I’ve been planning an event on the Hill for May 1st for sometime, but wanted to try something prior to that.
I’d noticed that the number of ‘things going on’ locally for St Georges Day seems to be increasing every year.This could be an indication of increasing nationalism and reflect thoughts about immigration, identity, EU membership, devolution etc but I’ve interpreted some of it , certainly in this ‘neck of the woods’ , as a way that pubs and community venues can attract customers for a ‘special event’- Another way of getting ‘bums on seats’- although obviously the political background impacts in how and when these events are selected. I noticed close by here in Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK were this Ska and Soul Charity night at a leisure centre, and a poster outside The Horse and Jockey. An interesting cultural fusion in a place where diversity is present but not evident. I was also interested in the relationship between the religious and secular origins of celebration of a patron saint on a Saint’s Day and how the image of the flag has been appropriated over time. Attitudes recently have varied over time , as this article in The Week shows from 2015 and Telegraph 2012.
The event investigates and remediates some of the music and writings associated with representations of the saint, the date, associations with the space of Crouch Hill as it is and as created, locally and globally .
Documenting the ephemeral…again
By this time Katch had stopped working and I still had my iPhone 4S so could only save the broadcasts by screen recording from the Periscope app on my desktop. Again, that ambiguity of desperately trying to save the footage, comments and hearts before the 24hours were up! Documenting the ephemeral. I justify it here as part of the research process, for analysis and assessment.
However, looking back on it is fascinating as it makes me a viewer and of course changes my relationship with the work.
Below is the selection of clips I made for possible inclusion in the Symposium video. There is un- edited footage from screen recordings on YouTube here #adisturbingpreoccupation But I’m afraid I haven’t had chance to organise the playlists…..
I have listed the pieces further on in the text , with rationale for the choices and some brief analysis.
Content and Analysis
For the Broadcasts I used the #adisturbingpreoccupation #Crouch Hill – a reference to a the political/ activist content of the folk/punk songs and texts re-mediated in this publicly -used but privately owned space, the use of the tent and my own as an artist and individual.
The Re-mediated content is excerpts from
- Let England Shake – PJ Harvey 2011 ( lyrics here) This song evokes the spirit of 2010 and past and present conflicts in our collective memory. It serves as a contrast to the stillness and stasis of the visible broadcast image of the countryside from the tent on Crouch Hill and a call for reflection and action. Her words below express something I feel when experiencing the ‘place’ and ‘space’ that is Crouch Hill in its position in the past, present and future global landscape for my ‘locale’.
PJ Harvey:”The record is dealing with a lot of things that are happening in the world right now– conflict, shifts in powhe change in society and in countries’ relations to each other. Although I sing specifically from the point of view of an Englishwoman in England, I hope that I’m addressing feelings that are much more universal. Hopefully, many people can relate to these sorts of feelings– the push and pull that you have with your country, the love and the disappointments. And the nature of conflict is timeless, this cycle of war that has been here since time began and will be here long after we’re gone. It’s something we all live with” pitchfork.com
- Kingdom Come – from Chapter One – The St George’s Cross – JG Ballard 2006 ( reviewed here in the Guardian) The action of reading this excerpt in this location and broadcasting it, links consumerism with mobile technology; the ‘consumption’ of moving image, ‘shared’ experience; and the the hidden ideologies and histories associated with my broadcasting location.
In her introduction to Kingdom Come Deborah Levy states that “it is a ‘sort of fairy tale in which “more primitive world” is “biding its time”‘, where Consumerism is turning into ‘soft’ Fascism.
I included this piece to link St. George, Englishness and the politics of consumerism which exists just outside the frame of the Periscope broadcast…1.5 miles away in the Castle Quay Shopping Centre Banbury. This is built on the site of Banbury Castle, placed under siege in the English Civil War. William Waller apparently camped on Crouch Hill in 1644 during one siege.The poem by Rusher read in my initial Broadcasts refers to that, here .
