Field Notes.2 – Gian Paolo Cottino

Here is the next installment of observations from our time in the King’s Wood in August 2016 from collaborator and artist, Gian Paolo Cottino.

PART TWO

I feel I belong
I belong when I allow myself to belong.
I belong when I have the courage to belong.
I belong when my authentic self is welcomed by others.
I belong when I acknowledge the other.
I belong when I can give thanks.
I belong when I accept differences and take joy in the connections.
I belong when my eyes meet another’s and I see them light up.
I belong when I utter my name to the earth and I speak my truth.
I belong when I dare to have desires and longings.
I belong when I step away from the stories I tell about who I am.
I belong with my ancestors.
I belong to my self.
I belong in the landscapes within me and in the folds of the body I caress and walk upon.
I belong when I do my best.
I belong when I witness the mystery and I allow it to see me, naked and raw.

Then I am well.

Watching.
Working to no logical conclusion, they appear as suspended in the experience of work. Are we all caught in a loop of performance?

I see big casted knots of plaster in varying colours float just above the ground, soft and doughy lengths having been worked into different configurations, yet each rooted in a practical task, each functioning in relation to the elements.

Rocks aren’t Lonely

by Jennifer-Lynn Crawford

A small meditation on a few questions that came up at the very start of this last phase of ITAWL research:
‘what are the things that make me ok’ and ‘things that make me feel I belong’

These two questions were given by Charlotte as part of the forest residency back in the summer, and after going to see George Monbiot’s Loneliness Project in Leeds a little while ago, they resurfaced and…

What is OK?

OK is a great metric. I like that it expresses a general satisfaction – a kind of resting state between not-good and good. Just sort of regular. Not exceptional in either a positive or negative direction. I feel much of life is happening in this in-between place – that much of life looks for this quality of OK. It’s pretty stable.

I also appreciate that this was linked to ‘belonging’ in the task. I struggled with this association, as I’m sure many might and also many might not. On the basement level of my being, I notice a profound OK-ness when I am not contemplating belonging… a little like the refrigerator hum, or other sensory events you don’t notice yourself as noticing until they cease, I don’t normally notice the sensation of belonging unless I am not. This shows up on the surface level of me as a kind of anxious murmuring and muttering over the gap where belonging isn’t part of my assumption about the world.

I don’t always know that the gap is in the belonging area – I just know that something isn’t ‘OK’ and as is my wont when not-OK, I put on one of my favourite costumes: that of a single, solitary rock in a wide empty space. Of course, that tends to make the not-OK-ness bloom in the most vibrant colours not-OK-ness comes in.

It’s funny-ironic that I’ve never quite been able to grasp that that gap is relational. That I turn in on myself to examine something that can only be seen in the light that other people carry with them… I’ve always thought it was something I was needing to do in myself, and all the time, it turns out, I just needed to remember that I’m not a rock, but part of a tribe called people.

I mean, sometimes the rock is a wonderfully functional costume – particularly when joining/being joined by other rock-types. Sometimes the tribe I need to remember I’m part of is bigger than people, or needs to be other life that isn’t people. Whichever way I play with the wording, the sensation of belonging, rather than having a gap somewhere (where belonging should be) is a bit like having a home. The sensation of I-am-where-I-should-be is physical, a deep satisfaction that doesn’t beg questions. It doesn’t demand anything of you, and in fact, it allows you to just get on with whatever it is you were up to (which probably involves ‘other’ in some way).

I find it interesting that I have an idea that it’s possible to exist by ‘myself’ – that when I think of ‘self’ I tend not to think of how that self is a palimpsest of all the other selves, the other people and lives, it has ever encountered… I mean, it’s not as if I got here alone. But when faced with a question about belonging, I tend to answer as if all the others who I’ve lived alongside – my family, my friends, the various and changing communities I arrive in, live in, and depart from, in short, all the lives to whom I belong – are somehow not part of my OK-ness. I tend to answer as if only I, alone on the me-raft, circling the island of self, am responsible for my own OK-ness.

