Over the summer I brought my research to Newcastle for a residency at Baltic and the Newbridge Project. There, I ran the first 'anarcheology' workshop with ladies from SHE community choir. We went to Lordenshaw in Northumberland National Park where there is the largest collection of prehistoric rock art in the UK.
These collaborative workshops use song, storytelling, mythmaking, movement and improvisation to empower voices and bodies which have been historically marginalized. Recent studies show that singing together can synchronize your heartbeats and breathing patterns, promoting collective awareness, group cohesion and general wellbeing.
The aims of these workshops are to forge new paths that relinquish the damaging dogma of a hegemonically and patriarchally managed past, in order to open up alternative and marginal narratives which are not confined by disciplinary structures or epistemic conventions.
We started the day warming up ourselves and the site with responsive exercises in movement and voice. We then worked towards combining these as a group, building up a soundscape in response to the architecture of the space, the ancient stone carvings and surrounding landscape.
Once everybody felt comfortable with the space and others in the group, we worked on an improvised sound piece in response to a large prehistoric carved channel. Passing sound up and down the channel as a group, we collectively flowed through states of laughter, harmony and wailing that stirred something in everyone present, it was a really powerful and immersive experience.
After lunch we did a myth-making exercise where the women were asked to write a short story about the rock art, we then had a group storytelling session where we all shared our myths. We then wrote down the words and phrases that resonated with us most as a group, and built some harmonies around these, finishing with a performance of this.
Many of the women had never done anything like this before, and one participant in her late 60s remarked that at her age she didn’t expect to be given the opportunity to try something this experimental- she found it really empowering. I’ve been filming and recording sound from the session, and this will from part of an ongoing film work.
Below is an image of the carved channel from between 5000 and 3000 BC. These stones are totally wrapped within the landscape and hard to find without an OS map and co-ordinates, they demanded close interpretation of the geology and topography of the Northumberland landscape. There are many other motifs carved on the rock; natural erosion has been exaggerated and incorporated into abstract designs such as spirals, dips, rings and lines. Many of the theories surrounding these symbols have been associated with women gathering and early Bronze Age Goddess worship.
Since the workshops, i've been collaborating with one of the participants Alys North, who is a dancer. Together we have been researching concepts of embodied knowledge(s) and feminism. I came across an interesting article by Karen Barbour around feminism, phenomenology and embodied ways of knowing https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267410885_Embodied_ways_of_knowing. This really resonates with the themes running through this project, especially ideas around movement and intuition as alternative epistemological strategies.
Above is a still of the video i'm making for the project. I filmed Alys on one of the prehistoric rock sites, performing an intensive 6 hour session of movement. Overlaying this footage is a disc i've designed from mapping her choreography; the marks on the stones and astrological symbols from my birth chart. These designs are being lasercut into 6 perspex discs which Alys will activate during a performance in the gallery space. Im interested in the performance functioning as a re-enactment of the prehistoric sites in Northumberland, and what happens when this ancient space is evoked in an urban 'contemporary' landscape and synthetic materials (perspex) are introduced into the historical imaginary.