Flashback

2014, 4.24mins 8mm film and VHS video transferred to DVD, and mixed media installation.

(PLATFORM, Cambridge School of Art MA Degree Show 2014. Ruskin Gallery, Anglia Ruskin University.)

Flashback is an impossible attempt to grasp hold of sudden, involuntary, slippery recollections, in order to secure and place the history and meaning of my life. My intention is for the viewer to experience multiple stimuli for their senses – in particular smell, and also touch – in a way that engenders the physicality of memory. The film shows different fragments of an arrested memory, as flashes of time jump out, dissolve, disintegrate and yet still appear, somewhat randomly. The resulting experience sparked by this installation conjoins elements of a life that has been so abruptly destroyed, and beautifully restored, by my relationship with horses.

This work is my final major project for the MA Fine Art I am studying for at the Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University. The exhibition runs from September 4-11. The private view is on Thursday the 4th, at 7pm.

I want to use Flashback to celebrate the meaning and purpose of my life, which I have re-found as a consequence of my recent reconnection with the horses who so inspire me. Creating this work has involved returning to the farm where I grew up, consistently, and entering into the same way of life I had before my head injury over 14 years ago. For the first time since this terrible (and yet wonderful, eventually) accident I can now call myself healthy and fully alive. With my family, and the horses. Who are my family. This transition occurs because when I ride I feel connected to my whole sense of being. Different, fragmented parts of my life reconnect and realign until there is a pure consistency and equilibrium between them. Between myself and my horse. We dance together. Suddenly the world makes sense — and here is who I am.

I hope to express a piecemeal snippet of my renaissance in this artwork. I invite you to walk into the exhibition space and engage with all your sense organs, to capture the physical imprint (and recapturing) of memory, of truth, that leads from my relationship with horses. I share this with you.

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Horses

IMG_3368Life has strife and grief beneath
its sheath of growth and teeth of both
an oath for truth and trembling youth
that calls my path to alter.

A sleuth would start to falter:
I bolted from the halter
revolting jolts with stilted faults
when wilting vaults cast out The Stranger.
 
Danger changed my manger.
Arranged until deranged,
estranged, exchanged
a different wager.
 
I disappeared. Steering clear
appearing near
a weary jeered asylum,
sheared there and smeared with shame.
 
Weird for years, drowned in tears,
commandeered by fears,
I veered through guards
who charred and scarred my soul.
 
And yet I persevered.
Walking out one day
the rays reclaimed my fate.
A weight of hate was lifted.
 
I shifted when the horses
began to breathe a-near me.
Rearing love and light
a state of righteous passage.
 
They heal the damage
salvaging a voyage
where flashbacks are not torturous
but fortunate, nurturing, opening.
 
I grope for this connection
and feel it through the reins.
His scope gives hope, we cope
and reap, leaping to the sunrise.
 
I have the bug.
I will plug on and on.
The drug that tags my soul says time
is mine when e’er I ride.
 
The horses are my company,
accepting my incumbency
professional redundancy
and need to call them home.
 
I’ve grown. They will support me,
thoughtfully they’ve taught me
a sport that ought to hold me.
Boldly we go forward.
 
Sold to them I pledge my core
to wedge the raw and inner score,
with more and more attention.
Back now in contention.

Bikram Yoga

Image

I had a euphoric moment in Bikram yoga today. I went to my friends Theo and Jennifer’s new studio, Ethos Hot Yoga, in town, and practiced in both of their classes. I ‘did a double’ (with my packed lunch and lots of coconut water in between). This experience brought me a momentous bodily nirvana as a trolled along to my Sunday’s duration.

The first class was lead by Theo. As I exerted my body to the maximum, trying to achieve the perfect muscular alliance and traction during each pose it occurred to me that I have become so besotted to Bikram because it seems so like my previous love (and obsession): dressage. In both arts there is a set sequence of movements which never change: in dressage you follow a particular test, trying to perfect each movement, which is judged and marked out of ten. The tests might change, as you progress and advance to a higher level, but the movements stay the same. You are always trying to improve and interpret these movements with greater correction, pureness and poetry.

Just so, in Bikram the 26 poses are repeated in each yoga session, and they do not change. But every time you practice you try to improve and interpret each pose with greater correction, pureness and poetry, just like in dressage. And, in both arts, every time it feels different. In Bikram, the body reacts and plays differently, as the heat changes in intensity, whilst you can feel your muscles being stretched and your internal organs being massaged in different areas, with different amounts of pressure, as you attempt to perfect each posture.

Equally, in dressage, the horse and the rider always feel different in their interconnection and in the ways they align and communicate to interpret each movement. I used to talk to my horse with my body, through pressure from my seat bones and our connection through the reins, and with our synchronised breath and muscular harmony we could communicate and reassess each movement, always trying to advance the power of the horse’s body and show the meaning of beauty. We did this by practicing each movement, and using this process to enhance the muscular anatomy and poetic brilliance of the horse. In dressage this is an endless search and a lifelong journey that changes and is always different every time the horse and rider come together and perform.

It’s the same in Bikram yoga, my new-found love. The poses are always the same, but each effort to move the body to create them is different. I always lose my balance in ‘Standing Bow’, or during the three bounces to test the balance in the third part of ‘Awkward Pose’. During these poses, and in fact in every pose, I am tested to my limit.

But today this test erupted. There was a tsunami of sweat, as I melted (and came in the heat) and an oozing evanescence between the boundary lines of my body and my mind as they came together and performed each pose. Within the set barriers regulated order of the sequence there was a continued effort to grasp a purity or essence that might be obtained if you can ever achieve the pinnacle of perfection by doing each of the postures properly. You trust that the muscles of the body will be compressed and stretched, massaged and realigned to their ultimate benefit by doing these postures. You can really feel it happening, or, at least, that’s what I felt today. Like dressage, the practice has the aim of improving the anatomy and reaching a pinnacle of health and wellbeing, as well as achieving or creating an artistry and genesis.

Today I felt this come to fruition. Jennifer led the second class and I was determined to test my body to its utmost. It was hot. I felt so situated inside this flesh, and aligned by my practice that I took off my long-sleeved black t-shirt, which I always wear during every Bikram class. So, for the first time, wearing my crop top, I bared my arms and their scars, my stomach and its weight, and the meaty covering over my ribs, which used to protrude and now are no longer visible (even during the pranayama breathing exercise). Most of all, I bared and shared my body with myself, and felt at home there, as the sweat flushed and dripped down me. I put my all into each posture and, despite wobbling around during most of these attempts, there were moments when I could really feel the benefits of this practice. I felt fit and alive. I could see the scars, as relics of my psychotic, destructive, detained past, in the mirrors, but I no longer needed to create them, or to hide from them. I was surrounded by new friends, a new life, and the discovery, or self-discovery, of a healthy way of being inside my new body. This was my euphoria.