whisperers’ and their Experiences in Non-Human Communication
Yew tree communication workshop with Michael Dunning; Ormiston, Scotland
Jaki Daniels of Calgary, Alberta, has been working with a mountain in the Canadian Rockies she refers to as “Grandmother Mountain” for over 20 years. This mountain has been enriching Jaki’s healing practice with stories, knowledge, visions, healings, and teachings. Having been first contacted and initiated by Grandmother Mountain 20 years ago, Jaki experiences an on-going conversation and deepening collaborative relationship with her.
Michael Dunning of Glasgow had a similar yet much more intense experience of being called and initiated by an ancient 3,000 year-old Yew tree in Scotland. He has described a 9-year process in which the Yew altered and transformed his physiology, often violently and painfully, in order for his body to attain the capacity to channel the kinds of knowledge and healing energies the Yew tree now transmits through him to the patients he sees.
Such initiations by non-human entities are well understood among contemporary Indigenous cultures, and pre-modern European peoples were also well acquainted with such phenomena. Except perhaps for Alfred Whitehead’s ‘process philosophy’, nothing in dominant modern-western ontology allows for the possibility of such relationships with the non-human – and yet, they are being lived every day by ‘whisperers’ like Michael and Jaki, neither of whom had any previous priming or context with which to understand what they were being called into. My presentation will describe their respective understandings of what they experience based on interviews and research I’ve conducted with them, asking: “how might we understand the language and gesture of mountains and yew trees?”
Bio statement: Christos Galanis is an artist, researcher, and teacher who enjoys migration facilitated by Greek/Canadian passports. A PhD candidate in Human Geography at Edinburgh University, he is researching practices of walking and belonging within the Scottish Highlands by Munro/Peak Baggers and Scots-Canadian ‘homecomers.’ His art/research projects have included a 200km memorial walk in Catalonia for an exiled Spanish Civil-War fighter-pilot, and a performative year-long interrogation of institutional bio-ethics in collaboration with his donkey, Fairuz. He holds an MFA in Art & Ecology from the University of New Mexico and a BFA in Music from Concordia University, Montreal.
Stephan Harding (June 8, 10.45 Great Hall)
Title: Towards an Animistic Science
At first sight, science and animism appear to be irreconcilable. Whereas over the last four centuries science has held sway with the view that nature is nothing more than a vast lifeless mechanism that can be understood and controlled by means of experiment and detached analytical reasoning, ‘animists’, in their various guises (including shamans, poets, priests and philosophers and psychologists), have for millennia professed an intuitive knowing of nature as a great soul, mind or psyche; as alive, redolent with purpose and meaning; as saturated with mysterious creativity. In this session, we will see how science and animism are beginning to converge upon a new, deeply inspiring understanding of nature.
Bio statement: Stephan was born in Venezuela in 1953, and came to England at the age of six with his father and housekeeper, with whom he spoke Spanish (his mother tongue). Since childhood Stephan has had a deep fascination with the natural world, and his scientific cast of mind lead him to do a degree in Zoology at the University of Durham and then a doctorate on the behavioural ecology of the muntjac deer at Oxford University. After completing his first degree he returned to Venezuela where he was a field assistant for the Smithsonian Institute, studying mammalian diversity in the rainforest and in the lowland plains. After Oxford Stephan was appointed Visiting Professor in Wildlife Management at the National University in Costa Rica, where he lived for two years before becoming a founder member of Schumacher College in 1990. The College’s first teacher was James Lovelock, with whom Stephan has maintained a long-lasting friendship and scientific collaboration that lead to their joint appointment as founding chair holders of the Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo. At Schumacher College Stephan has taught alongside many of the world’s leading ecological thinkers and activists, including Arne Naess, Fritjof Capra, Vandana Shiva, David Abram, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis.
Stephan is author of Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia. Green Books, and editor of Grow Small, Think Beautiful. Floris Books. He is also the writer and presenter of the documentary film Animate Earth, produced by Angel TV.
