Cerys Thomas Ford
My practice is concerned with fictive narratives arising from fragments of interaction, and how they blur with reality to create a slant told truth.
Recently, I have begun to utilise landscape in my quest to depict the narratives that run through my mind; utilising text, sound and performance in site-specific work, responding not only to the immediate surroundings and the feelings they evoke, but also to the constant companion themes of desire, obsession, and loss.
It is the last day of the biennale; my last day of invigilating; sitting in and wandering around Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, immersed in the sights and sounds of forests from back home.
I'm quite attached to this building, its history, crumbling architecture, and '...the rest is smoke.' I have spent the best part of five weeks immersed in this work, and it's difficult to imagine days going by without even a glimpse of it. Even now, I am still seeing new things within it; tendrils of thought appear with the flash of a light on a pillar, the casting of a certain shadow over the altar. These thoughts form ideas, constantly weaving into the web that the works have created within the building, especially company of trees, which merges almost seamlessly into the very walls and pillars of the room.
The figure in red is an endless source of fascination for me, having read about the convent history of this place. It was once occupied by an order of Franciscan nuns, who all died of the plague in 1630, except for one - Domenica Rossi. For me, the figure in red that moves across and weaves through company of trees, has become about this history; when she disappears, ghost-like, she bleeds into the walls, whispering her own story, as though she is the lone nun. I can find no other concrete facts about Domenica Rossi, which leads me to construct these fictive narratives, fuelled by '...the rest is smoke', and the themes of mortality and temporality.
I am slightly panicked that I will never see this work in this context again; that the sound of slowed-down chainsaws will never again mingle with the bells of San Marco and birdsong; that I will never again see a crucifix alight with winter snow in woodland. Th next time I see this work, there won't be a visitor walking through an archway, dipping her hand into a font and crossing herself as she departs.
And so, I'm sitting here in the space, quietly panicking and trying to obsessively document everything, amongst chatting to visitors. I am using an iPad app to make quick, almost manic responsive sketches to the sound, the space, the work and my feelings. I usually work through text and performative acts, I rarely use colour and I have never digitally painted, so this is a completely experimental process for research and reflection. A gesture to calm my mind. And suddenly, after starting with a small tendril and starting to weave,the end seems much more akin to the beginning of even more exciting things....
Early into my stay here, I visited the Slip of the Tongue exhibition at Punta Della Dogana.
The exhibition itself didn't grab me, but my curiosity was piqued by the architecture.
There were holes in the brickwork; hidden archways and plastered-over doors. Suggestions of works that had been removed from the walls.
More and more whilst traversing Venice and visiting exhibitions, I have been intrigued by these glimpses of past lives of the buildings, my camera becoming filled with pictures of crumbling facades, bricked-up entrances, pillars guarding entrances to nowhere.
What stories were played out here? What pieces of history are forever hidden inside, between, underneath these crumbling, sinking buildings?
In an act of remembrance, a desire to leave a trace, even fleetingly, I started to leave pieces of poetry within these caverns and cracks, responding to untold past mingling with present occupation. I am mapping Venice via fragments of stories that will never be fully seen.
Whilst exploring the calle's (getting lost looking for Luxembourg) I stumbled upon AplusA gallery, and their exhibition Symphony of Hunger: Digesting fluxus in four movements.
In recent works, I have been exploring ephemerality of material to convey disrupted, disjointed narratives; the material and the environment affects stream of consciousness thought and action. I have performed live writing in sand, with chalk, and have been considering the use of other everyday materials, such as flour. This is what I discovered inside the gallery:
Davide Sgambaro, Scomposizione di una lacrima mentre forma un'ombra primo dello schianto a terra, si appoggia #2, installation, flour (199kg) cocaine (1g), 2015
After spending days staring at small square cm's of wall, it reminded me of the piles of plaster and rubble piled around the city, remnants of crumbling buildings, although the artist is not directly referencing this.
