A PECULIAR SHADE OF BLUE
A FILMIC STUDY ON THE NATURE OF GRIEF
THE STANZAS + PROGRESS
A PECULIAR SHADE OF BLUE set out on a year’s cycle of research and development in February 2021 to create the foundation for a sequence of 6 short films (stanzas) to chart a spacious and rhythmic journey through the nature of grief in our times.
An important part of the creative process follows an unfolding journey through the mirror the earth provides in real time. While ideas seed each stanza, once work begins, the trajectory often takes the work into unexpected corners. Each stanza expresses a distinct 'world' within the journey of grief.
Here follows a breakdown of each stanza's progress.
Go to the side menu to jump between.
HOLLOW reached draft stage within for this cycle of R+D in March 2021.
While Spiderflower works with earth-engaged performance research, HOLLOW is the only stanza set within an entirely human-made environment specifically devoid of any natural connection.
Stanza 1 explores the top layer of how we, as a western culture, largely present and deal with grief. Which is, for the most part, to pack it away and limit expression.
Dedicate to where we are disconnect and grief is actively suppressed, HOLLOW journeys into that state of being where tensions polarise, shifting between internalised sorrow and the veneer of held expression.
HOLLOW is - as all stanzas are - complex and holds many layers. The piece reflects on how isolation and separation impact us. It looks to the issue of disconnection, and how this in turn effects our experience and behaviour as human beings through the journey of grief. How, over time, the disconnect environment contributes further to that state of separation and goes on to create an ever depleting spiral.
I wanted the set for HOLLOW to reflect a combination of confinement and stagnation, and found my way to work in an alley way. The creative process was gruelling, yet rewarding - hours in isolation without sunlight led to that strange, 'unreal' space that can come with repressed grief finding its way into the piece, allowing us to explore how reality can warp within our emotional and mental state.
THRESHOLD ran from April 1st and completed as draft in late June 2021.
THRESHOLD explores the twilight zone within grief where we experience the presence of a loved one after loss, where they are felt - but cannot be seen.
Stanza 2 explores the nature of the threshold (the meeting place between worlds or realities), our relationship with it and how it exists within different time frames (eternal or momentary).
Venturing into THRESHOLD, I found myself frequently 'lost' and 'wandering'. Emerging from the repressive space of HOLLOW, searching and disorientation played a big part in the real time reflection received.
Now in dialogue with the natural world, the expanse of open space at Loe Bar, Penrose saw THRESHOLD explore edges and moments of transition, as the passage of grief makes its way through a certain 'no-mans-land' in relation to those we have lost and long for.
After HOLLOW, it was huge relief to be on the land, yet wild weather conditions over April and May 2021 delivered some perishing temperatures and extremely high winds making THRESHOLD a tough journey. Nevertheless, the mirrors the natural world delivered put pace to the work to bring a unique atmosphere and language to the film.
SNOT began July 1st, and reached first draft by late September 2021.
SNOT journeys through and beyond the THRESHOLD, into the realm of grief that remains hidden and unexpressed. Stanza 3 specifically explores the unacceptable, grotesque face of sorrow and is anchored in exploring the unknown.
Throughout the project, each stanza marks a moment in the journey of grief that has a clear sign post rooted in the body - be it sensate or biological. As a movement practitioner, my intent is to explore how grief expresses through the physical - rather than through 'idea' or 'analysis'.
For SNOT, I needed place my trust in the momentum of bodily fluids, and how, in grief's journey, if I am to follow beyond the point where its expression is usually shut down, I can continue to chart its natural momentum along a course into the unknown.
When we move through HOLLOW and THRESHOLD into actively grieving, the body will, when we cry, produce snot. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. SNOT is obvious and is universal. Something we all do - but rarely discuss. Fascinating as it is gross - the subject matter evokes a fairly wide spectrum of reaction - from shock and disgust to humour - a kind of morose curiosity tends to follow whatever the case and people are, on the whole, enraptured.
Outlawed on a social level - snot serves an important purpose in the most immediate sense as when we are snotty, we clear our physical system, plus the substance protects us biologically.
On looking into the dynamics of creation, SNOT as a form of plasma has a vital role to play within the creation cycle as a substance important to life in its formative stages. Dig a little deeper, and you will also find it has an established place in creation myths where it too is honoured as a life-giver, and essential for renewal.
So, it's extremely relevant to open this out as snot is dynamic within the realms of grief. The question; 'what happens within grief when allowed to follow the course it wants and needs to?' leads the way.
