Between Monday 18th and Friday 22nd May 2020 — Week 6 of our Quarantine Connection — we posted contributions from Clare Best, Jo Dacombe, Julien Masson, Lola Perrin and Sue Lovell. You can find the full, week-by-week listing at Quarantine Connection.
Day 30 — Lola Perrin: Search for a Poem
Lola Perrin is a composer, pianist and collaborator on keyboard conversations about climate change with economists, lawyers, scientists, artists and other thinkers across the world. She is based in London, England.
Lola sent in this short film for Quarantine Connection; she’s currently exploring filmmaking as a means of expression during the lock-down.
Search for a poem
Day 29 — Jo Dacombe: Animal Tropes and Enchanted Woodlands
Jo Dacombe is a multimedia artist creating work, installations and interventions, interested in mapping, walking, public space, sense of place, layers of history and the power of objects. She is based in Leicester, England.
Jo says of this piece:
“While under lockdown, many of us have become more aware of the wildlife all around us. Astonishing pictures of wild animals casually strolling along empty main roads remind us that these wild creatures have always been around, but usually hidden from sight. It has reminded me of a blog post I wrote in 2015, alongside a commission I had to create a woodland walk, where I pondered on wildness and the lives of animals. For the walk, we took groups of families with young children into the woods and we became wild animals, telling stories along the way for our created walk, entitled The Hunter and the Hunted.”
Animal Tropes and Enchanted Woodlands
I have been researching appearances of animals in folklore and myth. I started doing this alongside my Reliquary Project, to think about what animals represent to us and how this has changed over the centuries, but inevitably this interest has started to influence other projects I’m working on.
Because I’m inspired by the image of the reliquary, a Medieval Christian notion, I have been reading around the medieval period. A wonderful book is Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art, a book on marginalia, those intriguing images that decorate the margins of medieval texts. Here animals appear in strange guises. Dogs dress as humans or hide under their cloaks, there are snails that attack medieval knights in armour, hares become archers intent on the murder of humans, and rabbits scamper about and nestle up against pretty girls. A lot of this is believed to be sexually suggestive, and I love the book’s whole thesis that the margins are where the artist defiles and pokes fun at the righteousness of the page’s main text.
It’s the theme of running wild, of humans believing they are central, but around the edges are these wild creatures rampantly ignoring the preaching of the text: “One of the most powerful statements that the monstrosities of marginal art make is that they violate the taboo that separates the human from the animal.”
In Saints and Animals in the Middle Ages, animals again represent the wildness, but in these old stories their relationship with the divine is complicated and contradictory. The stories seem to me to be a constant battle between wildness, or freedom, and those in authority. Sometimes the authority is simply that of the human, who believes that he has dominion over the earth and the animals, but finds he cannot control the wildness all around him. Sometimes the authority is the Church, but often the wild and natural creatures are seen as closer to god than humans and, although crude and base, are actually more akin with the purest of Christian hearts. The religious hermit chooses to live in the forest with the creatures because they are not tainted by the deceitfulness of humans. Again the hare often appears, as a symbol of wildness. In stories such as St Anselm and the Hare and in the topos of the hermit and the hunted animal, the hare may represent the soul chased by its demons. The hermit is able to rescue the hunted animal because he lives outside of human society.
The hare is of particular interest to me. It does have a really wild appearance, and a strange otherworldly quality. I came face to face with one in Dukes Wood, and now I’m working on another woodland project I’m thinking about him again. This time I’m working with Laura-Jade Klée, a curator I work with under the name Sidelong. The project is commissioned by Ordinary Culture, who also curated The Dukes Wood Project. Their current project, View From the East, takes place in Colwick Woods in Sneinton, Nottingham. Some of the themes of wildness and control are bleeding into this project, rubbing up alongside the tales we have unearthed about the woodlands itself, and LJ and I have become fascinated by the contrasts of the woodlands, the joy of the natural world but also its more threatening side. There are many dark deeds that have taken place in these woods, as well as a real sense of playfulness and enchantment. We are calling our project The Hunter and the Hunted, and through storytelling we are playing with the contrasting ideas of the woodland of a place of safety where you can hide from the hunter, but also a place of fear where you can easily become lost.
Day 28 — Clare Best: Book of Water
Clare Best is a poet whose subjects include landscape, environment and human activity in place. For Springlines she collaborated with a visual artist to explore hidden and mysterious bodies of water. Clare is based in Suffolk, England.
Clare says of this piece:
“I first sketched notes for Book of water about three years into the Springlines project – the early writing for this piece expressed my visceral response to Mary Anne’s painting ‘Flooded coronal’ and its sense of instability and apocalypse.
“The vast watery foreground of ‘Flooded coronal’ reminded me of the sheets of marbled paper I used to make in my first career as a fine bookbinder, and the idea of a book of water sprang to mind, rich with images of foreboding and destruction. Here was unstoppable water.
