She held the stone close to her chest in a hospital bed and it stayed warm for a long time after she died. Dad said it was the radiator keeping it warm but mum thought it was something more mystical, like her soul had passed into that stone. We buried the stone with her body.
I was looking through the Wellcome Collection and I came across an object formed of cowrie shells, the container was believed by the Yoruba people of Nigeria to be a visible symbol of a spirit double. In relation to the quote above that touches upon my mothers belief that the heat or soul of my grandmothers body was transferred into a stone, I am interested in exploring further this role of the spirit double through the act of doubling or separating from one’s image through an object, persona or sound. This act of separation can be seen in the form of objects such as the votive offerings currently on display, the shaman or the adoption of an animal persona. The role of ritual, sound, the offering and the animal persona seems in many cases to be used as an alibi for processing grief, death, sickness and healing.
Work in progress. A series of interventions in the landscape in the form of a bird.
NOTES: The Wellcome Collection has a book titled ‘The Evolution of Bird Song’. In here Charles A. Whitchell writes a number of chapters on how birds mimic environmental sounds. One example he gives is of a starling attempting to imitate the chapel bell with its song and swaying its entire body with the movements of the bell.
The observer is the name given to the birdwatcher. The most important role of the observer is to build an archive of data that catalogues a species increase and decline from year to year. In this respect they are responsible for exposing loss, disappearance and potential extinction and for staying connected to the interdependency of species and habitats that extends beyond country borders.
Poetry has informed these interventions where the animal in the work of Ted Hughes and Alice Oswald is often used as a metaphor for the crisis of our time through its song, melody and flight.
In an essay on Ted Hughes poetry and mythology Andy Armitage writes: 'Hughe’s preoccupation with the neglected inner life is apparent in his early poems through the observation of animals that embody the, often violent, elemental energies of nature. These animals are often contrasted with human observers who are divorced from their instincts and feelings by their philosophical ideals.’
Mimicking, absorbing and adapting based on the environment we are existing in. The balance between different species in an environment leading to a symbiotic relationship that is either mutually supportive or parasitic.
Playing bird song to birds at dawn (extract) work in progress, 16:9 HD projection, dimensions variable, 2019
Bird dance amongst birds at dawn (extract) work in progress, 16:9 HD projection, dimensions variable, 2019
View through a birdwatchers telescope (extract) work in progress, 16:9 HD projection, dimensions variable, 2019
Bird dance amongst birds at dusk (extract) work in progress, 16:9 HD projection, dimensions variable, 2019
The Evolution of Bird-Song. Charles A.Witchell
Bird Observatories: Research
A number of references for text, locations of observatories, lists of species, photographs of observers and attempts to record bird song.
Bird Observatories in Britain and Ireland
More Song of Wild Birds
Alice Oswald, Wood etc
Holly Corfield Carr, Subsong.
Alice Oswald, Falling Awake
The Language of Birds, British Library online
The mimics among us, birds pirate songs for personal profit. Online The Conversation
Two hands touching
Clay cast of two hands touching. Black & white fibre-based print.