SNOT as a stanza pierces the membrane of what we know to dive into the unseen. Raw and honest, the journey took an unexpected turn and was drawn into new terrain to work in a system of truly ancient caves (reflecting back the matter that grief as an emotion is ancient indeed).
Stepping into SNOT, has been revelatory. The magic of the filming process really came to the fore, resulting in incredibly interesting cinematography where the eye of the camera began to deliver entirely different perspectives to what my human self perceived at the time of shooting.
Unexpected nuances within the expression of grief at this depth delivered a storyline that intertwined grief, death, birth, pain yet euphoria - then took a nose dive both back and forward in time, with particular reference to our relationship with the future, the children to come - and our home, this earth.
With the greatest thanks to the NATIONAL TRUST for their ongoing support.
with R+D taking place between August and October 2021.
SALT was originally intended to work as stanza 4, but as exploration evolved, the expression of salt polarised between SEA SALT (salt in its dissolute state) and ROCK SALT (salt in its crystalline state). Each presented a very different choreography, rolling from the softness of the underwater worlds of SEA SALT, through to the harsh reflections of bone, dry death found in ROCK SALT.
Stanza 4 works with SEA SALT - so has been re-titled SEA.
Stanza 5 works with ROCK SALT - so retains the title of SALT.
SEA has been filmed almost entirely underwater. The incredible weightlessness and freedom of this terrain brings a certain timelessness, where all movement is in slow-time and supported by the element - so in terms of deep time, water acts as a magnifying glass where every gesture and emotion behind it is able to expand and to travel.
Through R+D, I kept returning to the importance of ambience and abstract expression as opposed to literalism. Inside research, many elements collide at the same time. Sustained dialogue between body, landscape and the journey into grief - unfold story. SEA immerses us, a primal and essential water-world draws the qualities of tenderness and vulnerability to reveal fascinating windows into how grief's language weaves through past, present and future - ultimately delivering us into a story of birth. . . and is perhaps a great clue to understanding the deeper nature of grief.
to make the most of good weather, and ran through until October.
Sitting as stanza 5, SALT has to be the most labour intensive out of all films. My ultimate focus was to inhabit the element of salt as deeply as I possibly could, and remain in dialogue for sustained periods of time.
I chose to immerse in the actual substance of salt. Which meant bags of it. Costume took several months of preparation, where I embalmed fabric with saturated salt solution on a daily basis. It's heavy. So with the trek to Loe Bar, donning this and then working with that same level of saturation for hair and make-up. . . . takes a long time. But, we are working with deep time, so in that respect - is only a blink of an eye.
This being said, Spiderflower's approach comes with 'usual and constant challenges', which I have to navigate every time I go out onto the land. So. The weather is always one. Ordinarily, I work with what is, and roll with the changes (in Cornwall weather will spin on a sixpence) - for SALT, I needed hot, dry conditions as the massive amounts of salt I am sitting beneath will simply melt away with rain. Doing this in the UK is risky, but thankfully August, September and October delivered some very hot sun.
Once there, and in dialogue - SALT began to speak a distinct language.
It was one that I didn't expect - delivering the most challenging and starkest mirrors
I have ever experienced within this work.
A powerful synchronicity was at work throughout Stanza 5, with real time bringing breathtaking beauty into the frame - at the same time - gut wrenching mirrors of bone, dry death, decay and the cruelty of human nature were laid bare. Within this, SALT tells of how we ostracise grief, and speaks strongly about belonging.
SALT has been a game changer in terms of how the films flow together in an arc, and has in turn informed RAIN ON EARTH, now sitting as stanza 6.
RAIN ON EARTH
RAIN ON EARTH, sits as stanza 6.
It is the bravest of stanzas in terms of working with slow cinema and deep time, and bears simple witness to the human form as it exists
within the landscape as time passes.
We are offered a mirror. What do we see?
For this stanza, I expected lots of mud, rain and leaves . . .as the title suggests.
RAIN ON EARTH has takes us to a place where there is - none - not a drop of it.
It is our (unexpected) ending.
It offers a full stop. Yet. There is no full stop.
Ultimately, the ending has to leave with the audience.
The choreography for RAIN ON EARTH is startlingly simple. On a technical level, this sequence offered great lessons around how time moves through the landscape and the human relationship to (and perception of) that.
It is my hope is RAIN ON EARTH will provide a place of reflection,
and will invite discussion that goes way beyond the screen.