Susanne Karr (June 8, 12.45 Upper Solar)
Tite: Connectedness as source of instruction
Everything is connected, but from where can we achieve certitude to talk about the whole? Being humans, initially, only our human-scale experiences of the world are available to us. But „a world shows up“ for us (Noë) when we turn towards other living beings and let ourselves be affected by their perceptions – even if these be small („petites“), as Leibniz put it. We can „reseed our souls“ (Haraway) and be instructed by our companion species. In being affected we absorb a part of these companion beings, we are „becoming“ them. We experience empathy with another being’s feelings and perceptions as enrichment. This opens the possibility of shape shifting. As far as each act of communication is an exchange between autonomous subjects – who become, through the act of communication, more than they have been before – we can assume that the process is an enhancement of ourselves. At the same time, though, we also give something back in return, since communication is not a one-way street. Of course, the empathic elements of communication are needed especially in cases where verbal exchange is not possible. The immersion into this „sphere of the other“ facilitates a sensing, a conception or at least a good guess of her or his condition. Reaching out into more than human conditions, we will be combining questions of phenomenology to access aesthetics as a key to the world. Key elements are conceptions of the soul as transpersonal instrument and the idea of communication as shape-shifting.
Bio statement: In my philosophical work I focus on human-animal relations and the possibilities of communication apart from verbal exchange. I question the artificial dichotomies between nature/culture, humans/animals and body/soul. My book “Connectedness” (Verbundenheit) which deals with communication and its prerequisites was published in 2015. I am also working as a cultural editor, mainly in the fields of architecture, urbanism, art, design, performance, and, last but not least, philosophy. Bringing together different sources of knowledge is one of my main concerns. Born and raised in Munich, I studied philosophy, german philology and cultural anthropology in Vienna.
Louise Livingstone (June 8, 12.15 Upper Solar)
Title: Learning to dialogue with Nature through the thought of the heart
Lamenting the modern West’s disconnection from nature, Jung famously declared that “no voices now speak to man from stones, plants and animals, nor does he speak to them believing they can hear.” (1972) Today the Western world’s ontology and epistemology is built upon the scientific method of fragmentation of knowledge, and, in agreement with neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist, this paper suggests that real world experience has become so fixed on this one specific position that humanity now has difficulty moving beyond rationally-devised and literal ways of relating to each other and Nature (2009). Within this epistemological framework, non-rational ways of knowing (i.e., intuition, imagination, sensing and feeling) and ways of entering into relationship with, Nature, have been significantly devalued and misunderstood (Kohak, 1992). This paper seeks to offer a differing perspective on, and means of engaging with, Nature – aiming to illuminate an ‘interconnected’, heart-centred epistemology through which we, as human beings, can reconsider our relationship with Nature. Indeed, the mystical traditions of Sufism and the Christian East highlight the heart as the place of reconnection and transformation (Cutsinger, Ware, Nasr, Corbin), as well as the discourse of archetypal psychology – particularly through the work of Hillman (2007) . This paper suggests that the dynamic symbol of the heart speaks urgently to our own troubled times as the mediator between the rational and the non-rational worlds, and when embodied as metaphor, could support the development of an epistemological lens through which it may be possible to open up a long-forgotten dialogue.
Bio statement: With a two-decade career spanning business, holistic therapy, publishing and consultancy, Louise graduated from the MSc Holistic Science at Schumacher College in 2014 with Distinction. In 2016, Louise was awarded a full, 3-year PhD scholarship from Canterbury Christ Church University to explore conflict through the symbol of the heart. Louise’s PhD spans holistic science, archetypal psychology, eco-philosophy, spirituality, esotericism and transformative learning. In June 2016, Louise presented a paper at a Transformative Learning conference, exploring the difficulties of dialogue in the modern world; focussing on the importance of engaging the wisdom of the heart in relationships.
