Manual for Nomads

Something is coming into being. Manual for Nomads is the first film I have made collaboratively, and is an Arts Council England funded project that builds upon my previous work undertaken within the broad category of Artists Moving Image. This film is collaborative in the sense that for the first time I worked with professional cinematographers, sound engineers and editors to realise my idea. It is also collaborative in the sense that there are characters, played by people other than myself. All the characters were played by non-actors and this was consciously written into the film’s treatment. The particular approach to shooting and editing aims to undercut the viewers’ expectations of narrative linearity, without abandoning ‘storytelling’.

Situated knowledges are about communities, not about isolated individuals. The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular. (Feminisms) images are not the products of escape and transcendence of limits (the view from above) but the joining of partial views and halting voices onto a collective subject position that promises a vision of the means of ongoing finite embodiment, of living within limits and contradiction – of views from somewhere. (Donna Haraway)

In broad terms, the film’s overarching themes are concerned with knowledge production, power, communication, and community, in relation to responses to the effects of climate change. Knowledge production can be said to reside in the protagonist’s (Ellen) ongoing search for help in understanding and ultimately managing her emotional responses to the effects of climate change. Her knowledge production is incremental as the narrative of the film builds. Ellen’s responses are acutely felt, and initially unsettle her to such an extent that she actively seeks help. Help is not forthcoming until near the end of the film, where she meets the pilots. Her need to understand her emotional response is met and satisfied in her finding a way to engage in collective practical action. Ultimately, she is able to situate her emotional knowledge within a very particular sense of community, and in so doing is rescued from isolation .

In parallel to the theme of knowledge production is the theme of power. The Commodore scenes are about public versus private personas, conventional knowledge versus intuitive knowledge. They are about power, symbols of power, and inner power, asking the question ‘where does power really sit?’ How does power present itself? Who has permission to represent power? As the only scenes within the entire film which use speech, an aspect of conventional power is expressed through so-called conventional communication – verbal speech intended for a Hearing audience. Within the broader context of communication throughout the film, in which the use of BSL dominates, this conventional communication holds a mirror up to conventional power and knowledge production as transfixed by its own reflection and ultimately ‘speaking to itself’.

Ellen’s power, in parallel with her knowledge, visibly grows, incrementally as the film progresses, and  she is at her most powerful when engaged in collective practical action. However, power, as defined or redefined as effective communication, is hers from the outset. Whilst her initial encounters with others, in the bus stop and in the underpass, are unsuccessful in terms of eliciting positive responses from the people she communicates with, she does successfully communicate with them. They all speak the same language – in this case BSL – and even viewers who do not speak or understand BSL (or indeed, the language of the subtitles) will get the gist of each conversation. Embedded within these BSL exchanges are subtle differences. In common with any other language there are regional variations in BSL, there are those who are fluent – ‘wordy’ even – and those who are economic with the language. There are different gestures for the same meaning used in different locations across England. (American Sign Language, and other ‘English-speaking nations’ use entirely different gestures, unique to them). Embedding BSL, and to a much lesser extent, braille, into the dialogues that constitute the films’ script is a strategy for foregrounding the fact that all communication is an act of translation, an imperfect interpretation, that allows for communication as an approximation of intent. In this way, Haraway’s insistence upon the situated and partial nature of knowledge is teased out.

Editing begins later this week…..

Go Rewild Yourself (Fay)

Plymouth Art Weekender is over for another year – its fifth gloriously successfully year. This time around my contribution was quite low-key and discreet – yet seemed to pack a punch. The idea was to create a Memorial for Lost Species during this time of the sixth mass extinction, and to honour those already departed whilst drawing attention to this excruciating calamity that is the effect of human-made climate change.

Participants were invited to make simple tombstones of ice in their domestic freezers, then bring them along to a site nestled in the Greenery on Armada Way, to take part in a short ceremony that paid homage to the species we have already lost.

Obviously, the ice melted as the day progressed, providing a fitting metaphor for this loss. You can find out more about the project here.

Pulse is just one way of understanding time.

Every twelve hours and 25 minutes. A tidal experience of time reveals the extent to which change is the only constant. I am taking part in Flows of Entanglement at the University of Plymouth in early September, presenting work based on an ongoing journal of observations taken during regular walks to my nearest beach – Wonwell. I try to mix up my visits – high tide, low tide, and everything in between. Each visit to the same place throws up new offerings of oceanic material culture, new configurations of wet and dry, new sounds.

Three months since my last blog entry is another way for me to understand time. In that I have been to Galway, to deliver a paper about the role that walking has within my practice, and have not been to Trondheim but instead sent a video-presentation exploring a project I did in Bangalore about bodies-as-sensory-data-collectors. I also nipped to Bath.

Books arrived in the post that I have contributed to, and the time it takes for a book to go from idea to object is best measured in aeons.