I left a trace, if only to exist momentarily.
Performance at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square)
The intention was to disrupt a site of tension via a social intervention.
Beginning at one end of the piazza, I followed the marble path on the floor, head down, concentrating only on my footsteps. Passing Kelly Best's sculptures, along with the usual stalls, I made my way around the entire square. When I encountered an obstruction - birds, tourists with or without selfie sticks - I simply stopped, and waited for the path to become clear.
In this strange, transitory space where people are constantly searching for the best image to capture - looking at themselves through a lens often attached to the end of a stick - standing still to physically experience place is looked upon with suspicion. In its unobtrusiveness, my act of merely walking, stopping and waiting became very noticeable, and created an unease amongst the usual tourist narrative.
Thanks to Vera Klimentyeva and Lim Qi Xuan.
We hosted Breakfast club today, loosely based on Halloween and 'Day of the Dead' traditions.
Around the 1st and 2nd of November, traditionally families here visit their cemetery, remembering lost loved ones, sharing food and stories.
As a participatory performance, I baked 'Bread of the Dead', and fed some to our guests as they arrived, inviting them to be a part of our family and reminisce about memories, lost loved ones, and Venice itself.
Leading on from this, I asked everyone to write down the words that they associate with lost loved ones, memory and this place. We placed all the words in a pile, and then picked out 5 at a time, creating random, beautiful poetic lines from these word. We arranged the lines into some short individual poems:
My Star, I can't speak on the
deathbed of pointless cuddles,
Alight, lonely Grapefruit cuddles,
the guilt of reaching out.
Nurturing a quiet grapefruit,
She sat contemplating
The beauty and weirdness of
this floating location
A life spent longing
For home cooked sausage rolls.
Are resourceful water connections enough?
Her only answer,
"My star, I can't speak on
the deathbed of
Empty fish memory artist,
A life longing for home cooked sausage rolls
The artist twinkles,
her brave thought are excrement, thoughts alight.
Dealing with location - what?
The fragile magic of night
takes a blind chance.
A glistening life of opulence,
a palazzo time capsule.
Our sins twinkle - floating
in my lost amnesia.
Night ghosts behind.
The empty deal.
The night sunrise.
It is decay.
Our sins are like gondolas
Networks of bewilderment
The empty deal
the candles share
a memory of bewilderment.
I am dried
ghosts floating in amnesia.
the empty deal
of deathbed redemption
the guilt of reaching out
magic gondolas; a glistening life of opulence
glistening tourists, reaching out,
unreal in the darkness
The night sunrise, like the brave fish.
It is decay.
Lonely grapefruit cuddles
Empty fish memory
Floating in my lost amnesia.
Our suns twinkle
in the redemption of naivety.
The might sunrise, like the
Reaching out for dried flowers,
floating in my lost amnesia.
Opulence alight lonely
FRAGILE. STOIC. TIDE.
In fragile December,
you're missing quiet chance, My Star,
and I can't speak
on the deathbed of pointless cuddles
The fragile magic of night,
and a blind chance - floating above
Decaying with sunrise.
The ghost bananas and pumpkin-faced oranges were also delightful!
About Cerys Thomas Ford
Initially, I wanted to apply to Wales in Venice because of an obsession I developed with Sophie Calle's obsessions. I wanted to traverse Venice as she had, compulsively documenting in the same places that she had visited, in an homage or ritualistic act.
This developed into a desire to be a Writer-in-Residence, visiting the works, talking to artists and writing about them both literally and subjectively, turning my responses into a work in itself. Prose, poetry and performance will be the main media through which I work, responding not only to the works, but to the place and space, mapping them through a series of interactions and constructed narratives, as opposed to the physical reality. I am looking for opportunities to expand my writing and to vary everyday performances (Happenings, perhaps).
I am interested in how the narratives that are constantly in my mind respond to Venice, how they will manifest, and how they will translate once back in Wales again.