2018 – ongoing (updates here)
Intra actions collects work written, performed and filmed as site-responsive pieces at a very particular location: Wonwell in South Devon.
My relationship with Wonwell began in childhood. This beach is the closest one to my home and was the place where I went to get some critical and emotional distance from ongoing projects. Now, it is the project itself.
I have presented artworks and papers about this site at various international academic events (made possible by online life during the pandemic), and continue to engage a number of people in walking conversations at the site, including representatives of the local AONB and Natural England, a paleo-archaeologist, an amputee war veteran, a diver interested in wrecks and ordinance, a number of artists, family and friends. I have kayaked upstream to the weir, and I swim here often. In winter I take night walks and dawn walks, and sometimes I light a tiny bonfire in the dark, and listen to the sea whilst the fire burns itself out. Once I found a small piece of ceramic. Local archaeologists dated it to the Bronze Age. You can feel the makers’ fingerprints and thumb rolls, and I use this small, beautiful item to travel through time.
Group walks with friends happen from time to time. We continue to try to walk to the source of the Erme, from Harford, in a day. Walking as a practice, generates embodied understandings of states of being within wet environments. Walking also offers forms of public engagement, evidence-gathering, durational practices and collaboration. The river walk through Long Timber Woods to Harford Bridge is a favourite. Small collaborations with individual artists are teasing out different calibrations of embodied relationships to this river. Going Feral with Fay, Howling with Helen, Dancing with Deepta – threads that continue to entangle me with the Erme. Through the summer of 2021 I undertook a series of one-night full moon camps near the Erme, following the lunar arc across the night sky. Erme Trace was a six month run of monthly zines (2021), handmade jigsaws exploring facts and threads and feelings. Short programmes for Soundart Radio echoed each zine. These interventions are shifting into something bigger. Studies of iconic UK rivers abound (Thames, Severn). But what of the much smaller water courses? Now, the practice-research actively engages with the intertidal and riverine environment of the River Erme to generate speculative and creative articulations of entanglements at this site. It means situating this endeavour in the Blue Humanities to ask In what ways can human-environment entanglements of the Erme, articulated through creative practice, reveal new insights about the contested futures of our rivers?
Excerpts from journal
October 3rd 2018 14.30
It is high tide but it is on its way out. Midweek on an overcast afternoon. One couple walk by. Recent tides have clearly been gentle, a pattern of wrack zone lines descending from the ever-crumbling cliff to the shoreline show little by way of sea-borne gifts besides fresh sea lettuce and small drifts of dead kelp, heaped in strings like discarded spinal columns or lions tails. Plus a baseball cap from Cyprus. At first, the sounds I can hear are like a discordant orchestra of school recorders, fluting out of sync and out of tune. Closer inspection reveals a small but vocal group of gulls bobbing on the open water. I think that two juveniles are seeking their parents. It is cold, even my legs want more layers. My short sojourn today however, blows some cobwebs and is very welcome. As I walk back to the road the ground is a swirling carpet of autumn leaves.
June 1st 2019 0800
Tide very out. A truly beautiful morning, a calm estuarial meander that meets clean waves with short-lived yet perpetual white crests. The surface of the water is positively mill-pond, reflecting the intense green of the headlands and the streaky blue sky. Everything about today feels like Day One of something momentous. Bit by bit, the beach gets drenched in light as the morning sun climbs above the headland behind me. I move further up the river towards the incoming ocean and sit on the log on the secret beach, watching an angler, and a paddle-boarder engage with the water. I am surrounded by footprints made by different birds – there was clearly an avian party here last night. A claw footed bird – a crow? – had played in the sand, dragging its tail or a wing as it walked. Another large bird, with webbed feet, had joined in. Their criss-crossing tracks are quite complex, they had clearly engaged consciously with each other, but whether as friends or foe I will never know. The sun on my back is close to being too warm. A small fishing boat passes out to sea, between the nearby waves and the very distant band of sea fog. My shadow gets shorter as the sun claims the day. Behind me a cacophony of hedgerow birds are busy with the business of late Spring. The here and now of a Wonwell morning captivates me.
February 27th 2020 12.30pm
Tide Out. After an eternity of storms, high winds and severe amounts of rain, at last the sun is out. Spring flowers already peek out from the hedgerows, which are themselves turning green. Today, evidence of kelp thrashing is clear, and minor landslides bring the cliffs a little closer to the shore. A man stands painting the scene. Another man walks his drone. Behind and above me, the cliff path has been cut back a lot to make the path easier to navigate, but it also played a part in causing – or not stopping – the landslides. The blue sky is vast.