Clay came about from work developing a project called The Rainbow Tribe.
The Rainbow Tribe is a set, a scene, located in a space interrupted by borders.
The Rainbow Tribe consciously interrogates enclosures without risk of damage. Writing The
Rainbow Tribe offers a reimagining of a real life fiction projected on and from the career and
life of Josephine Baker. But the protagonist, masking gender neutrality, requires plurality and
rejects characterisation. A methodology formed / information by examining wide uses of
The landscape Clay is shot in skirts the home I have lived in all my life. Prior to filming, I
made sketches detailing an idea called Mud Pies. These loose sketches described the
landscape and a digging taking place in it – balls of mud feature prominently in these
sketches. When we came to film we made a list of the sites I was eager to visit. I had
imagined digging with my hands, as I had done as a child, to find clay to model with,
forgetting that I mostly came across the clay at the duck ponds, carved out of this earth to
create false temporary homes. I had walked Andrew and Caitlin Webb Ellis to a site where
I’d intended to create a version of the performance Go Spin You Jade. Go Spin You Jade,
incidentally, is an old slogan, quoted in the Southern States during the American Civil War
against Women abolitionists in the North. When we arrived at the site this giant playground
for mud-pie making was there, ready for the action I proceeded to make. The hole in the
ground will have been made to divert water pipes as a narrow tunnel stretched from this area
to the right of the frame towards the stream where I later washed myself.
Clay, as understood by Alan in his wonderful article, is about humans gouging the earth,
humans being gouged from the earth, about rebuilding and the vulnerability we face in
attempting to do this in isolation.
“Reproduction and death condition the immortal renewal of life: they condition the instant
which is always new. That is why we can have a tragic view of the enchantment of life, but
that is also why tragedy is the symbol of enchantment. The entire Romantic Movement may
have heralded this, but that late masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, heralds it most humanely.”
Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil
“Perhaps this year the two of us can go off to Scarborough?’ suggested Monica “Or maybe
somewhere else, just for the day.”
“Really? You’d come with me to Scarborough?” Caryl Phillips, The Lost Child
“Nay-ay! Ya muh goa back whear yah coom fraugh” Wuthering Heights
St. Mary’s car park graveyard: the site of Anne Bronte’s grave and the symbolic locus of
ideas endeavouring to trace personal and collective histories.
Burial: digging deep into the ground; cover; cyclical; embodied by the womb.
“’I wish I could hold you’, she continued bitterly, ‘till we were both dead!”
PEAT BOG, made with filmmakers Webb-Ellis, is an attempt to combine an understanding of
a nurturing landscape with the terrain recalled in Wuthering Heights.
The vignette details performance.
The performance is an act of remembrance generated by the landscape and inherently,
passively by personal histories.
Heathcliff, representative of the dispossessed, and I are aliens dropped into this ancient
landscape. Appearances suggest we were not meant to be here. Alienation is magnified by a
landscape scarred by borders, raised inscriptions of territorial ownership.
The body can become heavy, sluggish, de-stablised, this is reinforced by isolation. The territory is bleak, remote, unforgiving, unhearing, without union or unity with other bodies.
The separations between Heathcliff and Catherine are all the more awesome through the
breathtaking union between their souls. Cementing their union is the landscape.
Heathcliff and I fall under a net of un belonging although fully of this landscape. This is in part
to do with belonging as humanity, as a universal citizen of the world.
I have spent all my life in Highdales, 2 miles off the beaten track from a village called
Hackness, 9 miles West of Scarborough town: in a house with generated electricity, it’s own
spring, gas lights, not a neighbour in sight. I came to live here through my mother’s marriage
to a local solicitor and country farmer whose family had bought the land without knowing the
properties on it even existed. The land was used by him and his brother, an international
arms-dealer as a playground and the land is still used as a shoot. Following divorce, my
mother retained the house and maintains it as her home. It is an island amidst territory.
The landscape, well trod and listened to, is ancient and demands a giving way to instinct and
surrender to its pulse. Connections made issue as do through observational drawing
demanding not recording what I think I know but what can be seen. Evidence stems from
archives: oral; art historical; secular and non-secular traditions and events; land ownership.
The deepest peat-bog deposits worked on in the vicinity were Peat Bog Moor on the
Hackness Estate near the Falcon Inn off the Scarborough to Whitby Road. Here all the
tenants of the estate had right of turbary. At the present day the bog, situated in the midst of
trees planted by the Forestry Commission, is not as deep as it was and is confined to one
The performance details choreographed trammeling of this landscape.
A drone follows.
Stamping out with the threat of force from above.
Peat bogs, the UK’s rain forests: the material of preservation, warmth and growth, the past
layered in its mass and beginnings visible on its surface.
Sovereignty of the soil. Survival. Peat bogs are endangered, the irony being that they are
pillaged for gardeners. The conflict between the force of nature and the control of nature.
96% of peat lands have been destroyed in this century.
Conservation. Preservation. Education and the reformulation of ideas.
Peat bogs have been forming for 10,000 years.
Life-support. Walking, running, jumping until we’re on the verge of collapse.
“…their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We
can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police
brutality.” Martin Luther King Jnr
Beginning continues and unchartered territory will see collaboration with Webb-Ellis applying
these initial steps to developing this project in Wales: locating Wales as Britain’s first colony.
Filming on the Pembrokeshire coast, where my grandmother’s family herald, the idea is to
accentuate the elemental through communion, memory and historical references, excavating
buried narratives: a coracle workshop will be initiated with the aim of creating a float of
pyres. This will be the second iteration of four, of this project now entitled Chronicle and will
trace histories and weave narratives from as yet unknown sites of ancestral belonging:
Scarborough, Wales, Ireland, and Montserrat.
The questions are geo and bio – political, of universality.
The challenge is to pass the caring on. Articulating a different kind of usefulness might be.
What is the true purpose of our illimitable nature? New and revised systems.
The communion I speak of are performances enacted through surrender to the unknown or
unfathomable. This allows for rituals to take place, for celebration, for grief, lamentation,
desperation and belonging with the dead.
“…the state of emergency is always a state of emergence.” Homi K. Bhabha, Foreward to
the `1986 edition of Black Skin White Masks
Clay, Stills from performance to camera made with Webb-Ellis 2015