The Me-Raft

A lecture given by Sandra Noeth prompted the following:
“…one body is no body – spectating is a kind of co-habitation – I live in you for a bit, or at least, with you… ‘just’ a body does not exist – it’s totally abstract – we’ve simply adopted it in the same way that we separate everything from everything else and then think we’ve got a ‘thing’ (because we’ve removed it from its context and set it out by itself) – we are of the same material”

If anybody did ever exist solely by themselves, ‘we’, all the others, would probably never know about it. One body = NoBody.

I can’t imagine what that life would be like. Except for….

This me-raft is a received idea – it’s one you learn through experience. Rebecca Solnit, in her very on-point piece The Ideology of Isolation discusses the disconnection that epitomises right wing ideology: ‘yourself for yourself on your own’ I can trace the reception of this idea in myself to my 1 family and a particular sort of privacy insisted upon by my father. This wasn’t something ever questioned because there was also a very clear and fixed hierarchy that existed between us. My father was a firm supporter of the euphemism that children should be seen and not heard.

He was also an extremist in some ways and had no qualms about making a point (his point). If I moved too far from my position in the family-tree, he tended to refer to larger hierarchical structures outside the family-tribe such as the police, the medical system and the educational system in a very direct and practical way. This served a dual purpose – I had the impression of his authority being upheld, and also, that the only ‘others’ outside the family tribe were generally much taller hierarchies which loomed with much larger shadows over my lowly position.

So, I discovered the me-raft at a very young and impressionable age and I also discovered through the very private family-tribe that there wasn’t anyone ‘else’ around. Or at least, no-body who was going to intervene in the hierarchy and the sanctity of parent-child relationships. It left me in a bit of a quandary – I clearly didn’t feel OK in the hierarchy, but any moves to change it left me outside of it, in a land where I had even less resource as a minor. A minor who doesn’t have ready access to ‘others’ in the guise of extended family or family friends gets ‘systematised’ scarily fast… testing the waters there had me re-tracing my steps fairly rapidly.

I grew up a bit scared of mostly everything, convinced that anytime I didn’t make good of my bottom feeder role in supporting the top of the tree, I would be cast off into the cold cold world.

Tribes

So why, apart from common human interest, would I be writing this in relation to this project?

I guess, in many ways, family is both the first environment and the first tribe we have. I’m not sharing my story here because I’m seeking acknowledgement for it in and of itself, but as an example of how simple it can be to pass on and hold on to a sense of disconnection or isolation borne of fear. Of course, it’s obvious that our first sense of connection or disconnection, our first sense of belonging, of the world as safe, scary and totally new, comes from the familyenvironment-tribe. Equally, the obvious is often the realm where the barriers arise. The family-tribe either helps us find the world as an already-there-with-me place or a-place-we-keep-at-a-distance.

My experience of the world through most of my early years and adolescence was fear-based – even if fun and interesting stuff happened, it happened in spite of a threatening, disconnected world that I was forever in danger of getting cast off into. I went through a period of depression when I was 12. The world already seemed sad and burdensome and I was still in grade school. Writing that seems hilarious, but… it sucked to be me at that time. I’m sure it also sucked to be my teachers and grade school friends and my parents, wondering what the problem was.

And if this is my fairly tame white, middle-class suburban childhood version of the kind of gap an isolationist, fear-based and hierarchical power structure creates… what else can happen in that gap if it were to be heightened by circumstances that have nothing to do with much apart from geography and genetics? It isn’t even a ‘what makes me belong’ question at a particular threshold – there is a point where the notion of belonging is such a distant glimmer that the question itself becomes a fantasy. Belonging becomes a species of experiences that applies to ‘others’. I imagine many children right now who are entitled-to but prevented-from joining relatives in the UK/other countries with increasingly obstacle-strewn borders as suffering a gap in belonging that is so big it might be broken.

