SEEKING SOMETHING

Preseli Hills, Wales, 2003. Residency, Crywdro/Wander, produced by Welsh artists’ collective “ointment”. www.ointment.org/crywdro


Photo series reflects personal encounters with particular stones and trees during daily walks in the Preseli Hills. Photos: Tedi Tafel

 

For two weeks, we walked everyday: sometimes alone, sometimes with one or two others, and occasionally all nine of us together. I walked regularly with the Welsh women artists, curious about their relationship to place. As in previous art/nature expeditions in other countries, I walked the land dressed in a particular way: simple dark clothing—a long dark skirt, black coat and headscarf—an invitation to an intimate narrative between myself and the land.

Wearing specific garments for my daily walks stems from my impulse to create a shifting boundary between inner and outer environment. It is a way of marking the passage from one world (the daily) to another (the imaginal). The plain non-descript dark clothing allows me to feel a degree of cultural anonymity, a perception which inspires me to feel symbolically allied with women walking the land elsewhere in the world.

During this project I was keenly aware of my ancestral roots. (I was born in England, immigrated to Quebec at age seven, and have family in Wales and Scotland.) I felt deeply connected to the historical and spiritual elements of place, particularly to the standing stones and the ancient oak forests. In places where I felt especially moved, especially touched and provoked, I asked to be photographed, either standing very still and very grounded, or all the opposite, running as fast as I could, as if passing through a dream about the ancient past. In each place, I knew I was searching for something, but couldn’t, and still can’t, articulate exactly what. I know it has something to do with lost roots and lost rituals—perhaps a shared dilemma of our times.

Some extracts from my daily journal…

Ty Canol Woods

...this ancient oak forest feels deeply familiar… if I am attentive enough, the gesturing trees might reveal something…something personal perhaps, about my roots…or something larger, to do with a life story about this land and a people…or something secret, to do with rites and ritual…whatever it is, there is something mythic and moving here, where land and imagination and memory interweave … sometimes I run…sometimes I stand very still…either way I feel a presence…no bears or wolves or moose here…no call of the wild as I know it…but all around me the restless oaks gesture jagged branches into sky and earth…long thick roots intertwine around stones underneath a mossy green oneness…yes Mr Thomas, here I feel the force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age blasts the roots of trees…

Waun Mawn

...walking the Preseli Hills, I collect sheep bones and stones with shapes that remind me of something…what to take, what to leave…Ben said that this landscape in Pembrokeshire is well-kept… I think of the forests in Quebec, how easy it is to lose oneself in their denseness and diversity…step by step we cross the rolling hills and wade through the bogs for hours on end…here one can see far…I am seduced by the energy of the standing stones…one day a low-flying military plane suddenly tears the sky open …tv images of bombed out buildings in Baghdad surface…it’s hard to believe this is a country at war…who said this was a process of making peace with the land…

Owen

...my body is changing… soles of feet hardening…chest widening… thighs strengthening…arms lengthening…pelvis opening…hearing awakening…back straightening…land moving into body…body moving over land