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It’s been two months since my last ReWilding check-in blog, which I wrote in response to the GF Smith Factory tour.

I wrote then about being uninspired… and not much has changed since to be honest!

I haven’t really been motivated to do anything art-wise – I’ve had a challenging time of it mentally and motivationally this year so that’s a big part of it – but having no ‘briefs’ or structure to work within doesn’t help either! I miss the educational structure of my MA like mad – it was completely self directed but within a framework of deadlines and measurable outcomes. Although I appreciate Feral wants to escape those more traditional educational frameworks, at the same time there’s a lot of people – especially people with neurodivergencies (myself included) – who don’t work well within a total loosey-goose approach with no external accountability over the long term. This is something I need to find a way to work around because it’s starting to make me feel useless and shit – I enjoyed relative freedom at first but it’s no fun being lost in the woods for prolonged periods. It’s unsettling.

Thankfully, looks like the group is responding to this shared need collectively, which is great!

I’m also finding the premise of ‘industry’ and ‘rewilding’ morally and intellectually chewy in my climate crisis context (which I have blogged about previously) which has felt like a big block – but having chatted about it with Dom I can appreciate that it’s okay (albeit frustrating) to find so much issue but how interesting that critical perspective actually is. I could do something around this ‘opposition’ I feel – but after some reflection I think I’m just tired of challenging the status quo and ‘industry’ won’t give a flying fuck about my critiques anyway… I think it’s much more nourishing for both me and audiences to explore how much better things could (should?) be instead. Not fighting against, but illustrating for.

This isn’t to say I haven’t done anything at all in the last few months – just nothing directly related to developing my core art practice lol. I’ve been on two holidays (Bulgaria and Settle in Yorkshire) with a short stay in the Lake District, started a lovely arts and heritage project at Our Big Picture with the Ukrainian community of Grimsby, done a few eco-art workshops for the likes of HEY Volunteers and Thorseby Primary School, done some creative mentoring within the Peel St Project, started my year-long Permaculture Design Course, performed in the HMTC A-Z concert, and done rehearsals/costuming/puppet-making for the upcoming Into The Woods Production. I’ve also been doing a bit of exam individuation to bring in a bit of cash because it’s been slow asf on the work front this year (quite probably because I’ve retreated from the stresses of applications and bids somewhat…) and exploring the development of a CIC with a friend. Oh, and I turned 34 somewhere too. I suppose my head has just been elsewhere.

Some of the things I’ve been up to (that aren’t about developing own art practice) in the last 8 weeks

Some of us ReWilders met up today for a bit of an accountability meeting, mostly because a lot of us are struggling to get going with making. It was helpful, and reassuring to know I’m not alone in this boat. Some of the things which directly and indirectly emerged from conversation that I’m now reflecting on is; the fact that I’ve lost a sense of the ‘research question’ that I’m trying to answer, that I need to be locked in a room with a gun to my head to make something (Jay’s the same it seems) because this do-whatever-approach and try-to-not-think-and-just-do isn’t working for me, and that actually maybe I need to just revisit what I was interested in six months ago compared to what I’m interested in now, and use those as a basis for moving through this sticky-bit. Waiting-and-seeing-what-emerges just ain’t working without a broader framework because there’s no drive behind it. I’m also remembering from last time that I need to ‘tell the story’ of my practice better as well. Which brings me to the purpose of this blog since I find clarity through writing; hoping that by meandering through the fog I stumble upon a cairn that shows me the next step forward.

So to beg the question (a third of a way into the programme lmao)… what am I interested in? What on earth do I want to do?