George Monbiot’s Loneliness Project

George Monbiot is a dose of sanity every few weeks in the Guardian. I appreciate how his ecological approach, the accessibility and openness of his writing and his surety about our okness, our mutual belonging as humans, generates hope in me.

The construction of the evening is simple, but it works. George speaks mostly of content that he’s addressed through his online writings, but I’m still happy to hear it again, Ewan McLennan plays (very beautifully), and at the end, they ask us all to sing together. Along the way, I’m finding that I’m moved, the images and characters of the songs and stories finding their mark in my own life. Before they finish for the night, they invite us to turn to the person next to us and introduce ourselves. I meet someone who works for the Campaign to End Loneliness. We chat for a bit, he has very sparkly socks, fabulous shoes and shares a bottle of prosecco with his date…. and then… I need to go. I’m not at the event with anyone else, and the resonance of loneliness and old age through the songs is a bit of a soft squishy underbelly for me at the moment and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Ironic response to Monbiot’s intent I think.

It’s interesting to witness a direct approach – Monbiot is literally making a project of dispelling loneliness – and to see that it seems to work for many people. He’s pointing at it, naming it, and then doing something about it and inviting us in to that. It’s great. I wonder what the legacy will be? I’m hopeful that for some people, they just needed a little nudge, a little wave and sign-posting to find a way towards greater belonging and greater inclusivity.

“Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together, or we fall apart.”

I like the image of the vertical – that we can find our strength together there, in our stance – and the dissembling of our selves and the iconic ‘fall’ as the other term of the dualism. It is clever and a nice turn of phrase. And I’m reminded of another favourite writer, Jeffrey Maitland, from the land of Rolfing, Zen and philosophy:

“In the end, there is nothing unique about being unique. The power lies in what is common.”

Although I like Monbiot’s phrase, I get just a little bit stuck on the ‘or’ – it’s a classic tool and one we’ve been saddled with as a culture for far too long. The binary opposition pattern is part of the 2 Guardian 3 p xvi, Embodied Being winners v. losers structure that has us believing in the island of self and constructing me-rafts. Plus, I think we fall apart anyway, it’s part of what we do from time to time – the bigger question is whether we have enough between us to help each other regardless of where we are in the standing/falling cycle.

Of course we do… We’ve got a whole tribe called ‘life’ in common.

Sometimes it’s hard to point at this, name it, if you’ve been given a specific kind of costume by circumstances in early life or if you’ve had to row the me-raft hard for a long time. Maybe making a project, like Monbiot, is a help. Joining a meaningful art-process, like the one this blog is written around. Making a practice of OK-ness through the varied events of everything. Charting your palimpsest for all the other selves to whom you belong and remembering that one body is no body. That in watching or noticing each other, we co-habit: I live in you for a bit, and you live in me. I think that last can be called empathy. And that although it takes effort to do this in a politics and economy that would still have us believing in one-or-the-other, it is possible for us to engage in what Rick Dolphijn refers to as the ‘relational nature of difference’.

Post Script: Obviously, everyone’s childhood memories are extremely personal and contingent. My parents were two people doing what they felt they could around my mother’s ongoing ill-health and my father’s desire to inject some normalcy into the land of illness (which is entirely abnormal and unpredictable).They each had their own personal contexts that contributed to family structure and politics in ways I’ll never know about.


¹ p1 The ideology of isolation
² Guardian
³ p xvi, Embodied Being

Written

Dolphijn, R. & van der Tuin, I. (2012) New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Open Humanities Press.
Maitland, J. (2016) Embodied Being. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books
Monbiot, G. (2016) Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That’s what’s wrenching society apart. Guardian, [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/12/ neoliberalism-creating-loneliness-wrenching-society-apart [accessed on 7.11.2016]
Solnit, R. (2016) The Ideology of Isolation. Harper’s, [online] Available at: http://harpers.org/ archive/2016/07/the-ideology-of-isolation/1/ [accessed on 7.11.2016] Verhaeghe, P. (2012). Capitalism and Psychology – Identity and Angst: on Civilisation’s New Discontent. Vermeersch, W. (ed.), Belgian Society and Politics 2012. Available at: http:// paulverhaeghe.psychoanalysis.be/artikels/Identity%20and%20Angst.pdf [accessed on 7.11.2016]
Verhaeghe, P. (2014) Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us.Guardian, [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/29/neoliberalism-economic-system-ethicspersonality-psychopathicsthic [accessed on 7.11.2016]

