Shul - Book Dummy Draft2 - 297x420mm, Zerkall Rough
Shul, “a mark that remains after that which made it has passed by–a footprint, for example. In other contexts, shul is used to describe the scarred hollow in the ground where a house once stood, the channel worn through rock where a river runs in flood, the indentation in the grass where an animal slept last night. All of these are shul: the impression of something that used to be there. As a shul, emptiness can be compared to the impression of something that used to be there.” Rebecca Solnit
1:33secs extract work in progress
Shul: clay cast
Joshua Bilton, Hannah Hughes, Eugenia Ivanissevich, Tom Lovelace, Barbel Praun
An experimental publication project curated by Rodrigo Orrantia
“Emptiness is the track on which the centered person moves,” said a Tibetan sage six hundred years ago, and the book where I found this edict followed it with an explanation of the word “track” in Tibetan: shul, “a mark that remains after that which made it has passed by––a footprint, for example. In other contexts, shul is used to describe the scarred hollow in the ground where a house once stood, the channel worn through rock where a river runs in flood, the indentation in the grass where an animal slept last night. All of these are shul: the impression of something that used to be there. A path is a shul because it is an impression in the ground left by the regular tread of feet, which has kept it clear of obstructions and maintained it for the use of others. As a shul, emptiness can be compared to the impression of something that used to be there.”
Walking along the East Anglia coastline from Sheringham to Dunwich you can see for miles and always infinitely out to sea. I became increasingly sensitive to the shifts of light that coloured the eroded cliff-face and landscape ahead of me. Rebecca Solnit speaks about this blue of the distance, on the horizon, a blue that you can never arrive at because it disappears as you step closer: ‘the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.’ This blue is never fully there but casts everything ahead of you as you walk.
Horace-Bénédict de Saussure invented the Cyanometer at the end of the 18th Century, a circular piece of card with a range of dyed blue gradients from white to black that was used by explorers and mountaineers in the early 19th century as a form of measuring the blueness of the sky during expeditions. Its popularity as a scientific tool gradually faded and it became known and valued as a poetic attempt to measure what we cannot touch.
As I walk I keep thinking about this desire to measure what we cannot touch, about falling out of love and how empty that makes you feel, about wanting to reconnect and fill up again, about the psychology of these eroded landscapes and how they allow you to throw yourself into them, unclaimed and uninhabitable, so unlike the city. I keep thinking about how people are losing their homes here, mass migrations arriving on shore lines, and Britain’s current state of redefining itself as an island, separate and dislocated from Europe. Some or none of this may be in the work but the act of walking and making interventions along the coastline is, in a way, an attempt to process thoughts around what supports a body, what holds it up, keeps it going, makes it lost, helps it belong. As I walk on I notice the shadow spaces that form along the coastal cliffs are like small cavities, cavities being defined as ‘an empty space within an object’. The idea that the body, land and country is not solid – that the ground we walk on is full of cavities that may swallow all things we call home – is so present in these eroding sites.
Doremi residency, Coniston, Cumbria. Hosts The Coniston Institute & Grizedale arts.
During this week long residency in Coniston I set-up a clay workshop where I cast a number of household objects collected from people living locally. The collecting of objects was an opportunity to start a conversation. From these conversations I became familiar with the Herdwick sheep and the term ‘Hefted’, used to describe how the Herdwicks are rooted to a particular patch of land. One lady I spoke with described her sense of belonging to Coniston as being ‘Heafed like sheep to the fell’. The opposite of being ‘Hefted’ to the land is ‘Incomer’ used to describe someone that has come to live in a place but did not grow up there.
The origin of the sheep is uncertain but they may have been introduced by Norse-Irish settlers in the 10th & 11th century or derived from animals introduced by Neolithic or Bronze age herdsmen. In this respect the Herdwick sheep speak of a long history of migration that is carried into local dialect and customs while also reflecting something of the transition from migrant to settler, from incomer to hefted.
Doremi residency, clay workshop, The Coniston Institute, Cumbria
Doremi residency, clay casts, installed at the Ruskin Museum, Coniston, Cumbria
Doremi residency, clay casts made and the Coniston Institute, Cumbria
Doremi residency, clay worskhop, The Coniston Institute, Cumbria