Issue 222
July/August 2022


The Artwork Logo



Aug 15, 2022

See pdf for current issue (below):
ArtWork Newspaper Issue 220
July/August 2022 (7.98MB)

Download a free Adobe PDF Reader to view pdf files.
Please click here for "back numbers"

ArtWORK


Send us details of an event for listing on the ArtWork Guide here


Endless: Chloë Smith's sea mission

IT'S A GLORIOUS midsummer's day, solstice eve, and I'm talking about grief with interdisciplinary artist, dancer and all-year sea swimmer Chloë Smith.

Picnicking in a beautiful wood, the sound of chiff-chaffs filling the air, we're keeping well away from selective weedkillers being sprayed on crops in nearby fields.

These are careless times, characterised by a callous indifference to the quality of both life and death. There's a reluctance to recognise their interdependence, that a good death qualifies a good life, and vice versa. But indifference, carelessness and denial aren't really good enough, are they?

Seven years ago Chloë lost her younger brother. At the time she was showcasing a new performance piece, "Tidal", on Spittal beach. She's not alone in experiencing the pain and distress of sudden, unexpected loss, but her brave generosity of spirit in facing, accepting and sharing is something else.

'This Endless Sea', her current moving image, sound and installation work, explores the relationship between grief, the body and the sea. It'll be next to the beach beside Berwick pier from August 7 until September 11, Wednesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm.

This will be the last in her series about grief. The first, 'Disperse', took place in a park in Ipswich, as part of the Spill Festival, in 2016.

She was surprised at the quality and quantity of engagement and reaction, and the anger that people shared with her, the sense of injustice. Meeting fellow artist Ellie Harrison and her insightful 'Grief Series' along the way was important – a kindred spirit recognising an emotion that is so easily brushed under the carpet, or, worse commodified and glamourised, when the reality is so different and individual.

Next came 'Holding it Together', devised in 2018 and performed in 2019, in Platform, Glasgow. A duet with Jassy Earl and a mass of bubble-wrap, performed for an audience of twenty, with tea, cake, and support on hand for those who want to share.

Chloë, highlighting the links between life, loss, and the otherness of the sea, recognised how it can embrace, comfort and enliven the spirit. Cold water swimming became an important part of her life; numbing, invigorating, but also confidence boosting.

An icy dip on a cold winter's day sets you up for pretty much anything! It gave her the impetus to deal with three new challenges – navigating the vagaries of Arts Council England's grant application process, managing a complex delivery team, and then the pandemic!

Putting it together was a massive act of faith and trust, meeting and engaging her team on line via Zoom and hoping they, and it, would gel.

Choreography-savvy film-maker Lucy Cash. Composer Kim Moore. Designer Bethany Wells. Mentor Ellie Harrison. Hut-builder Matt Skyes-Hooban. Producer Charlotte Mountford.

It took two attempts to become one of few solo artists applying in their own right to receive a major project grant. No guarantee of success, so everyone hanging in there for months, waiting, fingers crossed! Individual artists don't usually get close to such large grants. It's unusual to even think of applying if you're not a company.

The application document is over 100 pages long, and took months to put together, so not for the faint-hearted. The project is definitely facing realities in an immersive, accessible and engaging way; that must have helped swing it.

Not the artificiality of cinema, or gallery. Rather that liminal space between land and sea, past and future, in sun, wind, rain, the sound of breakers nearby.

It has always been important to Chloë to show that grief is OK, normal, essential actually. And complex. So 'This Endless Sea' is layered, revealing depths that reflect the passing of time. Created for a wooden hut on a beach, it's a safe space, but it still requires an act of will to enter.

Only two at a time, and friends or family, not strangers, to hold a hand, accept anxiety, love vulnerability. There are six screens, in a gentle curve, projecting six films, the passing of time. The sequence is on a fifteen minute loop, so you can enter and exit anywhere, anytime.

It's gently reflective, moving, poetic, but not shocking. Even so, there are always two guides on hand, for sharing, support, or more information.

Chloë's inspiring, thoughtful, gentle work enables people to reach out, draw in, and connect – to themselves, to each other, to body, space, place, past and present. Family, friends, acquaintances, the natural world, or the planet – come loss, plague, war or climate change, we're all in this together!

Next stop? A UK tour in 2023 no less, hut, screens and all flat packed into a van.

Chloë Smith: https://Chloë smith.net/
Ellie Harrison: The Grief Series: www.griefseries.co.uk/

NICK JONES





THE NEW SCOTLAND STATIONS

New Scotland Stations
Click here for full details