Other

Childhood and other life-changing experiences
Monbiot, G. and McLennan, E. (2016) The Loneliness Project [Performance] All Hallows Church, Leeds [21.10]
Noethe, S. (2015) Symposium 2015: Dispositives of the Body [Lecture] Haus der Kunst,Tanzwerkstatt Europa, Munich [02.08]

Dead things don’t move

Written by Jennifer-Lynn Crawford

Since my last post, these three words:

vitality
animation
movement

… have come together to give me the phrase:
‘Dead things don’t move’

Clever, I know.

It’s sort of stuck in my head now. Ironically not-moving. Anyway – I wanted to nudge this a bit and get it to roll over so I can see what’s underneath. It helps me to have a direction for that – give it a vector and some friendly faces to move towards.… so hopefully I find something under this particular rock.

These three words have come up through a few different ways – one, of course, is movement itself, being a ‘mover’ (as we all are, as animals) and the more specific identification as a ‘mover’ in the dance world. Or a particular sort of movement practitioner has claimed a stake here (me): unwilling to be a ‘dancer’, with the sometimes narrow associations that tends to invoke, I am more likely to self-identify as a ‘mover’ than a ‘dancer’.

I suppose I should pick apart movement and dancing – or try to put them back together, that would be more appropriate I guess, given that I feel they have a tendency to dis-entwine in some art-instances. But I’m not terribly interested in making this another pitch about things I struggle with in contemporary dance land. I’m much more interested in pursuing these three words: animation, movement, vitality.

Vitality
When my father was dying (he died at home when I was 17) I remember feeling quite anxious that I would somehow miss the moment of death – generally somebody was with him all the time in the last few days, but if it was just him and me, I really wondered how I would figure out the difference between a lengthy pause in his breath cycle (it was pretty hard for him to breathe by then) and his last breath. Did it matter? Was it a social conditioning thing? An animal thing? Was I making this all about me? When did life go and what do I know, what do I sense, of its passing?

There was a massive qualitative shift when he died. The stillness of the dead is shocking. I know this is obvious, but on the perceptual plane, it is an enormous silence – like a vacuum of sorts. I sat with his body, helped wash him, post-life, pre-rigor. The no-more lifeness was a no-moreness of animation – in his tissues, in his fluids, in his presence… And I think this is different from the sensation of loss and grief (a different species of vacuum though closely related).

This was much the bigger given the labour of dying. There was so much blind continuation that is biology just hanging on for a little bit more life that the vacuum of death feels like you’ve just been plonked down in a vast plain on the other side of the moon. It’s a place you’ve never been before and a place where that person is never going to arrive. It is still and silent in a totally alien way. There is no possible way for us, alive, to empathise with the (dead) other. It’s irreconcilable.

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone calls this the ‘transformation to another other’[1]– a totally radical change in the other’s being in that the other is no longer an other with whom I can interact or engage. They have become their materiality in a way I cannot. I can no longer identify with this other as ‘like myself’, even though I ‘know’ that they were and are human.

There is a rupture in our shared identification set against a continuing material sameness, and a stillness that I cannot join: separation – here, finally, is ‘alone’. Sitting with my father’s dead form, which was very alone, I understood that I had never been solitary like that – and wouldn’t whilst alive. Of course, as a 17 year old, I felt disconnected to anything I could possibly, actively, disconnect to – but I’d never understood how utterly and easily related I was, just by being alive.

In the most gloriously lazy and unlooked for way – if I’m just here, living, I’m part of something. There is nothing else I need to do to be part of all of this.

