Saturday, 20 May 2017

 Walking with The Waste Land developing a walking collaboration with The Garden Gate in Margate.

A walk in May
Walking with The Waste Land and the Garden Gate  Margate.

“ a poem can be like walking down a street  and noticing things, extending itself without obscurity or too much effort” Larry Eigner  (for Charlotte)

We met at 12pm and walked from the Garden Gate to The Ridings through Northcot House Gardens.

 It wasn’t our intended destination when we started but it was a beautiful sunny day and when we got to Cliftonville Library we saw the sea in the distance and the group decided it was where we should go. 

Some of what we saw we saw:

Building bird houses (at the Garden Gate)

Flowers: Tulips, Pansies, Aquilegia, Wallflowers, Hyacinths, Sweet Williams Geraniums, Poppies
A cobweb hanging from a tree.                                       
The Pump station at The Ridings 
Hog’s Fennel (closely related to cow parsley) 

We also saw:

A cloud shaped like an Oyster Shell and another one like a dinosaur.

We talked about The Pump house ( with thanks to Laura)  walking, breathing, connecting to the ground, meditation, and how maybe on our next walk we could write some poetry and make some ropes.

Our next walk is on, June 8th, 10 am - 12 pm , meet at the Garden Gate. It would be lovely if you could join us!

Photography, courtesy of Jennifer Deakin.

Walking with ‘The Waste Land’ is a community group founded by artist Elspeth Penfold in 2014. The group use walking as a research tool for locating TS Eliot’s The Waste Land and selected other poems in Margate. The group works closely with Turner Contemporary’s Waste Land Research Group who are developing Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’, Turner Contemporary’s first major exhibition of 2018, which will be on show from 3rd February – 20th May 2018, focused on connections between Eliot’s poem and the visual arts.

Monday, 15 May 2017

As I think about the Edinburgh walk I am reflecting on this line from Larry Eigner:
“a poem can be like walking down a street and noticing things, extending itself without obscurity or too much effort”
This quote has made me think about how much of my time is spent engaging in the things that surround Cecilia Viucuña's poem and my walking practice which goes beyond the words of the poem itself.

This is a drawing I made this week in an effort to try to make connections with the walking process, making knots and drawing.
As those of you who read my blog might be aware on my walks I make ropes by hand in my studio and ask participants who walk with me to make knots in ropes to document the experience.
The drawing is something I want to do more of and it has been re-affirmed by my reading of Confabulations by John Berger. This reading came about as I prepare for a related walk in August with The Walking with The Waste Land group and of course there are cross-overs or maybe confabulations.
There is so much that is pertinent to what I am engaged in. Berger writes:
“During the last week I’ve been drawing, mostly flowers, motivated by a curiosity which has little to do with either botany or aesthetics…..Is it possible to ‘read’ natural appearances as texts?…It is a gestural exercise, whose aim is to respond to different rhythms and forms of energy, which I like to imagine as texts from a language that has not been given to us to read” 
and so, I keep looking carefully at ropes and knots.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Taking Thread and Word to Edinburgh 

I am preparing a walk as a part of the Threads exhibition at Dundas St Gallery, the walk will take place on  the 7th of July from 2 - 4 pm.

Looking Forward
I visited Edinburgh on Monday  April 24th with Renee Rilexie, curator of the Artists Pool, https://www.theartistspool.co.uk.
We met with artists from The Suntrap Studio https://www.suntrapstudio.com and, visited the Dundas st Gallery. We were in good company as Hamish Foulton has an exhibition which had just opened in the gallery upstairs.
We had such a lovely reception and walked to Inverleith House in preparation for another walk with Thread and Word on July 7th.It was fantastic that so many ideas have already developed from one visit .
Cecilia Vicuña wrote Word and Thread at Inverleith House in 1970. I was hoping that they would include images of her work Precario from their archive in their exhibition in July, however the sign for the exhibition says it includes work from 1889, so not likely.This is the first exhibition at Inverleith House since they closed the gallery last October as a cost cutting exercise.

Maybe we can invoke the spirit of her work through our walk.
Jil Rock http://cargocollective.com/JillRock , one of our artist/walkers and a great contributor to #Thread and Word, sent me this about Cecilia Vicuña and Art for Democracy:

"I think I mentioned on the city walk that I had been in touch with a friend of mine John Dugger whilst he was showing work at Raven Row.
John was Cecilia's partner and co worker in Artists for Democracy.

