“Once in a life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape … to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine he touches it with his hands at every season … to recollect all the colours of the dawn and dusk” N.Scott Momaday The Way to Rainy Mountain
In April 2018 I was given the exciting news that I had been selected to be the Artist in Residence at Halsway Manor as part of Somerset Art Work’s ‘Landscape of Objects Project’ – I am beyond honoured. As the National Centre for Folk Arts Halsway is a 15thCentury Manor rich with history and tradition embedded in a landscape overflowing with folklore and tradition.
As an artist I would describe myself as a storyteller, or more accurately I collect stories that are endangered, on the verge of being archived or forgotten and along side them the people who spoke those words. Words which were valued enough to pass on to others creating stories that would be remembered long after the storytellers had been forgotten.
I have a theory – I believe that folk stories are fluid, changing over time. Sometimes they merge with other stories or events. They may be romanticised, made humorous or changed beyond recognition, depending upon the skills of the storyteller. They entertain, contain warnings or provide moral guidance. They may take you on a journey over hundreds of years or a couple of weeks. Human beings essentially rely upon storytelling for social engagement, whether it is a story from childhood or from an hour ago.
The problem is that traditionally folklore is passed on through word of mouth, a chain of people spanning the ages passing stories from one to another. Through this oral tradition we join together to learn more about the places we live in and the people who lived there. But society is changing; we have become nomadic, living in several places instead of one, often too busy to get to know our neighbours. Combine that with changes to social interaction in a digital age, where most of our conversations are cut down to a few lines on social media, you can see how it is easy for tradition to be bypassed. Especially as most of societies older generation are not usually to be found tweeting folktales to teenagers!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to change, I use technology in my work and I think plays an essential role often starting new conversations with previously unreachable audiences. I just feel that as society moves on we need to remember to look back and help some of those who cannot move with us. I want to reveal a new dimension of the landscape, a landscape that shows not only the paths, trees and rocks but also the history, the people who lived there and the people who told stories there. Essentially I need to rediscover the stories and start new chains of conversation and I am hoping you will join in by liking and sharing them on social media.