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WITHKIN is an expanded family and on-going discussion centred on ecological intimacy and rural recalibration.
WITH KIN manifested as an exhibition in North Dorset (22nd - 24th September 2017
Melbury Abbas, Dorset). Spread over chalk downs, in the shadow of Melbury Hill and the adjoining farm building the exhibition encompassed knowledges from residents, artists, architects, designers, researchers and local industries.
Artwork, talks, walks, presentations, song and performance were all made.
2017 was: Liam Baulch, Eliza Collin, Verity Coward, Megan Jones, Lewis Prosser, Ivan Robirosa, George Ridgway, Phoebe Ridgway, Chitra Sangtani, Elinor Stanley, Jo Sweeney, Jules Varnedoe, Lizzie Watts, Jessie Whiteley, Clive Whitbourn, Yvonne Zhang
There was a time when quicksand was a serious threat. Relative to all those more likely risk we were warned about, quicksand had a prominence. It seemed to be a particularly fatal and plausible danger. To be swallowed up by the earth.
I wonder if that’s because it was a favoured means of eliminating characters on screen? Maybe because of its efficiency. Like, a death and a burial all in one. And without the burden of developing incentive - Ground needs no plausible motive to end us.
As a filmic device it provided pseudo intimacy - locking bodies together in its sludge. While quicksand’s use in film has faded, its archived presence has grown. QS fans catalogue and recreate these moments - when the world’s wet cavities consume us. It gives form to the inkling that the world below our foot has agency. Or is at least, not so static as it purports to be.
Apparently these material properties are initiated by a sudden agitation; when the water in the material is unable to escape it creates a liquified substance that loses strength and can not support weight. I’ve tried to think of it as a diagram with arrows standing for seepage forces or gravity, but what comes to mind is an uncomfortably muscly body spontaneously deflating - instantly morphing to blubber. And so I can’t help but feel some sympathy for this ailing sand.
In a sense there is a provocation, a catalyst to this threat; the agitation of our foot. Our foot where it shouldn’t have gone, treading unchartered territory. I heard that the tide of quicksand appearances in cinema accompanies historic new frontiers; military, astronomical, social etc. The same researcher found that the threats most vivid in the collective playground imagination today are monsters and aliens. This shift in Pop, collective fears seems to reverb ongoing anxiety politics. While we trespass or occupy new terra firma we’re compelled to narratives of terra infirm - sickly and swallowing us. Amongst all this talk of protecting our soil, reestablishing boarders, going into shut down mode; we propagate stories of aliens and monsters.
Quicksand lost its potency, it became banal stock imagery. It was debunked and it became satire. We are less dense than quicksand, which gives us buoyancy - we float - or supposedly cannot sink below the waist. There is something prophetic about this development. As we sink halfway, and exchange ironic cracks about the state we find ourselves in, rolling our eyes at the predictability of it all, the tide comes in around us.
Quicksand’s legacy has been rehashed in a new wave of kinetic sand videos. Actually, these videos invert the bottomless muddy pits which once consumed us. This sand is more compact and more solid than you would expect. The viral videos tend to show neat moulded blocks of the sand slowly hewn apart using culinary tools. ‘So satisfying’ say most comments. While the sand used to eat us, now we eat the sand.
Lizzie Watts and Verity Coward
I lay my hat down
I lay my head down
I lay my hens down
he leadeth me to lie down in green pastures
don't put all your eggs in one basket
There's a housing crisis
And guardianships try to hide it
In hotels and developments there's bedrooms available
Bedrooms wanted cry those with no seat at the table
I lay down on the ground
<< will be here soon >>
Performed to Dukums Hollow on Melbury hill
EXCERPT FROM A CIRCUITOUS ROUTE :
''The identity of St. Wite, or St. Candida in its Latinised form, is deeply contested and has remained a continual mystery. There are several candidates that might vouch for St. Wite’s identity and the most convincing and interesting of them is that of Gwen Tierbron, the three-breasted Breton holy woman. During the years 919 to 921, swathes of Bretons, particularly the clergy, fled Brittany following its conquest by the Vikings and sought refuge in the West Country. Aethelstan, an Anglo-Saxon prince of Wessex and grandson of Alfred the Great (the founder of the original Saxon ‘White Church’ at the present-day St. Candida and Holy Cross) saw their safe passage and relocation to Dorset and commissioned the translation of several Breton saint’s relics into England. It is likely, given the archaeological evidence left by Breton settlers in Dorset, that Aethelstan instituted the relics of St. Wite into the Saxon ‘White Church’ before they were subsequently enshrined in the Purbeck marble, foramina tomb by Robert de Mandivel in the thirteenth-century. No legend of Gwen Tierbron exists in England but in Brittany she has substantial cults that have formed under her Celtic name, Gwen; her Latin name, Candida; and her French name, Blanche, all of which translate into the English ‘white’. Gwen is known for her healing ability and her divine fertility as a ‘Mother of Saints’ – hence the epithet of the ‘three breasts’ - and gave birth to five holy children: St. Winwaloe, St. Jacut, St. Wethenoc, St. Creirwy, and St. Cadfan. During her lifetime she was kidnapped by pirates and smuggled to London, where she escaped from the ship with her hand severed by one of the pirate’s axes, and proceeded to walk on water back to her native home of Brittany. The Church of St. Candida and Holy Cross appears to mirror the iconography of Gwen’s hagiographical legend, with stone carvings of an archaic ship and an axe decorating the church walls. Interestingly, these carvings are spolia or repurposed items from a previous devotional structure on the site and so may indicate that Gwen is, in fact, the elusive St. Wite that we have been looking for.''