- England in Ribbons – song by Chris Wood and Hugh Lupton 2006 (ref to R3 Broadcast here) Broadcasting this song comments on and highlights the ambiguity, preconceptions of tradition and hidden beliefs; and the common connections between global mythologies, past and present as well as the performativity and role- playing exisiting in conflict and politics. The clip shows my tent and also in the distance is RAF Croughton, not visible on the broadcast, but also pointed out later by Paul Mobbs, as the geodesic radar domes of the USAF communication station glistened in the sunlight at the end of the day
The song describes a traditional English mummers’ play, ( A folk play performed by traditionally male amateur actors. Two characters engage in combat, a hero, often and in this song, Saint George, and his chief opponent, known as the Turkish Knight in southern England, the loser being revived by a quick ‘Doctor’ who adminsters a ‘magic potion’ ).This references St. George, ritual and custom and so collective memory with ideology and mythology woven into the characters and performances which are still relevant today. According to legend, St George was a Roman soldier who ordered his death for failing to recant his Christian faith and became a Christian martyr. He was brought up in Lydda or Lod in the Middle East Syria.
- I am Albion – 2015 poem by Bob Hill, ‘local’ poet and writer. I heard Bob read this poem some months ago and felt it described and addresses preconceptions of contemporary Englishness.Reading it out-loud animates it, although it is still powerful as ‘page-poetry’. I felt that broadcasting it via Periscope from the Hill, made both a statement and comment to any viewers whether local passers by, in the UK or further afield regarding notions of geography, social space, associated identities, communication and language, both written and spoken.
- Another Imperial Day – New Model Army 2005 ( Lyrics here Apart from the name of the band and its associations with Cromwell and the English Civil War and so a link to the Broadcast location, this particular song, despite being written and recorded a decade ago, still has contemporary resonances,with immigration and migration, world conflict and nationalism and politics. Broadcasting this from a tent as a temporary, vulnerable residence;- a space with no clear inside and outside, not fixed in time, with multiple identities – references the main premises of Doreen Massey’s position regarding space and simulateneity with respect to the Calais and other refugee camps and the social space created and destroyed there. EDIT and no longer mentioned… 12.06.16
- The Book of Common Prayer 1552/1558 version – 5th Sunday in Advent, Collect, Epistle and Gospel ( Link here to a more recent version) The language of the BOCP permeates English culture and it has been used as a means of social and political control since Henry VIII’s rule to today. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian worship throughout England with many revisions over time and throughout the world and past British Empire. It’s use was central in the background to English Civil War and so contemporary ‘Britishness’.
- Looking at headlines from international newspapers (23rd April 2015). By including this action I was attempting to link my previous project at The Reading Room Croughton + (other posts) , my Research Paper, past and present global and UK events with this event…. I’m not sure this worked at all as the connectivity was poor, the image quality too poor to see the text and there was no opportunity to explain to the viewers. This clip is also misleading as the dominant image is one of Kentucky fried Chicken… The edit was rather over literal reference to excessive consumerism and pervading American Culture… but, on reflection, I think it is distracting and easily misread. I could have edited it from the video but that would have given a misleading portrayal of the event….. of course the edits I have chosen are not impartial and not necessarily representative of that happened… highlighting the fact/fiction and self-reflexive ambiguity of any documentation
- Reading from Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1915-1918 –ed. Rupert Hart Davies 1983 [entries for 23rd April] I wanted to re-mediate some autobiographical in addition to collective memories and own this book. Sassoon’s memoirs and diaries have given us eyewitness accounts from the poet’s embodied experiences of WWI as a British soldier, linking the pasts of 1914-18 with 1642-1651. Unusually, I completed this action twice as during the first, even the large dual battery backup for my phone had run out of charge. A colleague Claire, arrived just after and so she Broadcast this from her phone and Periscope account… hence it being viewed more as a ‘performance’. As she had ownership of her broadcast and as a witness, used the camera phone in a way I would not have…resulting in this clip. during the reading, both of us were deeply affected by the action. She was not able to interact with any audience as she was unable to access the ‘chat’.This again emphasised the distance between me as performer, and the viewers, which I felt strongly, unlike the previous broadcasts that day
- Ederlezi – Goran Bregovic 1988 This references the overlay, fluidity and simultaneity of tradition and custom across cultures and time in a symbol of ‘essentially Britishness’. Again this was broadcast by Claire and the viewers see me as ‘performer’ or protagonist, even though my action is slight and relatively passive.There are references through the link with Romany culture to the creation of ephemeral physical spaces of collective continuing social interaction, throughout history.“Ederlezi” is a popular Romany traditional folk song, named from a Spring festival which celebrates the return of spring; Ederlezi is the Romany name for the Feast of Saint George, celebrated on 6 May [ Juian Calendar – 23 April] approximately 40 days after the spring equinox. Turkish Hıdırellez, which also signals the beginning of spring, occurs on the same day.