Nancy Miller (June 8, 10.15 Great Hall)
Title: Circle: Interpreting a Neolithic Passage Tomb through Poetry and Dance
“Circle” represents the final chapter of PhD practice-based research that comprises the transdisciplinary project Dust Stone Circle. For three years, I’ve traced my ancestry through site-specific writing and performance at three ruins related my maternal line. At each site, I questioned the nature of origin, motherhood and mourning through somatic movement, meditation and in situ writing practices. “Circle” embodies a textual and choreographic response to a late stone age passage tomb, Newgrange, located in the Boyne Valley in Meath, Ireland. Responding to the tomb itself, a circular construction built with opening that aligns to the light of the winter solstice, “Circle” answers to the mysterious, ultimately illegible, “writing” on the tomb’s entry stone. “Circle” explores how we read the signs of past by using the entire physical body as a tool for investigation. The work simultaneously explores the nature of circles as archetypes, symbols and shapes. Partly work of visual poetry influenced by the procedural poetics of John Cage, the choreography of Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker and the visual poetry of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Mira Schendel, “Circle” has culminated in a performance of film, movement and poetry. This presentation will provide a critical framework to the artistic research and a combination of reading, film projection and movement performance.
Bio statement: I’m a multidisciplinary artist and writer and soon graduate of a practice-based PhD programme at the University of Roehampton as well as artist-in-residence at The Burren College of Art. I hold a BA and MA in literature from the University of Toronto, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Secondary English from The University of Wales, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Contemporary Dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and several trainings in yoga teaching and somatic healing.
Mat Osmond (June 9, 09.45 Great Hall)
Title: An Underswell of Divination: Ted Hughes’ & Leonard Baskin’s Crow, and the obscure ecology of collaborative authorship
In the 1970’s and -80’s the poet Ted Hughes and the sculptor & graphic artist Leonard Baskin worked together on several books of illustrated poetry. Among these, their first collaboration Crow quickly became iconic.
What made their Crow so contagious an image? Perhaps one way we might imagine Crow’s appeal concerns the burgeoning sense of our own groundlessness that the philosopher Timothy Morton, some forty years later, has termed ‘dark ecology’: an all-pervasive condition of entanglement within a sticky, centre-less ‘mesh’, wherein our relations with other beings, and with our own fields of experience, only get weirder, more deeply haunted by a sense of otherness, the longer we look at them.
Taking a seven-minute audio clip of Hughes and Baskin in conversation as its point of departure, this talk will consider the resonances between Morton’s decidedly queasy take on interconnectedness, and the corvid anti-hero this collaborative friendship dreamt into being.
A central interest will be Hughes’ speculative observation of a hidden current that flowed within the Rabbinically-trained Baskin’s graphic work. Hughes called it an ‘an underswell of divination’ – the insistent, resurgent religiosity which operated, he suggested, beneath the conscious radar of his aggressively secular friend’s ‘wide awake, skeptical gaze’.
What does this curious example of poetic collaboration functioning as ‘a magical operation’ whose obscure workings are revealed only retrospectively, tell us of the nature of friendship itself? And how might it inform the strategies we adopt within our various practices, and the manner of relationship those practices turn us towards?
Bio statement: Mat Osmond is a visual artist, poet and essayist, currently employed as a Senior Lecturer on Falmouth University’s trans-disciplinary MA Illustration: Authorial Practice; he also worked on its sister award the MA Art & Environment during its inspirational five-year lifespan, where the question of what ecological recovery requires of us took hold as the central thread in all his work. In 2015 Mat’s illustrated chapbook poem Fly Sings won the inaugural Michael Marks Poetry Illustration Award; Mat’s images and words are published through his own imprint Strandline Books, as well as by Dark Mountain, Atlantic Press, and others.
Felix Prater (June 8, 11.45 Great Hall)
Pests is a fictional power point presentation performed by a Rat and a Pigeon (artists Felix Prater & Sean Smyth). It is a discussion upon the lives of other creatures, what it means to be a pest, and questions the privileges that allow an animal to define an environment and exclude others from it. The presentation is groundbreaking in the sense that it is the first of its kind to feature “live skype calls” to other species around the globe ( pre recorded videos of us dressed as other animals in front of a green screen). Within these ‘live skype calls” we ask the animals to share their experiences about living within human society. The presentation also features documentary (mockumentary) style films. One documentary follow the lives of rats and pigeons living in the heart of London, the other speaks to fish, birds and insects about their opinions on migration and immigration. The performance also includes live musical performances from the rat and the pigeon, incorporating themes of the presentation and providing a soundtrack to the understanding.