I’m really grateful for that enormous moment and for my father’s decision to die at home, to not move his death into a hospital, and to ask us to be part of it. I mean, I think he also wanted our company and to not feel alone, but I wouldn’t put it past him to see it as something to impart (he was that sort of person for me).

Animation
Motility, roughly, is ‘to be capable of motion on one’s own’. It’s something I’ve come to a feeling-understanding of within the therapeutic context of Rolfing Structural-Integration™ in the past year. Biologically, it speaks to an intrinsic movement spontaneity – and is different to ‘mobility’ in that it precedes mobility (if we accept a definition of mobility as ‘being able to be moved’). Motility is a quality inherent in living tissue and was notably absent, or significantly dimmed, for example, in my father’s dead form.

In Rolfing™, as in many other therapeutic approaches, there is a lot of time given to developing the phenomenon called ‘resonance’ – the ability we have to be moved by others’ movements. We sometimes know this as empathy – our mirror neurons enable us to make sense of others’ behaviour by activating it in our own systems. A flavour of what-it-might-be-like… or as Kevin Frank puts it: “In essence one’s brain activity imitates that of another, as though the observed motor activity is one’s own.”[2]

Those lovely empathy buttons that allow my nerves to be tickled by what I see, what I recognise as a form similar to mine, those vitally important activators of my limbic system, create resonance with all the other humans I find myself in relationship with all the time. They are linked through our motor system i.e. the circuitry that gets us moving and respond most easily to movement itself. Hence:

Aliveness is thus a concept as grounded in movement as the concept ‘I can’. Indeed, we intuitively grasp the coincidence of aliveness and animation from the very beginning. With no prior tutoring whatsoever, we take what is living to be that which moves itself and to apprehend what is not moving and has never moved to be precisely inanimate.”[3]

Movement
Many of the people I enjoy reading refer to the ‘primacy of movement’ (actually, the quote above is from Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s bookThe Primacy of Movement…) and despite our social habiting/learning of stillness, movement is everywhere. Even if we have to go into the cells, we, our body, is motile. We are movement, in many ways, just caught in an uncomfortably static urban culture. Tim Ingold, in his aptly-named Being Alive says: “Life, in short, is a movement of opening, not of closure.”[4] I agree, but am not sure that that isn’t an extremely privileged statement. It feels sometimes that that movement, of opening, of expanding out along a path, a way, a curiosity, a question, is really under-supported. Under-nourished, in our current regime of chairs, cars and consumption. I’m struggling to figure out how I keep opening whilst writing this.

A lot of movement that I bear witness to seems to be movement of closure. Not necessarily in a metaphorical or socio-political sense, although I appreciate there is a lot of closure-movement I could point towards if I paid more attention to The News. I mean the movement that I see in the everyday bodies I walk/cycle/move with on a daily basis – people who are moving around the same bit of road/pavement as I am.

I empathise with that movement, just as a thing that I do at the moment. A practice maybe.

It feels like work. It feels that I need to have a lot of will, or fear, or need, to move. In trying that movement in myself, tasting it, I also notice that my ability, my perception, is funnelled by the feeling of work. It costs me to see a horizon when I’m predominantly closing rather than opening. It costs me an ‘extra’ movement and as movement itself already feels like work, why would I do that? Why would I do extra, when I’m already struggling to get along as it is?

I used the example of a horizon, as it is a wonderfully overused image that I still can’t let go of. But we could replace that with m/anythings. Like the other person beside you. Or the world around you. Or the world that you can’t imagine on the other side of planet. Or the world that is inhabited by all the other life that isn’t human. All the life that you are part of, just by being alive. All the movement that is happening, just because.

If your life/movement is a closing, a narrowing of possibilities, then it’s really really hard to feel that life moves, in a kind of self-defining/creating kind of way – that motility, spontaneous motion, is intrinsic. Buried under an accumulation of compression, of body-home as too-much density, life feels heavy and not a little bit deflated. Effortful.