Artists for democracy worked over many years with a simply defined ethos:



They also had 4 watchwords - art as participation - as labour - as information - as energy

when I was on a walker's walk a few weeks ago on Dungeness I suggested to the group that they made a work whilst walking along using a barbecue rack I had found on the beach the day before on the condition that they worked as JAV"

and so the works continues .

I hope some of you can join us on this walk. It is ticketed on evenbrite, #ThreadandWord. The walk is free but numbers will be limited.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Developing Thread and Word

So the work progresses in many different ways.

I have been busy in the studio making 'Quipucamayocs', a series of artefacts using the ropes knotted by walkers during the development of the walks culminating in Thread and Word at Espacio Gallery last March.

Thread and Room
@AllanStruthers who participated in the Thread and Word walk at Espacio has collaborated with Robbie and Hannah (also on the walk)  to make  Thread and Room. 

"Having been inspired by the use of movement and thread as a method of communication, we, over the course of 2 hours, silently engaged in a dance that began to explore the inside our house. It was an event that gave a kind of language to the physical space between us. For this we used thread, coloured paper, rubber bands, and the music of Julia-Holter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM-WnjqB8EY. "

It's amazing how ideas develop and grow through artistic collaboration. For more about Thread and word and Allan's intervention, Seen not Heard:  the Choice of Listening to Objects, http://www.elspeth-billie-penfold.com/thread-and-word-texts-used-in-walk

I am looking forward to a trip to Edinburgh tomorrow, April 24th with Renee Rilexie, curator of the Artists Pool, https://www.theartistspool.co.uk.

We will be meeting with artists, visiting Dundas st Gallery and Inverleith House and preparing for another walk with Thread and Word in July.  Let me know if you'd like to  collaborate.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Walking with the Waste Land 

Creating new encounters through walking.

  April : The Garden Gate to Northdown Park.                 

We have just started a series of exploratory walks following a route from the Garden Gate in Margate through Northdown House gardens and into Northdown Park.

 The intention is to do one walk a month and to engage with the site and use the opportunity to notice the seasonal changes as we walk the area regularly.

The plan is to produce a short leaflet recording what we saw on the walk which can then be used by visitors to the garden and the park.

 We are hoping that community members from the Garden Gate project will join us and that they will contribute to producing further leaflets recording the walks for each month.

For more about the Garden Gate:http://www.thegardengateproject.co.uk/location.html

We all had a great time on our first walk and are looking forward to the next one on May 17th.

Let me know if you'd like to join us!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


A Walk in Edinburgh in July
I am developing an artist led walk from the Dundas Gallery to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh on the 9th of July which will coincide with the 'Threads' exhibition at the Dundas Gallery, which is curated by the Artists Pool.

I have now started the process of preparing for the walk in Edinburgh using the poem by Cecilia Vicuña Thread and Word.The walk will develop from #ThreadandWord which took place from Espacio Gallery to Leadenhall Market in London on March 5th. Details of the development of this walk can be found on this blog and also on my website http://www.elspeth-billie-penfold.com
As I was developing the walk in Shoreditch I was not aware that the exhibition would be travelling to Edinburgh. When I was contacted by Renee, curator at the Artists Pool about the possibility of the exhibition continuing in Edinburgh in July, I was elated as it is the location where Cecilia Vicuña wrote her poem ‘Hilo y Palabra’ (Thread and Word) in 1997. The poem was published as a limited edition print as a part of an installation at Inverleith House in the Botanical Gardens.

I have copied the archive describing Cecilia Vicuña’s practice below.

I am starting to research the walk with a trip to Edinburgh next Tuesday, where my plan is to visit the Dundas gallery and then walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Cecilia Vicuña’s installation was titled ‘Precarious'(Precario).
I think PRECARIO is a good working title for this walk as it expresses the fragility of the threads that bring us together and is very pertinent to both the ecological and political concerns of contemporary culture.

 I will update this blog with images and ideas as my research and thoughts evolve.