The performance is both comical and surreal and at the same time serious and relevant. The issues that the animals present are never far away from parallel issues experienced by humans. The performance as we have been performing it is about an hour but can be adapted to fit either longer or shorter time frames.
Bio statement: I am an a visual artist and a musician. I graduated last year in Performance and Visual Art from Brighton University. For the past 2 years my work has been focussed upon how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to others, animals and the landscape. My work varies from piece to piece in its medium and content but an underlying motive is to allow audiences to experience life from the perspective of others. To use art a a platform for audiences to empathetically engage with other species.
Melinda Rackham (June 9, 13.00 Great Hall)
Triune: I have always considered the internet a life form whose intrinsic nature is native code conceived of human consciousness; a complex chimeric creature to observe, befriend and respect. However, over the decades its pristine voids and folds have been colonised for e-consumption; the rhythmic ebb and flow of data drowned by crashing torrents of social media. For a while I sought refuge in the tangible worlds of matter and spirit, however the call of soft space drew me back to a creative practice rooted in all three domains.
Bio: Professor Melinda Rackham is an Australian artist and author who built, inhabited and wrote on the nature of networked and virtual worlds from the mid 1990’s. In subsequent decades she created the vibrant online –empyre– forum; curated international new artform and public moving image programs; and led ANAT – Australia’s foremost arts, science and technology organisation. Recently her focus has shifted to writing on contemporary art and artists; and creating multimodal installations of poetic fiction. See www.subtle.net
Oliver Raymond-Barker (June 9, 12.00 Great Hall)
Title: Beyond tongues: an exploration into the animist language of stone
‘When our gods and goddesses were living they had vitality to shape the world and do good things for us. Now they are stones. The patient stone, however, speaks if we heed it speak.’ (Narendra 2013)
As a climber I have the visceral knowledge that stone is alive. Minutes, hours, days & years spent on rock have given me an opportunity to listen to it’s song. It creaks and groans, crashes and rumbles, whistles and hums. However, it lives and speaks to us on another level – a subtle yet altogether more powerful pitch.
I will explore this language that many have forgotten yet still exists if we take the time to immerse ourselves. Drawing on personal haptic experience to elaborate (with specific reference to my first climb in the slate quarries of North Wales) I will also weave in the words and thoughts of key writers, artists and climbers such as Alan Garner, Ben Okri, David Abrams, Ithell Colquhoun and Greg Child. Slides will be used to help illustrate and engage.
My rhetoric throws up certain questions. I will endeavour to answer these before proposing them to the audience. How can we revitalise our ability to listen and connect with the world? And what must we DO in real terms to set our feet on a more grounded path?
Narendra. Dark Mountain, Issue 4. Dark Mountain Project, 2013.
Bio statement: Oliver Raymond-Barker is an artist living in Cornwall. His practice encompasses photography in its broadest sense, using analogue and digital processes, natural materials and camera less methods of image making. Drawing on physical experience at the margins of our environment, the adventure involved in making work is essential to his practice. His latest publication Natural Alchemy was recently shortlisted for the Kaleid Editions 2016 book festival and he is currently working on a new book. He has shown work nationally and internationally, most recently in South Korea for the exhibition Breathing Art, organised by the Korean Nature Artist’s Association.
Paul Reid-Bowen (June 8, 11.45 Upper Solar)
Title: Welcome to the Cthulhucene! Towards a new animist bestiary for the 21st century
I propose in this paper that humanity currently inhabits an exotic, dangerous and remarkably complex ecology of more-than-human agencies that we are barely able to comprehend or perceive. Moreover, combining the metaphysical frameworks of new materialists and speculative realists (Bennett, 2010, Bryant, 2013, Morton, 2013, Negrestani, 2008) with animisms both old and new (Harvey, 2005, 2015), I contend there is an urgent need – most vitally in terms of biospheric conservation and species survival – for us to recognise and understand the power and values of these more-than-human agencies with(in) which we coexist. While we easily evoke entities such as aliens, demons and monsters in literature, myth and popular culture, the troubling insight I offer is that they are already here, living amongst us. Inhuman intelligences, such as corporations, institutions, markets, technologies (and even stranger entities, such as capitalism, civilization, Gaia), with logics and capacities that confound and transcend human interests and control, are perturbing and (trans)forming our lives at every moment. We inhabit an age of monstrous agencies, an age which might be aptly labelled the Cthulhucene. It is uncertain what skills may aid with living through this time of emergent agentival powers, but I suggest there may be considerable value in “reclaiming animism” (Stengers, 2012), “becoming-animist” (Sullivan, 2013) and/or exploring a “vibrant materialism” (Bennett, 2010); at minimum, entities have to be recognised, and perhaps honoured, lest we be devoured or overpowered by them (Stengers, 2013).
