OVERLAND UNDERLAND – A PROPOSAL
This is the human paradox of altitude; that it both
exalts the individual mind and erases it. Those who travel to mountain
tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion.
Robert Macfarlane – Mountains of the Mind.
Inspired by the opening sequence of Werner Herzog’s Aquirre Wrath of God and Francis Alys’s When Faith Moves Mountains, Overland Underland pays homage to the possibility of the impossible.
The legion of marchers would be a hodge podge of
folkloricists gathered from across the UK. Up Dove Crag in Dovedale and
into The Priests Hole Cave.
The Lake District landscape is stunning and the way onto the mountain easily accessible from Ambleside in the Eastern Fell.
I’m interested in the way in which traditional folklore has been appropriated and re-presented, from the Jack-in-the-Green in Hastings and Deptford to the Bolster Giant in Cornwall and the Mummers in Brighton.
I would propose that the march on the mountain would
take place on June 21st, the longest day of the year, the summer
solstice. After some extensive research in collaboration with Simon
Costin (The Museum of British Folklore), invites would be sent out to
specific folkloric groups in the UK inviting them to meet in costume at
Ambleside. They would need to be sympathetic to the vision of the
project and the playfulness of the post-folkloric ambition.
A celebration through hybridization of tradition and subversion.
I envisage no more than 800 participants. They would make their way up The Crag and into The Priests Hole.
(Walk route: Cow Bridge - Brothers Water - Hartsop Hall - Dovedale - Houndshope Cove - Priest's Hole - Houndshope Cove - Dove Crag - Bakestones Moss - Stangs - Dovedale - Hartsop Hall - Brothers Water - Cow Bridge. Distance: 4.50 miles. Ascent: 2,250ft)
A silent procession, somnambulistic meander and unexplained mystifier. Costumes captured in all their extravagance and bastardised post-modern splendour. Close up details abound, feet pounding the earth, sweat on the brow and furrowed whispers. Up a mountain and into the ‘oracular’ cave; primitive viewing chamber, gallery, shrine, shelter and larder.
The path to the cave lurches through ascending levels of human possibility: rough pasture, dale and rock. The company are post-historic, randomly culled folklorists, Molly gangs, buskers, performance non-artists in horns and animal heads. The procession marks no saint’s day it is humanistic and pre-religious, a post-modern celebration.
The shambling ascent is a day of judgement: away from the pox of settled existence and towards the gash of the unknown, sweaty, calm and sexualised. The troop are willing predators. Their trespass means nothing. The mountain outranks them all. The mountain is poetry and has no need to speak. The harsh and beautiful landscape is its own metaphor.
The human snake climbing the track vanishes. A portal
between worlds in which the great questions can be dropped like stones
into a well. The darkness of the cave is the birth of cinema. In
firelight, Plato’s images flicker on the wall.
The event would be documented on various formats; from pin-hole photographs, to super 8, 16mm and full HD moving image as well as sound recordings made on Nagra, Dat and Zoom. Blimps, dollies, tracks and helicopters.
The footage would then be edited into a time line to
include texts and inter-titling. Maxims, axioms, proverbs and
taradiddles might also appear on screen:
Odyssey as real life documentary. Wherein lies the physical endeavor? Listen for the bone-clatter of the oracular typewriter. Imagine a journey, two journeys, a new map. This story is today’s variant, traces of a deep mythology lodged in the ground, in earth and air and water. To scatter oneself across the landscape.
I then propose to present the work on the London Overground Underground, the Manchester Metrolink, the Glasgow Subway and the Cardiff Metro, which also connects Newport and the Valleys. The film would play silently on the train’s monitors as well as on the electronic hoardings that run parallel to some of the escalators.
But there would be a soundtrack, crafted and mediated from original field recordings of the march up the mountain and into the cave as well sound archive from folkloric gatherings across the country and a carefully composed musical score. This would all be accessible via a mobile phone app.
I imagine that the work would only ever be shown twice a
year, on the summer solstice of June 21st and the winter solstice of
December 21st, and it would run on a loop continuously for 24 hours.
What are the scenes of nature that elevate the mind in
the highest degree, and produce the sublime sensation? Not the gay
landscape, the flowery field, or the flourishing city, but the hoary
mountain and the torrent falling over the rock.
Andrew Kotting - 2013