Cecilia Vicuna: Precario: Words & Thread
26 October – 5 January 1997
This was the first exhibition in Scotland by Cecila Vicuña, a Chilean artist, poet and film maker who works with the tradition of oral poetry, song, and weaving in the high Andes.
Vicuña’s earliest recorded art work was a ritual performance, Con-con, that took place on a beach near Santiago, Chile in, in 1966. The piece involved drawing lines in the sand – a practice recalling pre-Columbian divination rituals – and arranging various found objects including stones, sticks and feathers. Another important early work exemplifying her interest in natural materials and ephemeral forms was an installation piece, Otono, 1971, for which Vicuña filled an entire gallery of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago with autumn leaves.
In the mid 1960s, Vicuña began making what she called “precarious” of “basturias” (bits of garbage), small assemblages of found materials such as feathers, sticks, shells, leaves, bones, and thread.
The art critic Lucy Lippard called Vicuña’s sculptures “visual poems”, and she has compared their recognition of inherent value in what is normally lost or discarded to the work of Richard Tuttle, Jimmy Durham, Alison and Betye Saar, and David Hammons. “These materials are lying down and I responded by standing them up” explains Vicuña. “The Gods have created us and we have to respond to the Gods. There will only be equality when there is reciprocity. The root of the word ‘respond’ is to offer again, to receive something and to offer it back. ‘We are made of throwaways and we will be thrown away’, say the objects. Twice precarious, they come from prayer and predict their own destruction. Precarious in history, they will leave no trace. The history of art written in the North includes nothing of the South. Thus they speak from prayer, precariously.”
Vicuña’s interest in weaving derives from the great metaphorical significance of this practice in the rituals and myths of the ancient Andes. In Pre-Columbian times, finely woven textiles were often burned or interred as offerings to the dead. In Quecha, the language of the Andean people, the word for “language” also means “thread”, and the word for “complex conversation” also means “embroidery”. Vicuña’s identification with weaving is no doubt also strengthened by the fact that the wool used in Andean cloth is taken from her namesake, the mountain vicuña. According to legend, vicuñas are born in the sources of springs high in the Andes, and the fibre made from their wool has come to symbolise the paths of mountain streams and the tenuous thread of life itself. “Everything is falling apart because of the lack of connections”, says Vicuña, “Weaving is the connection between people and themselves, [between] people and nature.”
Cecilia Vicuña was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1948. She completed post-graduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London and worked with a variety of music and theatre groups n Bogotá, Columbia, during the 1970s. In 1980 she moved to New York city where she continues to live and work.*
* Extracts from an essay written by Lawrence Rinder, curator of the University Art Museum, Berkeley, California.

Monday, 13 March 2017

"Let's Talk about Vivienne"

A walk , by the Walking with the Waste Land group at the Turner Contemporary.  

Saturday March 11th.

A Photo Diary, creating new encounters.

Jill Rock

Turner Contemporary

Invoking Vivienne,
 through the Sybil

The Waste Land
Eliot's Ghost women

Keith Grossmith

Harbour Wall

Sophie (after JMWT)


Elspeth Penfold

Information Centre

Sonia Overall's
The Art of Walking

contained, linear



Judy Dermott


View point

'Lido becomes
Burnt Norton'

Emily Hale, but now Let's Talk about Vivienne.


Elspeth Penfold

Walpole Bay Shelter.


T.S. Eliot , famous clairvoyant.
Tim Dean

Eliot's demeaning portrayals of his ghost women.

Judy Dermott

Walpole Bay Hotel
(wonderful tea and scones).


'Tom and Vivienne's
letters from Margate.'

Julia Riddiough


Walpole Bay Hotel.


'The Vivienne Haigh-Wood Headlines'

Judy Dermott    


Tom Thumb

looking towards
the old site of the
 Albermore Hotel

Reads: 'Poor wretched clever child.'

Richard Turney

in the gardens

'Death of a Duchess'

An image of Vivienne. She sits at her dressing table, hairbrush motionless in her hand, bare arms fixed, waiting for a question from Tom...

And if I said ‘I love you’ should we breathe?

Keith Grossmith

reads his poem:

Near, bright stars.

Richard Turney

A Game of Chess

 lines added to
and edited from
 the Waste Land
at Vivienne's behest.

Judy Dermott


The Old Kent Market

reads: 'The Eliot's go to the Cinema'.


A screening


Sally Waterman's

'In the Cage".

Wrapping up!

With many thanks to Jennifer Deakin for photography and to the members of the Walking with the Waste Land group for their hard work and support.

For details of readings and performances:http://www.elspeth-billie-penfold.com/let-s-talk-about-vivienne-readings-flyers-and-some-images