Loads-of-time is another perspective – when you feel you can indulge in learning, and really explore, experiment and reflect. This is what the Developing your Creative Practice award from Arts Council England has given me. Starting this September I shall spend 12 months immersing myself in every aspect of professional artists moving image, developing a project called Manual for Nomads. This is augmented by an a-n artists development bursary focusing upon the sonic aspects of the project. It is a real privilege to carve out this time going forward, and I am excited by the journey.

moments, pauses, memories and observations – with


Now showing at Space, Dartington, until June 13th. Curated by

Rhyne & Huish is a long term project which seeks to uncover secrets within the Somerset landscape that can help us to be better prepared for living in a wetter world. Spending time around the RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve in particular, walking the rhynes and ditches, across board walks and along very long and very straight footpaths that follow these man-made waterways led to the development of these drawings.


The process of mapping the experiential and sensory responses to this unique place – bearing witness to the people, wildlife and elemental aspects of the environment – water in particular –through visits, collaborative walks, and periods of solitude, demanded some kind of punctuation – a record of ‘moments, pauses, memories and observations’.


This capture of sensory data feeds into the larger and longer body of work within the Rhyne & Huish project by suggesting a series of scores, using simple mark-making onto (found) brown card, which is perforated to suggest amplification. All my visits to this area, whether alone or as part of a collaborative walking exercise, have included sound recordings which will be edited later in 2019 to create ‘Sonic Rhynes’. These drawings will guide that editing process.


Field Notes and Frozen Footsteps


Thanks to the fantastic support of the Gala Network, I am halfway through a two week field trip in Montreal, working with Eric Powell of Concordia University to harvest the sounds of, and about, the St. Lawrence River.

Temperatures have ranged from minus 17 to a balmy 4 degrees, and the river as it runs south of the island of Montreal remains mostly frozen. Dog walkers stroll upon the surface of the water. The waters edge is indistinguishable from the river bank as both are covered in drifts of snow that reveal no demarcation.

Eric and I are strolling the shore between Place Des Armes and the Rapids, little by little, aiming to capture the sounds of the river – the dampened footfall onto deep snow, the crunch of tread on frozen snow, sounds of far of traffic and industry, people walking with their dogs.

Alongside this, I have been recording conversations with resident Quebecois, talking about what the river means to them, capturing first person narratives, anecdotes and forecasts.

Eric and I are talking about Desire Lines (after De Certeau), Ecotones (after Neimanis and McCartney) and Research Creation. I’m getting a masterclass in technical considerations for soundscape design directly from Eric, and meanwhile we are both aware that we are capturing a changing climate that is poised at the edge of catastrophe. Our small wish is that this work adds, in a small way, towards efforts to make a positive difference.

Scores? Spectrograms? Maps?

I am engaged in an ongoing project called Rhyne & Huish, using Experimental Geography to uncover transdisciplinary responses to the Somerset Moors and Levels.  A significant aspect of my work uses sound and experimental geography to capture and re-present unique landscape qualities. Sound recordings of people (anthrophony), wildlife (biophony) and elemental aspects of the environment – water in particular (geophony) – are raw materials for a process of place making. Production is guided by a series of spectrograms, which also operate as stand-alone works, using simple mark-making on a range of scales – from intimate hand-held works to large scale whole-wall works. An initial set of framed Spectrograms will be exhibited in May 2019 at Dartington via artdotearth and CCANW.

Having recently carved out a studio space in my home I have set about creating this work, but remain ambivalent about ‘what’ precisely they are. Playing with language and with labels can help to direct work in particular ways, but can also set limits that might not be useful.

So be it; there is already a rhythm to the works-in-progress. Using simple mark-making (drawing and monoprinting) onto brown card, which is perforated in circular patterns to suggest amplification, and by limiting my palette, a movement is revealed that can be further developed.

Think(ing) Tanks

I am  currently in Bangalore (India), undertaking a month long project with local art students, exploring the water crisis in the city and developing problem-solving strategies through the arts. Bangalore has a population of nearly 12 million and faces an imminent water crisis within the next 5 years. Only a generation ago, the city had over 900 lakes (reservoirs) providing clean drinking water to the population. Today there are less than 100, and the river which fed them is highly polluted at source, and beyond.
The art students are developing collaborative sensory maps of the city, making site visits, and thinking about their future. The maps require students to negotiate a shared space, whilst developing awareness of all the senses as a way of encouraging people to connect with their environment and therefore take part in caring about the lakes and the water which is so vital for their future.

Beautiful, uncomfortable, informative and humorous

With just over two weeks to go until Hydrosapien is unleashed on the public, everyone involved is busy, busy, busy rehearsing for what will be a unique and memorable performance. The Silent Choir grows daily, with 5 schools now running lunch club rehearsals, and about 40 adults attending weekly signing workshops at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel. Their focus and commitment is awe inspiring, and the results are mesmerising. Meanwhile, deep in the labyrinths of Goldsmiths University, Joseph Kohlmaier and Iris Garrelfs work through ideas, bounce sounds around and have me in rapture with their astonishing playfulness and range.

