Flooded with love – the extended version

Louise Wallinger (c) Karen Scott PhotographyThe subject heading of this blog is what I also tweeted x 4 yesterday about Juncture and it wasn’t just because I had the cheap cocaine (an Ibuprofen knocked back with strong coffee), although the latter is for me a mood/energy-raiser. No, it was because I had such a fine time firwst with Louise Wallinger in her one-to-one The Dream Teller.

For anyone who was unable to book in with her, here’s how it worked: You sit in a chair a few feet from her and she records anything you want to say about what you dream. She’s such a jolly, receptive audience that I was happy to perform for her, and then she returned the favour! So I told her about a dream I had as a kid of my sister (who was then still alive) rising up from a grave with her lower body just a sheet, and about two recurring dreams (at the wheel of a vehicle but not in control, and anything to do with the septuagenarian former ‘sex kitten’ Ann-Margret who is my goddess), and about the carousel of Norwegian herring who spin round and round behind glass in a tank at the Bergen aquarium, and the one with the eye-catching bump on its head. (The thought of those fish circling endlessly, 24/7 haunts me pleasurably, and makes me wonder if they ever get bored, and do fish dream?)

That’s a lot to cram in in five minutes but I was on a roll and Louise is an avid listener. So she then pops in her earplug after doing a rewind and regurgitates my words to me – like a sound-mirror, an aural reflection of not just the content of what I said but every rhythmic variation and tonal emphasis or switch. She didn’t quite have the American accent down but I’m not complaining. It was fascinatingly strange fun to hear myself through someone else’s voice and body. And Louise is a fan of titles! I love titles, whether it’s for dances or performances or stories that might never get made or told or for blogs and emails. (Hers for and from me were The Unwitting Country, which I’d blurted out as a description of the subconscious, and Sparkly Shit, my refereence to all the PR an impressionably kid with a passion for a particular actress can happily absorb.)

And I am aware that I used happy or a derivative of happy twice in the preceding graphs. Well, that’s how my encounter with Wallinger had me feeling. I walked in and out with a bounce in my step and then, after motormouthing to camera about Juncture for the in-house team, I made my way to The Tetley where I fell in love with Karoline Hjorth (from Norway) and Riitta Ikonen (from Finland). They’re patently gorgeous to be around, and the hour or so spent in their company for the presentation Eyes as Big as Plates was another Juncture highlight.

Eyes as Big as Plates - Torleif 01For a few years now these two lovelies have been going round the globe meeting up with older people – real characters, people with histories and very active lives who just happen to be seniors – and photographing them mostly singly and serious of mien and, crucially, in natural settings but also adorned with costumes made of branches, grasses, mosses and even stones or fish. The snaps are beautiful, whether landscapes or portraits. But equally beautiful is the way H and I go about their business. I mean, these two are just delightful – generous and hard-working but entirely good-humoured and aware of what a privilege and a kick it is doing what they do and getting to know their models.

The presentation consisted mainly of them talking and showing slides (plus a bit of film) of their work. The locations included forests and fields, steamy quarries or bog, shorelines, lakes and streams in places like France, Iceland, New York (in a strictly non-urban vein in terms of images produced) and Yorkshire’s own Ilkley Moor, home to heather, bracken and sedge – all highly photogenic materials. The images included a woman swaddled in branches (and, since this was on film rather than static, speaking about standing for a couple of timeless hours listening to the wind and being absorbed into this particular patch of the planet), a man (also filmed) with a walrus moustache singing while being adorned with horse chestnuts, a fellow whose sharp, strong face peeped through fuzzy-topped fronds, a woman posing as a witch in a headdress of rhubarb plus leaves, a man with prickly grasses sprouting from his head, another with pine branches for wings and yet another gently buried beneath moss.

Eyes as Big as Plates - Hallvar 01I realise I forgot to say that what prompted this project, at least in part, or to be more accurate what inspired it thematically was the desire to re-create mythological or folkloric figures in different cultures. And so we had a handsomely weathered sailor with a mane of seaweed a la Jack Sparrow, and an octogenarian (now pushing past 90, and the Juncture brochure’s adorably wizened cover girl) parachute-jumper with branches twisting away from the back of her head as if bent by the wind. Perhaps these people are, by coming in contact with H & I, making their own myths. Ikonen’s family gets into the act, too – her uncle naked up to the waist in water, a bounteously bare-breasted aunt also submerged but to the shoulders and wearing a hat of fat but flat green leaves. Other camera-subject were carpeted by flowers and mosses, or wrapped in nettles, or gifted with a straw carapace. And then there was the touch of lipstick-and-sunglasses glamour one model brought to the occasion, or the stylish beret-wearing fellow covered in dried pine needles, or the man with a head from which bark jutted, or the weeping willow woman, or the fellow from whom grass grew like a peacock’s tail, or the lady who remarked that H & I’s shoot was ‘much better than gym class at the senior centre.’

The net effect of this was both fantastic and serene, and inspiring. I also left The Tetley looking at the world just a bit differently – spotting greenery on a high-rise terrace, or a row of trees or a hedge by the roadside and aware of the life there. Thank you to Wendy Houstoun for stalking H & I and for Yorkshire Dance for hosting them in the UK. As YD director Wieke Eringa remarked, ‘I have never met two more joyous, ferociously happy people in my life,’ and you believe her. That word again, happy. Priceless. And where do these two young, twinkling-eyed seductresses – H & I, that is, in case you thought I was referring to Houstoun and Eringa – want to go next? Africa. I have a feeling they’ll get there, and beyond.

It’s good to hear that retirees, according to Ikonen, ‘are the busiest people.’

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