“The poem’s depiction of a dramatic manifestation of flood-waters within the relatively cosy narrative setting of a book felt like a good counterpoint to other poems I had made for Springlines, many of which responded directly to the hidden and mysterious bodies of water we discovered on our field trips around the South of England.”
Book of water
This volume’s heavy, difficult to hold: the mossy
cover oozes green, springs rise across two pages
of Acknowledgements. Here’s the Introduction:
mud. Chapter One: a story bubbles along the spine,
trickles into print, disappears. Two: clouds mass
above a coronal of ancient trees, rain meets
gravity’s reach, down, down to the lower margin.
In Chapter Three paper goes to pulp. Four: water
governs earth and sky. Elm trees sway on tides
of seed. Oaks withstand the longest storm.
What book is this where water
will not stay but runs, forgets? Afterword, Index,
Colophon: a flood has swept away the final pages.
Mary Anne says of ‘Flooded Coronal’:
“I started work on this painting during a period of seemingly endless torrential rain. The ground was sodden and the monotonous background sound in my studio was the continuous drip from my faulty guttering outside. The walls within seeped moisture.
“This weather was in stark contrast to the unseasonal heat, bone-dry soil and dusty chalk track up to the Downs when Clare and I first discussed the idea of the Springlines project in March 2012. Both extremes of weather felt equally unnerving, like a warning that things were not as they should be.
“In the painting the beech coronal seems to float like flotsam tossed about on the sea instead of being firmly anchored on the gentle undulating hills. I drew the greatly enlarged whorled finger-prints from my left thumb and forefinger until they resembled swirling currents of water and I left the foreground unresolved, as though this watery world might extend indefinitely.”
You can find more of Clare Best’s work, including the Springlines project and book, at her website and other places via her ClimateCultures profile, and explore the work of artist Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis on Instagram and Twitter, as well as her current (virtual) exhibition at the Portland Gallery. There is a short film about the Springlines project, featuring Clare and Mary Anne, here.
Day 27 — Sue Lovell: COVID 19 / My Hometown
Sue Lovell is a teacher of ethics, literature and academic writing, interested in narrative theory, embodiment, affect, ecocriticism, and climate change narratives relating to future identities in critical posthumanism. She is based in Queensland, Australia.
Sue says of this piece: “During the quarantine, a small group of friends in Canada and Australia have been writing a poem each day and sharing them to give one another a sense of connection and hope. They’re drawn from a ‘game’ called Paint Chip Poetry where you get a prompt, then 12 keywords from which to select. I’ve been focusing on getting nature into my poems in one way or another.”
See the Himalayas from afar,
and tender-footed deer in the silent streets;
admire the crystal clear water in the Venice canals,
grieve harder for the spreading Sahara
and the hundreds of thousands
who no longer see the sky, or touch the trees, or sing;
cut kindling only from plantation timber;
top skyscrapers with herb gardens and fruiting bushes so,
like fields of poppies, they shall remind us to fill
new school days with cabbage-patch-lessons that will
re-learn the seasons and hear the heartbeat of the earth.
Sometimes, when the moon is full,
I stand alone beneath its light.
Like frost, it rests along the edge of every object
making the shadows near the wall
deeper, darker, more furtive.
If the night is also still,
the tumbleweed flurries of the day recede.
As welcome as a breath of fresh air on a summer day,
silence settles all around.
Birds and children sleep, fearless as angels.
I hear it then:
the soft shoe shuffle of many feet,
the sigh of a monk’s robe against strong legs,
the movement towards prayer
in the hometown of my heart.
You can find out more about Sue’s research at her ClimateCultures profile.
Day 26 — Julien Masson: Skin Deep
Julien Masson is an artist whose works are all, in some way, related to technology and our relation with it and wishes to expand notions of what is art. He is based in Southampton, England.
Julien says of this piece:
“Very often people image an artist as someone working in isolation, in a studio removed from the outside world, waiting for his/hers eureka moment. It is often a romantic vision that is encouraged by artists themselves… In my opinion Art is not something that can be sustained in perfect isolation nor does it happen at a stroke. An Artwork can take a long time to come to fruition and obviously our environment has a big influence on the way we work, think and express ourselves creatively.
“During this period of isolation, I was able to harness this time to focus on a new series of small experimental paintings. I see my studio as a creative laboratory experimenting with paints, marks and different tools. I often use discs in my work as they echo the shape of petri dishes used for cell cultures. Each piece is an experiment in colour and texture and I am not necessarily looking at them as finished individual Artworks but rather a continuing record of my day to day practice. Obviously, I was limited in space and materials and this forced me to work on a smaller scale. But these restrictions also allowed me to work in a more intense and focused way.
“I was asked to curate a group show at my local arthouse cinema in Southampton. The event was understandably postponed but I was able to compile a video to showcase the work that was selected for this exhibition. We hope you will find the work of interest.”