The domino effects are beginning to surface too, with the Harvest Festival at Plymouth Methodist Central Hall presenting the signed poem as part of their service on October 28th, and with a teacher at Eggbuckland Vale Primary School sending this message:

The rehearsal this week was very enjoyable, and I am beginning to understand how the performance may look. Yesterday I taught two of my profoundly deaf 7 year old children (BSL signers) the first verse after a discussion  about what a poem is (words which describe an idea and a feeling but not a story!) And in very simple terms we began to discuss climate issues. In response to this they each drew a picture which I have attached  for you to see. I was truly moved by the power of your poem, translated into sign to teach these children about the environment. Thank you for enabling this learning experience for these children.

Meanwhile, Astrida Neimanis, the author of the text – Hydrofeminism – that triggered the project, is watching the project develop via Twitter and encouraging us as we work to perfect our shared endeavour to find creative ways of putting research into the public domain. Astrida’s support is the icing on the cake!

Hydroscore for a Silent Choir

Mark-making, through monoprinting and drawing, allows me to think through ideas and processes in ways that release me from the tyranny of ‘the list’. Having already produced a workbook for my collaborations with Iris Garrelfs and Joseph Kohlmaier, this week I started producing one for my work with members of the Silent Choir. These workbooks are simple sheaves of blank paper, interspersed with the monoprints and drawings I’ve been doing.

Earlier this week I went to Goldsmiths University for the first of four sessions with Iris and Joseph. This introductory session was a wide ranging ramble through ideas, triggers, and methods, and was important for establishing a shared sense of the project going forward. Also this week, I applied to attend a workshop with Astrida Neimanis (at Goldsmiths also) around ‘Weathering’ – a practice or tactic for understanding our inter-implicatedness, for interrupting existing patterns and notions of resilience and vulnerability, of thinking about the weather as more-than-meteorological.

And last but not least! After much hair-pulling over the years, I am finally (finally!) the recipient of an Arts Council grant, for Hydrosapiens. The entire project is ambitious, and therefore the funding application felt immense. Clearly this strategy has paid off, and now Hydrosapiens can embrace its full potential. Many thanks to Arts Council England, and especially to the individuals who guided me through the process, and particularly to the individuals participating in Hydrosapiens.

ACE logo


Hydrosapien for Plymouth Art Weekender – a live Silent Choir performance adaptation of the essay Hydrofeminism (@AstridaNeimanis), accompanied by a duo of experimental voice artists who will use the same text as the basis for their non-linguistic contribution. It even has its own website now.

Half of the project involves me workshopping at Goldsmiths, with Iris Garrelfs and Joseph Kohlmaier, to develop  a ‘score’ for their contribution to the performances.

Influenced by (amongst many others) Hanna Tuulikki – Spinning in Stereo, Liz K Miller and Kim Macari – Circular Score: Round Two, and the scores used in the live performance of Jim Finers’ Long Player at St. Martins Church as part of Art Week Exeter, I am starting with visual experiments before heading to London for the workshops. Using drawing and monoprinting to develop an abstracted yet structured relationship between the essay Hydofeminism, water, and imagined sounds, I am finding that I’m mapping, and re-finding the relationship between mark,  sound and gesture.

Joseph Kohlmaier’s practice crosses a broad spectrum of disciplines, bringing together writing, design, teaching, performance, editorial and curatorial work, and composition. He founded Musarc, one of the UK’s most progressive choral collectives, in 2008, and acts as the ensemble’s creative director. He is a principal lecturer and head of Critical and Contextual Studies at The Cass, London Metropolitan University, and one of the founding directors of graphic design practice Polimekanos and its associated imprint Cours de Poétique.

IRIS GARRELFS works on the cusp of music, art and sociology. Investigating sites through listening she creates responses that often combine field recordings with voice and are not just explorations of geographical, historical or sociological aspects, but also poetical evocations of presence. As one of the pioneers of digitally augmented vocal performance, her vocal work has has been described by ATTN:Magazine as follows: “Garrelfs’ gymnastic flexibility is remarkable. Her falsetto has this incredible pinball elasticity, zipping suddenly upward in playful excitement or sudden shock, reaching pitches that seem to shrink her into miniature.”

Her work has been presented internationally, for example National Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts London, Visiones Sonores Mexico, Onassis Cultural Centre Athens, Palazzo delle Esposizioni Rome, MC Gallery New York. Residencies have included Grizedale Art, Institute of Modern Art Celje (Slovenia), Tate Britain. Recordings were released on
Linear Obsessional (UK), Pan Y Rosas Discos (US), Audition Records (Germany), Gruenrekorder (Germany),  Baskaru Records (France) and more.

Elsewhere Garrelfs is lecturer in Sonic Art at Goldsmiths, University of London and editor of the open access journal Reflections on Process in Sound.