Bio statement: Dr Paul Reid-Bowen is a Senior Lecturer in Religions, Philosophies and Ethics at Bath Spa University. His teaching and research interests encompass ecological philosophy, existentialism, and new religions and religious movements (notably feminist and nature religions). He is the author of Goddess as Nature: Towards a Philosophical Thealogy (Ashgate, 2007) and is currently writing a manuscript on the dark ecological future and the crisis of civilization.
Bethany Reivich (June 9, 12.00 Upper Solar) PANEL
Title: Lila: The interpenetration of myth with divine play
As people scramble for ‘new stories’ to guide ourselves through an age of unprecedented change and ecological destruction, one swims among infinite worldviews in a hyper-connected world. Is the “conscious” West’s yearning to unify premature, or altogether misled — a colonial aura wishing to replace one creeping homogeneity with another? Perhaps new stories are more in rhyme than reason, more in utterance than content, more in gesture than meaning, more a dance than knowledge. Lila is a Sanskrit term for divine play, particularly of polarities, represented in Hindu mythology by female and male dalliance. In critical times, play itself is a radical polarity to desperation. How does one move forward when stories will not stay in one place — or is forward the way to go? Perhaps the limitless myths, symbols and stories at our disposal are beckoning beyond the illusion of singular guidance, into a state of responsible — yet irreverent — participation, play and creation. It seems clear one must go beyond words to embody their interplay, and to hear the voices of the earth, non-human creatures, and the marginalized. What then is the role of academia, research, documentation, and art if our animate world is asking us to drop our pens, our camera, our laptop and use our bodies, presence and two unarmed hands to dally with Amor himself? The format I envision here is a pop-up, exploratory council between a somatic artist, ecopsychologist, myself, other interested ‘expert’, and general public.
Bio statement: Orphaned young by a psychoanalyst and his research-psychologist-patient-wife, growing up among 15 different families, I moved to my ancestral land, Russia, attending Moscow State University and working as a journalist. My language abilities were swallowed by a meeting with the ineffable; from then I pursued dance, music, and poetics, traveling over 70 countries and learning traditional arts and philosophies. I co-founded a small eco-community and artist retreat in Thailand, and am writing a book on the confluence of indigenous cosmology, arts, and Jungian psychology. Madness, power, emptiness, rhythm and the thin thread of worldview are some grounds informing my work.
Susan Richardson (June 9, 12.00 Great Hall)
Title: Tongue of Seal
Tongue of Seal is a work-in-progress, incorporating both text and sound, which explores the theme of interspecies communication and focuses on the language of an iconic marine mammal, the Atlantic grey seal. It interweaves poetry with sound recordings of seal cows and pups captured during the pupping season on the beaches of North Pembrokeshire, and of bull seals’ body-slammings and pre- and post-mating articulations at the three-thousand-strong Donna Nook breeding colony in Lincolnshire,
As well as sharing extracts from the work, I will discuss the research that’s informing it, including practical training with an animal communicator; interviews with scientists from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews and animal care workers at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary; and the selkie myths of Scottish, Irish and Faroese folklore.
To contextualise, I will also reference, and share extracts from, previous recent work that explores the nature of animal language: If A Lion Could Speak, We Could Not Understand Him and Plibble/Gone (an attempt to speak/write in European sturgeon).
