More progress in my work on Retreat, a piece for Unravelling Time, a group showing inspired by the 12th Century Abbey at Sutton Courtenay, it’s history and environs – running from 20th September to 3rd October.
Yesterday I visited the grave of George Orwell at the church of All Soul’s in Sutton Courtenay. In one fell swoop Gladys and the tea trolly fell by the wayside and a new idea was born. This is very often the way with research based work. You follow a lead, connections are made, you feel your way towards a resolution of your piece and suddenly new information emerges, which changes everything. Sigh…
But Gladys is still with me – the tea trolly is currently nestling in the rafters at the studio – she’s not going anywhere being somewhat of a permanent fixture. It’s just that she’s not coming to the grave. Sorry Gladys it’s just not happening. For one thing the trolly would never survive the journey – I see wheels jarring on the pathway down to George’s graveside and contents flying!
I’m also certain that Gladys, nor I, should impose ourselves on the quiet scene that is George Orwell’s final resting place. But aside from the need for dignity there’s just no call for it. Primary research – actually being there (if there is a physical site to visit) is the most important aspect of research based work. No amount of book work can take you there, where the information of the senses and of intuition is so very immediate.
The story for my online piece is absolutely contained at the gravesite – no question. Perhaps this is unusual – but then the history we’re working with is exceptional. Highly charged, contested still and mired in politics to this day. I doubt, however that I shall often be so gifted with such visual metaphor as I encountered there.
And so my piece is irrevocably changed, and less is so much more. A truism to be applied almost without exception in this otherwise unpredictable process of finalising a long research piece.
SO now I have my online work complete – yes it really did make itself in the presence of George, aka Eric Arthur Blair. My job now is to SIT on it and not let the cat out of the bag before the 20th September! Hard for one addicted to the instant sharing we have access to in our online forums. Zip it Boué I say to myself as I watch my own creation, checking for flaws and re-edits. I find many flaws – but they are integral and it’s the spontaneity and visual purity of the experience that count for everything. Who could have known?
I must also work up my ideas for the PV. This will require a pop-up assemblage piece or performance. Hmm…some time spent online at Moo.com yesterday set the ball rolling. It’s just a question of allowing the pieces to fall into place – oh and again less will be more. The tendency to over-complexify is endless.
Equally, while my online work for Retreat appeared as a gift at the graveside, the two years spent researching my subject (the Spanish Civil War) no doubt helped speed me on my way. Layer upon layer of meaning and resonance are contained within (if you know the period – though some references are highly individual to my own family history).
I’m now excited for the opening and can’t wait to see what the other contributors have been getting up to. Roll on Unravelling Time!
NB I did just make up a word. Over-complexify expresses perfectly what I want to say and I can find no better substitute.