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

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Let's Talk about Vivienne.

This walk includes a performance by Jill Rock, inspired by the Epigraph to the Wasteland, ‘Sybil”
A small intervention by Elspeth Penfold at the Nayland Rock Shelter.’Menstrual Discord’. 
Referencing Cecilia Vicuña’s ‘Quipu Menstrual’
With words by Judy Dermott accompanied by music from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Poetry written and performed by Keith Grossmith
The Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot Headlines Read by Artist Julia Riddiough and Reported from The Walpole Bay Hotel Margate
Following his successful walk for the Folkestone book Festival with ‘Margate is weird. We do not dislike it’ – T. S. Eliot in Margate, Richard Turney is walking in Vivienne’s footsteps from the Tom Thumb Theatre.
and we have a screening of Sally Waterman’s ‘In the Cage’, at The Old Kent Market,
and there is much more!
We are all looking forward to it and to celebrating the life of Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot with those who have tickets for the walk, now sold out.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A Walk on March 5th, #ThreadandWord

@espacio gallery for Threads Exhibition curated by the Artists Pool

Rope knotted by Robert Zammit Pace
who joined the walk through attending the PV at Espacio.

I think you will agree that the rope on the right carries a wonderful array of knots.

I hope the photos that follow of the sites visited and some of the poetry we read,
 will give you a flavour of the walk.
Welcome at Espacio

choosing ropes

So we began with

A Walking Yoga Sutra*
 for Thread and Word
Julia Riddiough
Read by Elspeth Penfold
 Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra - Book 1:20 *Sanskrit sūtra “thread”

Shraddha-virya-smrti-samadhi-prajna-purvakah itaresham

Read by Virginia Fitch:

'The weaver sees her fiber as the poet sees her word.
The thread feels the hand, as the word feels the tounge. 
Structures of feeling in the double sense of sensing and signifying,
the word and the thread feel our passing.'
(Cecilia Vicuña)

Shared reading with Hazel Mountford
 'Ponchos, llijllas, aksus, winchas, chuspas and chumpis are beings
who feel 
and every being who feels walks covered in signs. 
"The body given entirely to the function of signifying." 

Helen Peacock introducing "What is Left Behind

'Acts of union and separation. 
The word is silence and sound.
The thread, fullness and emptiness'.
(Cecilia Vicuña)                                                                                                                                           René Daumal

                                                                                      A textile is "in the state of being textile": awaska.
                                                                                      (Cecilia Vicuña)
Helen's Hankie to be de-threaded en-route

Virginia Fitch, next to the Rope Sculpture
Virginia Fitch Reading:

 'And the energy of the movement has a name and a direction: lluq'i,to the left, paña, to the right. A direction is a meaning and the twisting of the thread transmits knowledge and information. The last two movements of a fiber should be in opposition: a fiber is made of two strands lluq'i and paña.'

(Cecilia Vicuña)

Helen reading by the decorated railings opposite Shoredtich station
Padlocks and love signifiers, and...chilean flags.

Helen Peacock:

'In the Andes, the language itself, Quechua, is a cord of twisted straw,
two people making love, different fibers united. 
To weave a design is pallay, to raise the fibers, to pick them up.'
(Cecilia Vicuña)
Knotting while reading Keith Grossmith's 'The Word is the Thread'
6. Billie introducing Keith Grossmith’s Poem

readi. Billie 

The Word is the Thread

A poem by Keith Grossmith written for this walk.

Read by Virginia Fitch , in the tunnel next to Shoreditch
(full text on my website)

'When I count, there are only you and I together

  The knotting seems to have taken on a sense of purpose

   But when I look ahead up the white road
   There is always another one walking beside you
   Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
   O do not know whether a man or a woman
  •   But who is that on the other side of you?’
 ( TS Eliot  The Waste Land)

read in German by Veronika Marsh, reflecting on our journey, with an impromptu performance by Sheelah Mahalath Bewley in English.

Boat Sculpture , Bishop's Square
referencing Eliots use of the Mythic Method .
read by Billie                                                         


iv Death 
by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
                                    A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
  Gentile or Jew
 O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
 Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as
                                                                                       You.                                                 (TS Eliot)

Collaborating through walking and knotting

Right,reflecting and knotting during the performance
 led by Esperanza Gomez-Carrera of 'Voices':

A simultaneous reading in 4 languages, capturing the rhythm , strength and weight of the words, as performed in poetry reading at the Dada Festival in Paris in 1920.

The words:A word is both root and suffix : two antithetical 
meanings in one. 
The word and the thread behave as processes in the cosmos. 

The process is a language and a woven design is a process re-

presenting itself. 
"An axis of reflection," says Mary Frame: "the serpentine 
attributes are images of the fabric structure," 

The twisted strands become serpents

and the crossing of darkness and light, a diamond star.'   (Cecilia Vicuña)

The Voices:

( Esperanza Gomez Carrera , Spanish, Virginia Fitch, English, Naya Eleftheriou, Greek,Sara Angelucci, Italian)

Jill Rock

"Sprang is a weftless technique, a  reciprocal action whereby the
interworking of adjacent elements with the fingers duplicates itself 
above and below the working area." 

A performance of a section Cecilia Vicuña's poem  by Jill Rock-  a narrative placing women's games and traditions using threads and ribbons, "Sprang" Cats Cradle, as a way of communicating across languages and cultures. 

Allan Struthers

Seen Not Heard: The Choice of Listening to 


A performance by Allan Struthers 

Ugo Rondinone 
(a copy of the full text can be found on my website.)

Left, as we celebrated Lizi Sanchez's Cadenetas' on the trees at  the Leadenhall building,
a reading by Billie of Judy Dermott's text, written for this walk:

'Vicuña and Women Centred Modernism'

( also on my website)

And the rain came and the hail came , but we ploughed on. Sadly the Leadenhall lifts were not moving, but we were not deterred.

Right, Virginia Fitch reading:
                                                                                                   'Word is thread and the thread is language. Non-linear body.

A line associated to other lines. 
A word once written risks becoming linear,
but word and thread exist on another dimensional plane. .

Vibratory forms in space and in time'
(Cecilia Vicuña )

Left,desperately seeking shelter to listen to:

 Naya Eleftheriou's reading of 'Ithaca', some of the group spotted a rainbow on a wall. I'm sure it ties in with the mythic method and we can all look forward to a wonderful future following Julia's Yoga Sutra:

'Tap into your inner strength to celebrate all the threads that bring us together to connect'

(the full text is on my website)

and so to Leadenhall Market, a pause to look at Lizi's 'Cadenetas' and

Esperanza's rope, doing and undoing on the walk.
                                                                 Virginia Fitch's reading from Word
                                                                  and Thread:

Is the word the conducting thread, or does thread conduct the word-
Both lead to the centre of memory, a way of uniting and connecting. 
A word carries another word as thread searches for thread. 
A word is pregnant with other words and a thread contains
other threads within its interior. '

(Cecilia Vicuña)

For copies of the texts , readings and performances please visit my website : http://elspeth-billie-penfold.com/thread-and-word-texts-used-in-walk

With sincere thanks to all who came, walked performed and made this walk happen. 

and also a thank you to Jennifer Deakin who provided  most of the photographs ( the rubbish ones are mine)

Hasta la próxima,

 see you in Margate or maybe Edinburgh!