Magnetic North Blog
In January 2020 I took part in Magnetic North’s Rough Mix Residency, where I was given the opportunity to collaborate with artists from varying practices on a new work. The other artists were Flavia Hevia, Uther Dean, Gavin Glover, Greg Sinclair, Kol Sigfúsdóttir, Rachel Drazek, Apphia Campbell, Claire Willoughby, Elspeth Turner, Marion Geoffray, Nicholas Alban and Sean Hay.
Leading up to the residency, I was really unsure about what I wanted to explore, with different projects tumbling around in my mind, I felt a real pressure to pick the ‘right’ one, and to come out of the residency with a really solid WIP. I was also a little unsure of how to use the main resource available to us: six performers, especially as I was still unclear about what form I wanted to explore.
In June 2019, as part of my artist attachment, I was invited to a take part in a three day residency at the Bamff Estate in Perthshire. The focus of the residency was to explore the dynamics between the family of beavers, which had been reintroduced on the estate, the land and us.
Laura Bissell has written up an excellent summary of the residency, which you can read here.
This residency provided a rare opportunity for me to experience a landscape shaped by beavers over a number of days and at different times of day. What at first looked like a really unwieldy landscape was quickly put into context as the work of beavers. This immediately challenged my preconceptions of what a landscape with a keystone species would look like. It looked chaotic. beavers are conspicuous.
What also became apparent, was that despite their relative shyness, they had set up a dynamic in the landscape that both maintained their privacy and security, but also enabled us intruders to watch them. This, I observed was not unlike the performer / audience dynamic, except instead of your two metre clearance, was a pond, and the pros arch and cyc. was a massive Rhododendron.
This was of huge interest to me. This is a dynamic I understand. This is performative.
In response to this, along with colleagues, we filmed ourselves building a dam and ended up showing the film in the main house in Bamff. But rather than just watch the film, the rest of our colleagues had to stand at a distance from the ipad on which we were sharing the film, and view it through binoculars. So it became less about the film, but the act of observing on terms that were not our own. The frustration at not being able to see properly through binoculars, at not being allowed any closer, at the image being an imperfect composition, at not having the usual performer / audience contract honoured.
Another example of us (me) imposing something inherently anthropocentric on another species.
Prior to my artist attachment with Magnetic North I simply identified as a Scottish theatre maker. I’m six months in and I’m finding this is starting to shift.
The purpose of my attachment was to integrate my recently completed MSc in Sustainable Rural Development into my arts practice. One way I identified of doing this was to focus on the divisive issue of rewilding in Scotland. This line of inquiry has lead me to discover a new network of artists, researchers and scientists, as well as reconnect with old colleagues and friends. It’s taken me to numerous rewilding projects across Scotland, to festivals, conferences, talks in community spaces and various SSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest). Its given me an insight into the conversations that are being had in the arts sector, and beyond, about rewilding, climate change, land management and land reform.