- Albion – Baby Shambles 2005 was included on the ‘playlist’ for this event as I felt the urban references contrasted with the rural landscape that viewers of the broadcast would see and with the experiences of anyone living in the locality of Crouch Hill, demonstrating the variety of ‘Englands’ that exist; that Place is variable.The song concerns the concept, landscape and life of Albion, a mythical England (or Great Britain). This clip was actually taken as video documentation rather than a live stream as Claires’ connection also failed at this point. Ae the same moment Paul Mobbs ( freelance environmental investigator, activist, Quaker and local historian) and his son arrived unexpectedly on the Hill. I had previously approached him regarding some collaborative action for the project, but had not arranged this meeting and he was not aware of the event ( he does not own a mobile phone!) As Albion played out from the speaker, Paul spontaneously pointed out USAF Upper Heyford, RAF Croughton, Edge Hill and other landmarks are relevant to my research, as well as discussing possible planning permission for residential building encroaching on the hillside. This coincidence was a perfect example of the contingency of working in a public space. With his arrival and departure, as with Claires’ and the other ( very occasional..it was cold day) passers- by the space changed, as it did with each action; broadcast or not.To me this clip is highly affective, especially as it occurs towards the ‘end’ of the event…
- This is England – The Clash 1985 (2010 World Cup version) Again this was video documentation rather than a broadcast but included for ‘completeness’. I wanted to include this song for the ‘punk ‘ relationship with folk tradition and Britishness.Also it references ‘Sheffield steel’ and at the moment Tata steel is in the news. The only version available on iTunes was this one 2010 World Cup edition, with a St George’s flag on the album artwork. I placed the speaker on the Trig point as I wanted to ‘strike camp’ with the soundtrack spreading as far as possible. I felt strangely moved by this process, despite only being there for half a day or so, I feel the documentation has a poignancy to it as well. The space was undergoing yet another change. No one else witnessed this action, apart from Claire.
To document- or not document?
These broadcasts wer not automatically on Katch so I made the decision to screen record after, as mentioned earlier, the documentation then exists and is edited into another piece of work, the video. I have done this consciously and edited according to the conceit of the work.I am still struggling with how this changes the action, if it does, but fell I ned to look at what I have done at this stage for analysis as well as assessment. I was surprised by how deeply affected I was watching the footage, and differently from during the action…
I had problems with connectivity, both for the broadcast and also of the music.
I’d made downloaded several tracks from various sources onto another phone and Bluetooth- ed them across so that the soundtrack is embedded in the landscape and is the action in many cases. Just me, in the tent and the music…. and viewers
I had difficulties seeing the screen on my phone whilst broadcasting, sometimes using a tripod or phone holder, which meant
- I couldn’t see the comments to read them and respond to them because the tripod was in the way
- Often they were unreadable because of glare even though the sun wasn’t shining.
- I was reading from text so couldn’t reply to viewers comments
- The connection was poor and this affected stream quality in some cases and viewer retention
- This was a more performative action than previously, less interactive by intention, though I did try to explain the relevance of each piece before the broadcast.
- Despite a large dual battery backup pack for the phone and the bluetooth speaker I ran out of charge
- Before the end of the event, colleague, Claire’s phone lost connectivity… so not way of broadcasting….. still that was only part of the action, after all…
- EDIT : I didn’t screen record the comments or hearts as I forgot that these are only accessible when using Chrome as the browser for the Periscope app and at this stage I couldn’t screen record from my phone.I suspect because I wasn’t able to respond the comments would be minimal… but a shame never the less..A bit of a paradox…temporally speaking……
Each piece was broadcast separately but with the same hashtag #Crouch Hill #adisturbingpreoccupation which, along with the title was long and caused some issues when having to re-start the broadcast when the connection went.
The title references the ‘loading’ and associations/ intentions/ perceptions relating to the use of a tent pitched in an undesignated location, my artistic and academic pre-occupation with Crouch Hill and my temporary intermittent ‘ownership’ of the space, which seemed pertinent to this event on this day in 2016 and the global network space in which it existed. Associations I am aware of are listed below…
- Traditional ‘family’ rural camping holidays often at Bank Holidays associated with religious festivals
- Refugee camps and migrating peoples
- Nomadic cultures, homelessness and transience
- The Occupy movement
- Military associations
- Environmental and other activist groups
- Music festivals
- Camp outs -small(ish) gatherings with music and alcohol +, a phenomenon of ‘teen culture’ locally particularly on Crouch Hill in the warmer weather.
- Scout, Guide and Woodcraft-type Youth camps