  • I still am all about nature, the environment, the climate crisis, community, intuitive/spiritual nature communicativeness… all that jazz. I don’t think that’s going to ever change somehow!
  • I was specifically interested in inter-species human:non-human creative collaboration. I still am interested in this, but as I kind’ve answered the methodologies as a result of my MA I’ve lost a bit of impetus of researching it? I then wrote this mega article on ‘Equitable Making with our More-Than-Human-Kin’ which felt like the completion cherry on top of that chapter of research. Out of all the approaches I explored, ritual is the one that calls most consistently to me now as that feels like the next step on from ‘listening’ to the Land. Listening builds connection, so it feels right to build on that connectivity through means of ceremony, ritual and meaning-making.
  • This Permaculture course is interesting to me. It’s taking a while to get going, as everything we’ve covered so far are the sort of introductory things that I’m already familiar with… but this course definitely feels like an influential thing to my wider practice – like, how to better design the way I operate as a professional artist in both a business sense but in a community sense so that it thrives in the most sustainable and ethical way possible. And hopefully I’ll be more equipped to create thriving gardens and green spaces in future.
  • I’ve also been in on a bit of a spiritual development as well. During one of the most deepest conversations I might have had in my adult life, I shared with a Reverend friend of mine, Helen, that I find patriarchal organised tradition and religious dogma spiritually stifling (probably being brought up in and betrayed by the Catholic tradition that did that) but that I find immense soulful nourishment in both the Earth and in the pursuit of knowledge (which inexplicably is the exact same thing in my head). She challenged me to give some of identity to this form of divinity (a term I don’t like but we’ll go with it) because she thinks it would help me to articulate what I’m intuitively knowing, and may help in the development of my artistic interest in ritual and ceremony. We spoke a lot about the Divine Feminine Wisdom (in Christian tradition, that’s the Holy Spirit!)… which resonates with me, as does Pagan thinking around Mother Earth. Anyway, since then I’ve learnt about Sofia – an ancient Gnostic deity-type figure who is often linked with Gaia and other wisdom/earth-type goddesses such as Athena (Greek), Danu (Celtic), Isis (Egyptian), Minerva (Roman), Saraswati (Hindu) and so on. I don’t believe that there’s a literal goddess floating about somewhere, but as an interface to connect to and navigate natural phenomena and abstracted concepts, it makes perfect sense. Sofia (because of the literal translation) and Danu (because of my Irish ancestry) has become really relevant and important. I was literally in the Bulgarian city of Sofia a week after this conversation, which was serendipitous. Made an accidental pilgrimage to her nameplace and statue! On my return I started a still life painting of objects that communicated ‘earth-wisdom’ to me, almost like a 2D shrine to these abstracted concepts that nourish and drive me so much. Not finished that yet though…Statue of Sveta Sofia in Sofia (Bulgaria) by Georgi Chapkanov. This 8m statue on a 16m plyon was erected in 2000 at a crossroads where a statue of Lenin once stood.
  • I’m really enjoying song and performance at the moment, more than anything else. I like it’s immediacy, presentness and vocal storytelling of song, and I’m really starting to thrive on the stage after more than a decade of struggling to talk in front of people. Hearing really lovely feedback from people helps significantly (‘powerhouse’ and ‘oozing stage presence’). But more than that – over the last six months I’ve increasingly noticed the overwhelming urge to sing when I’m with nature and moved by it in a numinous way. Not in a ‘worship’ or appreciative way even… it’s literally like when you’re standing amongst a choir and the only thing to do is to contribute your voice to that moment in time too. Or you’re at a feast and the whole community has brought something to the table and in the spirit of community, comradery and love, you offer what you have. And I know that sound/vibrations/frequencies are a universal language that can be interpreted by all in the room. Like that. However, in those moments I get choked up and nothing comes out. Nothing is right. I’ve asked around in online forums for suggestions of existing songs that could be appropriate in those moments (playlist below of recommendations of kindly internet strangers) but I’d love to write my own at some point. But I know fuck all about songwriting but I know that intuitive responses just don’t cut it. But that performative, musical element of this nature-ritual building is becoming more and more important and I feel like I’m building to that somewhere down the line now.
  • I have been fascinated by folk storytelling and folk customs and practices as an interface of traditional ecological knowledge. I LOVED the folk costumes I saw in the Burgas Folk Museum in Bulgaria, and I’m enjoying learning about Ukrainian traditional crafts within my Grimsby project. I’ve been devouring books on British folk stories. I’ve got a plan for a DYCP application now, which essentially is to travel to a variety of museums and heritage sites in Ireland to learn more about my own ancestral customs and knowledge-stories. I like the idea of playing with these stories and customs to make knowledges relevant now somehow?
  • I’ve also had great fun thinking of costumes and props for Into the Woods as well – I remembered why I went into doing costume/set design in the first place all those moons ago. I’ve been making articulated hand-mounted bird puppets made out of willow, which has been fun and really well received (even in their shit prototype form). That all feels like a separate thing BUT I’ve been thinking about how I could use mycelium as light-weight set-building material. Too late for this production but I’d love to be able to explore this further somehow in the right context (lacking resources for this as it stands). Once ITW is over, I might see if my theatre company might fund some research into using this as a prop/set-building medium (they don’t have the funds to pay for my time, but might be able to support with buying the material and help me find a big enough oven…)

Right, so what do I want to do? How do I translate all of the above into something communicative? I think that’s part of the barrier; that it’s all so big and lofty and complex in my head… yet also so obviously simple in my heart? I have all the ideas, and yet none.

I wanted to play with print, but in all honesty the ReWilding studio is just frustratingly ill-equipped for that (our running water is from the tiny sink in the loo…), so I’ve taken all my stuff back home and will just need to find a way to do that around an interfering cat, bouncing border collie and tidy partner. Sigh.

I want to rebuild my seed ball back up, but not sure if it’s suitable for the Feral studio – it’s messy and I need water. There’s deffo enough space in the middle room for it, so perhaps there’s a way – I need to get it from Hull College somehow though… that’s an easy thing for me to default to when I’m not sure what to do or just want something physical and mindless to get on with. And perhaps I’ll donate it to Samaritans or Pearson Park or something if I can’t find a buyer for it next year…

New thinking definitely has a deep soulful element to it. Song is a big thing but the barrier there is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (I live with an accomplished musician but we work in very different ways creatively lol – unlucky?). I’m having fun with set/costume in a big way so maybe I should just lean into where my motivation is for now? Ritual, folk knowledge and set/dress. Voice.


Wait… I think I have an idea. Oh shit I’ve found my cairn!

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