Lament interweaves site-specific found objects, animation, poetry and music to explore a personal narrative of loss, longing and belonging in the Welsh borderlands.
“My earliest memories involve looking west across the border toward the Welsh hills and constructing an imaginary geography. Now I am able to look eastwards and examine this childhood landscape from a new perspective and in doing so re-evaluate my place within it.”
Animation and macro photography is used to examine found objects (eg lichen, flora, animal remains etc) while cinematic compositing techniques visually reintroduce these objects back into the wider landscape and thereby re- contextualise them.
“I’m interested in how place and language combine to inform our perception of self and how this affects our wider relationships. ‘Lament’ draws on my own subjective experience of landscape, specifically the Wales/Shropshire border where I grew up. “
Artist Sean Vicary and musician Ceri-Rhys Matthews have collaborated to combine bilingual fragments of spoken word, site-specific recordings and elements of traditional music to achieve a dynamic synergy between sound and image. The oral source material is taken from sections of the 7th Century Welsh poem cycle, Canu Heledd. These poems deal with the fall of the Brythonic Kingdom of Pengwern and this particular lament originates from the border area describing the silence and ruin of Prince Cynddylan’s home after his death.
It was the death of my Father that prompted a return to my childhood home and a re-evaluation of those surroundings…
‘Lament’ is an attempt to represent and navigate this liminal landscape, half remembered upon waking, where dreams, memories and the physical collide.”
Through a composite of oral, visual and technological innovation, Vicary has created a platform for topographical experimentation and improvisation that combines with sensitive autobiographical references.
Further information including essay and interview:
The secret lives of invisible magnetic fields are revealed as chaotic ever-changing geometries . All action takes place around NASA's Space Sciences Laboratories, UC Berkeley, to recordings of space scientists describing their discoveries . Actual VLF audio recordings control the evolution of the fields as they delve into our inaudible surroundings, revealing recurrent ‘whistlers' produced by fleeting electrons . Are we observing a series of scientific experiments, the universe in flux, or a documentary of a fictional world?
The project was commissioned to coincide with the centenary of Alan Turing, who is well known as the cracker of the enigma code and for his groundbreaking work in computing and artificial intelligence. Turing also produced an equally seminal body of work concerned with mathematical biology and pattern formation, specifically morphogenesis and the occurrence of Fibonacci numbers in plant structures. These studies provided the initial direction for the project, and a narrative emerged that I wanted to explore further.
Turing was also an athlete, and after a chance encounter whilst out running he became a regular jogging partner with the young author Alan Garner. Writing in 2011, Garner recalled how Turing obviously ran to think, talking endlessly about mathematics and biology. As they chatted they discovered a shared common experience; both had been traumatised at an early age by the Witch’s transformation scene in Disney’s Snow White. Garner remembers Turing’s obsession with the story, “He used to go over the scene in detail, dwelling on the ambiguity of the apple, red on one side, green on the other, one of which gave death…… We discovered that we had both realized independently that quite often life and death are the same thing, beauty and evil are the same thing.”
In 1952 Turing was found guilty of ‘Gross Indecency’ i.e. homosexual activity, he lost his security clearance and was forced by the state to undergo a years course of hormone ‘treatment’ with synthetic oestrogen. He died two years later from cyanide poisoning, ending his life with a half eaten, possibly poisoned, apple by his bedside.
Garner went on to produce numerous striking works of fiction, rooted in place, myth and language, among them is a modern updating of the Blodeuwedd myth, ‘The Owl Service’.
The original Mabinogion story describes how a bride made of flowers transgresses and is punished through transformation into an owl. In Garner’s work the three protagonists find themselves trapped in a remote Welsh valley and forced to play out roles from the ancient tale.
Central to the plot is a dinner service on which the intricate floral pattern can be seen as either owls or flowers, depending on your viewpoint, the chosen perspective determining destruction or salvation. This duality echoes Turing’s musings on the apple – one half giving life and the other death.
It struck me how reoccurring themes of pattern and transformation seem to wind through the narrative arc of Turing and Garner’s life and work. And in an attempt to make sense of these different ideas I started to combine them in ‘The Nightmare Room.’
I travelled to Llanymawddwy (where the original novel was written and filmed) and gathered materials to work in the studio: audio, photos, video and Meadowsweet from the banks of the river. Inspired by Turings work on phyllotaxis I used a mixture of stop motion and digital animation to breathe life into my found objects. I let shifting patterns evolve, as if mapping out the binding threads that form the narrative fabric of our lives.
The project presented another welcome opportunity for collaboration with Steve Knight, and while I assembled flowers and feathers frame by frame in the studio, Steve experimented with generative sounds driven by the Fibonacci sequence.
These were combined and rearranged with recordings we’d made of musicians Ceri Rhys Matthews, Ceri Jones and Christine Cooper. Then with some clever coding we could use it to ‘drive’ parts of the animated stop-motion movements, directly linking them to values in the audio waveform.
We created a high-contrast monochrome version of the work for maximum impact when projected onto the rough stone façade of the castle.
The project has continued to develop and expand and these ideas will be developed into a new moving image work in 2013