Wednesday, 2 November 2011

'Contours' - The Weekend: Illuminating York 2011

As part of the event, over the final two days, I set up a spot in the information tent where I showed some of the instruments I used for the piece, as well as my research work and the numerous scripts in Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, English and Icelandic. I was also able to show images of the original texts of the Poetic Edda and Beowulf.
As part of the these conversations, certain questions came up regularly. The first one was where the idea came from for 'Contours' originally. As well as showing the original site, I was able to explain how I had decided to adapt it for the Dean's Park and why.

Night In The Dean's Park

Those of you who have read my notes before will notice that the piece originally was in a field and had a strong relationship with the rural landscape there. For the Dean's Park, I felt it was more appropriate to work within a circle of light, where people could enter the circle and essentially walk into a sound world which was filled with sounds known to the Viking and Saxon population, the shapes of music and words.
The circle made it clear where to stand and that you could enter and exit this world.

Late Evening: Friday Night

Most importantly, I wanted to embrace the idea of oral tradition. This poetry is powerful and very vivid in its imagery. It was a conscious decision to have the words be the strongest element, that translation into English was part of the piece and that visuals should contribute atmosphere but not dominate. For some people, this was a very new experience. We are now a very visual society, we expect our information to come via visual form. This was not always the case. Hearing was the sense that alerted us to what we could not see when lighting was poor or non-existent. For some people in certain parts of the world that is still the case. I was aware that the power of storytelling for earlier communities really relied on our ability to listen and to allow the words to paint pictures inside our heads. I wanted to combine this early style of storytelling and entertainment with technology to surround us with those words and music, to help those pictures form without dictating what those pictures are.

I knew this would make the piece challenging and very different. I was pleased then to see how many people contacted me who found it moving and entirely new and exciting to experience.

First Playback: Friday Night - 400 people present

I'm very grateful to the Illuminating York Festival for seeing how this piece illuminated York's history by combining modern technology with older techniques of storytelling and inviting myself to the Festival to restage the installation by the Minster.