Stories in the Stars

Artistic Residency - Finland 2017

As I come to the end of a month spent in the beautiful, tranquil surroundings of the Finnish countryside, I have time to reflect on what brought me here, what I've learned about my work and my practice, and where i want to go next.

This month at Arteles has placed me in a fertile space for thought, conversation and artistic expression, surrounded my artists from many different disciplines from all around the world. It has been a fun month of conversations, inquiry, exploration, investigations and saunas. I've learned a lot about the way i work as a writer and as a creator. I've written over 25000 words across three projects, writing almost every day (an idea that seemed almost alien to me), and thought a lot about how rituals, repetitive behaviours, and heightened moments of simple actions can really help inform the work i create and by extension can create work in my life that offers another side.

There has been time and space to meditate. We have spent three days of the residency observing a practice of silence, whilst still engaging socially and sharing food and company. The inside has been brought out and the outside in. It has been highly engaging for the mind and spirit. For four weeks we all sacrificed our connections to telephones, emails and internet. I didn't check an email for 26 days. It was a beautiful distraction and i hope that a small part of what i learned through these processes goes back with me and stays as the demands and temptations of everyday life creep back in.

I came to the residency to write and create, and i wasn't distracted too far from that goal. I achieved less than I hoped, but more than I truly expected, and along the way i learned from others who are also on this journey towards 'art', many who are much more accomplished and talented than I may ever be. I read much, i made copious notes that were relevant to the projects in hand and i even managed to turn most of those notes into work that I see beginning to shape as something of which i can be proud. The work is not yet finished, but it is well on its way to completion and I know i have a good fun path ahead completing the work i started here.

Beyond the work i brought with me to do i also started to understand what has brought me to this interest in the ritual nature of theatre and performance. I have crafted a few small rituals that i have stuck to whilst i've been at the residency, some of which I intend to continue once i return. The exploration of ritual, and ritualised behaviours in others is of great interest to me and i am looking at ways i can continue to develop this part of my work going forward. It is the first glimmer of possibility that what i'm doing may be something more than writing, poetry or performance, but may in fact be the illusive 'art'. In the meantime whilst this is explored i will share my favourite ritual here on the website.

1.  Write a Haiku poem that captures the moment in which it is written. 
2. Print the poem, or hand copy it out, onto a small piece of paper about 3cm by 5cm. Don’t forget to include the date and your name/initials.
3. Fold the poem in half and carefully put it in your pocket.
4. Go for a walk.
5. As you walk along the road recite the poem to yourself in your head.
6. Consider the words and their place in your walk.
7. How has the walk changed the moment? How has the walk reinforced the moment?
8. As you walk collect 4 stones of decreasing size, each a different colour, shape and/or texture. The largest should be around the size of the folded paper.
9. Find a place that is used by local people or strangers. E.g. a bus stop.
10. Place the poem in a protected, visible location.
11. Cover with the largest stone.
12. Start to recite the poem from memory.
13. Place each stone on top of the other in size order, largest to smallest going upwards; to build a small cairn.
14. If the cairn collapses, restart the build and restart the poem.
15. When the cairn is complete and stable, recite the poem as if confiding a secret to an invisible stranger.
16. Let the poem go from your mind.
17. Return to Arteles.

I'll be uploading the Haiku that i wrote while i was here over the next week, as well as continuing the practice.

Finally, i started to think about what the next step after this might be, not just what i go back to do, but where and how i hope this path might lead me forward.

It has become clear to me during the process that i have two hurdles i need to overcome: Firstly, opportunities to show the current work i am creating. Secondly, a serious consideration of how i undertake the important task of documenting my work and my creative output. As a lone practitioner working in a performance medium it is hard to find good ways of capturing the live experience through video, recording or still photography. Whilst i have been in Finland i have picked up a number of pieces of old analogue equipment, including a beautiful, old Agfa stills camera, a Fijifilm Single-8 Handheld camera and Super-8 camera. My next step is to start to think about how i can use these to capture the work i'm doing in a way that fits with my practice. Cold digital is dead, long live the warm fuzz.