We read vitality in the quality of animation we sense in those around us. Substitute ‘read’ for smell/sniff/another form of pre-linguistic animal understanding – or resonance – and when many of us are living life as a movement of closure, life as a movement of opening just doesn’t really stand much of a chance. We sense it in children, in their spaciousness (oh, sometimes we call it naiveté don’t we?) and their ease but we don’t regularly find it spread out in a bus queue of people on their way to work in the morning.

So I guess it gets harder to live life as a movement of opening when all the empathy circuits are being shown life as a movement of closure. We go to a nice Feldenkrais/dancing class or walking in the nice green forest and we get a dose of opening – but we are generally surrounded by human life as concentric movement. Shortening.

ITAWL
In animating this phrase: ‘dead things don’t move’, in bringing it in to a conversation with others (imagined, at time of writing), I’m also mirroring a process, a practice, that lives in ITAWL. I guess in the next phase we’ll be looking for the ways in which ITAWL lives – how does it move? Rather than a representation or as an art object – it isn’t fixed – where are the edges? Do those edges or borders shift? Where does it start to lose vitality, resiliency, adaptability? How does it open itself again? What kind of resonance does it have?

There is a sense of being part of something, just in being alive. This is so fundamental to our experience, so absolutely taken for granted, we might not be able to see the forest for the trees here until we encounter death in some way. All of this seems to relate back to the curiosity of belonging and self-okness and a sense of ‘being’ as a crucial practice for ITAWL.

Roll on Corby and the pink house.

Books
Abram, D. (1996) The Spell of the Sensuous. New York: Vintage Books.

Brouwer, J., Mulder, A. & Spuybroek, L. (Eds) (2012) Vital Beauty: Reclaiming Aesthetics in the Tangle of Technology and Nature. NAI Publishers.

Frank, K. (2008) ‘Body As A Movement System: A Premise for Structural Integration’ Structural IntegratIon, June 2008, pp 14-23

Ingold, T. (2011) Being Alive. Routledge.

Maitland, J. (2016) Embodied Being. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books

McHose, C. & Frank, K. (2006) How Life Moves. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2009) The Corporeal Turn : An Interdisciplinary Reader. Exeter: Imprint Academic.

Sheets-Johnston, M (1999) The Primacy of Movement. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Publishing Company.

Other
Various writings available at: www.resourcesinmovement.com/articles-archive/

Various people, going about their business, in various locations between Leeds – Dundee – London – Brighton – Kent – Munich – Schiphol Airport.

Rolfing – Basic Training. Munich, 2015-16.

[1] The Corporeal Turn, p107
[2] Body As A Movement System, p16
[3] The Primacy of Movement, p135
[4] Being Alive, p4

Forest Residency August 2016

Last week we began the next phase of development for Is this a Waste Land? This part of the project kicked off with an intensive residency in a public access forest in Kent. In order to expand the time frame of our week there to include working at night, dawn walks, star gazing, I was really keen that we lived and worked in the woods. However it’s not possible to camp on Forestry Commission land, so after a bit of negotiation with a private land owner who owns an edge of the same woods, we came to an agreement where we could camp discreetly in the privately owned part of the woods and work in the public access space.

And so we embarked on an extraordinary 7 days with a group of 10 wonderful artists. Gradually we built a beautiful camp for ourselves – a communal area, kitchen (with mug holders and all – see picture below!), compost toilet (thank you Alex for making us a very luxurious loo seat! and to the various hole diggers). Daily activities took a bit more time – collecting water took close to two hours so it became extremely precious. Quickly the phones died or were switched off (hence so few pictures) – they seemed irrelevant somehow there and we started to feel at home amongst the trees.

We worked alongside the woodsmen who were clearing an area of forest close to us. They unloaded their logs whilst we crawled along the ground, did strange Swedish versions of aerobics (Friskis and Svetties – you really should try it!), and hauled around endless lengths of rope and bits of wood. They didn’t ask us what we were doing, but always smiled and waved and somehow we made sure that we weren’t in each others ways. I loved this new kind of ‘side by side’ experience.