Bio statement: Susan Richardson is a poet and performer who has been exploring, through several published collections and accompanying performances, human-animal relationships: our shared corporealities and vulnerabilites, and the boundaries – including that of language – between the human and more-than-human.
Her third poetry collection, skindancing (Cinnamon Press, 2015), is themed around human-animal metamorphosis and she has performed her skindancing poetry show at many events, festivals and venues including the Centre for Human-Animal Studies and the ONCA Centre for Arts and Ecology, while it was also the keynote performance at the British Animal Studies Network Conference at the University of Strathclyde.
Jaime Robles (June 8, 20.30 Private Lawn (behind Great Hall)
Title: Landscape Speaks to Movement
Language, spoken but especially written, has long been considered the human ability that lifts us above other species and places us, separate, in the realm of a skygod who inhabits an abstract heaven. Our performance, “Landscape Speaks to Movement” offers an alternative to that idea by translating words back into the landscape of the human body. Using a series of images that the poet Jaime Robles has written about the Devon landscape, dancer Nikki Santilli converts those words into dance, using movement based on humanity’s most direct and essential connection with the earth: through the foot and the body. As this collaboration reveals to viewers, locating and placing words back into the body again, mute yet recognizable, reorients us with the Earth, and affirms that our commitment to verbal thought is translatable into a material and natural state.
Dr. Robles visited Dartmoor for three years and distilled her impressions of this unique landscape into language. She created short poems of spare images of the land. Her words come out of an expression of love, for the land, creatures and humans that live close to that land. During the past two years, she has worked with Dr. Santilli, whose interpretations of words are based on dance and specifically dance that has developed from the practice of walking. Combining her study of prose poetry with twentieth-century popular dance, Dr. Santilli is well provided to translate words into movement. The outdoor performance will take place in the Dartington landscape.
Bio statement: Jaime Robles is a widely published American poet and dance critic with a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter. Some of her poems about the English countryside were published in her recent collection titled Hoard (Shearsman Books, Bristol). While at Exeter Dr. Robles organized two poetry installations devoted to the English landscape: ‘Autumn Leaving’ and ‘Wall of Miracles’. BBC Devon interviewed her about the ‘Wall of Miracles’ (May 2013). Her collaborator, Nikki Santilli, has a doctorate in English Literature from the University of London. She teaches dance in London. They share a dance/poetry blog at http://swingingfeet.wordpress.com.
Cherie Sampson (June 8, 12.45 Great Hall)
Title: Let a Sleeping Bear Lie
I will present my video-art work, created while at YATOO Nature Art 2016 Artist Residency program in South Korea. Titled “Let a Sleeping Bear Lie,” this work is an homage to an old legend in the Gongju area where a human-animal encounter is at the heart of its narrative.
The legend of the bear in Gongju tells of a she-bear who captured a human man in her cave and gave birth to a child-cub with him. Eventually he escaped the cave and while pursuing him, the bear died in the Geumgang River. After she perished there, boating accidents occurred, thus local residents erected a shrine to assuage to her tragic spirit. This work represents one video in a series of 6 in which I perform a masked dance as the character of the she-bear. Using silk (the meaning of Geumgang is “silk river”) and other materials, I have constructed a costume and mask in which to perform the bear as she awakens before processing through the forest in search of her man, down to the river and eventually arriving at the shrine that was built for her. Over the years as a performance artist I have made a number of works in which a mask is worn to elucidate a character or mood. While an artist-in-residence at YATOO, I became fascinated by traditions of Korean mask-making and dance. This work bows in homage to the varied Korean mask traditions and the age-old bear legend.
Bio statement: Cherie Sampson has worked for 25 years in environmental performance, sculpture and video art. She has exhibited internationally in performances, art-in-nature symposia and video installations in the US, Finland, Norway, Holland, Cuba, France, Spain, Greece, Italy, South Korea, and other countries. She has received many grants including two Fulbright Fellowships, a Finnish Cultural Foundation Grant and multiple research grants from the University of Missouri, where she is an Associate Professor of Art. She received her MFA in Intermedia & Video Art, University of Iowa, 1997 and has been a member of Artists in Nature International Network (AiNIN) since 2003.