Given how much time has lapsed from one phase to the next throughout this project which I first starting working on over two years ago, I’m still amazed by how much I’m dealing with the unknown. This is exciting and daunting in equal measure. I keep thinking I should know more. However much I might be interested in working with the unknown as material, (which is I guess what improvisation is) resting in the unknown isn’t a very comfortable place. Especially because I think my temperament likes to know stuff. I like to feel that I know where I’m going. I’m steering this ship – I jumped in and got a whole load of people to join me, so I have the responsibility to lead it! Yes, all true. But when some of the subject matter is precisely trying to work with dealing with the everyday in uncertain times, then relinquishing prior knowledge is actually quite important probably. It just gets a bit more tricky when (understandably) I am asked to talk about the project, and it ends up something like this:

‘so what is the project about?’

‘…urm well many things…space and how we value land, what happens to our communities in the privatisation of land, err, it’s somehow about belonging, togetherness and difference. It’s about the relentless building and destroying of stuff. It’s about all the stuff and waste and our relationship with waste. It’s about how much capitalism thrives on waste. It’s about how our bodies meet with the environment their in and how much that changes us. It’s about dealing with uncertainty, living precariously in unchartered times. err…yeah all that….hmmm’

‘so what might that look like in your show?’

‘I’m not really sure yet. I know that I want many things to be happening at the same time. I know that I want us to build things and then destroy them/pull them down/repurpose them. I know that I want the audience to feel like their presence is necessary for the work to exist/continue. I have ideas about how we might do that. At the moment we’re working a lot with knots. They seem useful.’

And then I try to finish the conversation as quickly as possible and walk away feebly.

No, it’s not always as bad as that, and actually when I’m meeting with potential programming partners and looking at sites, many of them understand how much ideas can change through the course of a creative process. But not all, and this performance work doesn’t fall into any particularly ‘recognisable’ form.

Once again, I was really struck by the group of remarkable artists who have gathered around this project; three of whom I didn’t really know and had never worked with before. Another kind of unknown. But one that I trusted. Without exception it was clear that everyone was driven by their curiosities around the work. One afternoon I was in conversation with one of the artists after lunch and the rest of the group simply got back to work without any prompting from me – how wonderful!

We took it in turns to lead propositions with the rest of the group. We made an orchestra out of sticks breaking, we walked at dawn and watched the sunrise, we walked at night and saw loads of shooting stars. Tom went searching for Owls every night; he found them and recorded their sounds. We became obsessed with tying knots and the swedish aerobic thing. We listened to internal sounds of trees (yes you can really hear them and it is one of the most extraordinary sensations I’ve ever had). We lay in the ground and listened. We tied ourselves in circles and asked endless questions about belonging. 

What do we long to belong to?
What if you can’t not belong?
What do we belong to that we don’t know we belong to?
What belongs together?
What do we belong to that we don’t want to belong to?
Do you have to speak the language to belong?

We worked into and with the environment. We started to become part of it. One thing for sure, was that we were all keenly present throughout – in all our comfort and discomfort and with all of our doubts and our questions. It was a week of great vibrancy for which I am hugely grateful. When we left, there was barely a trace left and as we re-entered ‘normal’ we had few words to say. It has taken me most of this week to re-adjust and find a place and a time for writing. That world and this one that I’m sitting in now feel quite far apart from each other.

I look forward to our next time together in September on a site in Corby. I know it will be so very different from our week last week, but I also know that we will bring some of the forest with us, and that feels important.

I will write more again soon. In the mean time, thank you to Ben A and Ben M and Tom and Gian and Keren and Louise and Jennifer and Kirsty and Petra for making it what it was.

Thank you also to my parents Caroline and Jonathan Spencer who helped with some of the preparations and let us make use of their house at the start and end, and made us delicious lunch on our final afternoon.

Thank you to Our Woods who have commissioned this project and to funding through Grants for the Arts from Arts Council England.