I was delighted to have been invited as Artist-in-residence at this year's Edge of the Wild held at Green and Away in Worcester. It was a beautiful, intimate space to be offering workshops, surrounded by canvas and canopies, tall, willowy verges and the meandering Teme river as our backdrop.

 

Every morning we would gather in the main tent to share and explore our dreams in the Social Dreaming Matrix. Social Dreaming was pioneered by Dr. W Gordon Lawrence who believed that:

 

“Our dreams offer infinite insight into the world we live when shared. The practice of Social Dreaming allows us to discover meaning in our dreams that benefit all.”

(Gordon Lawrence Foundation)

 

I found these sessions both fascinating and really moving. With some members of the group lying down and others sat with eyes closed we began to share our dreams. Voices rose from one corner of the tent to another, from the center of the circle, out from the edges again. I visualised fine, coloured threads forming a complex web around our tented community and I felt our commonality, our grief and our empathy, exposed through words, imagery and symbols. Each morning was different, each one a piercingly reflective portrait of the times in which we live.

 

My role as artist was to find a way to capture these stories and to offer a creative element that would be held within the Dream Matrix. I brought to mind the words of novelist Doris Lessing, words that sparked some of my original ideas when in planning mode, words that seem to reflect the division and fragmentation we face in our society, and “Our attempts to overcome the madness”

 

And some of these words became a starting point, a guide into creativity...

 

“I dreamed marvellously. I dreamed there was an enormous web of beautiful fabric stretched out. It was incredibly beautiful, covered all over with embroidered pictures. The pictures were illustrations of the myths of mankind but they were not just pictures, they were the myths themselves, so that the soft glittering web was alive.

...and it is like a vision - time has gone and the whole history of man, the long story of mankind, is present in what I see now, and it is like a great soaring hymn of joy and triumph in which pain is a small lively counterpoint.”

(Doris Lessing)

 

Three long lengths of soft muslin cloth hung from high up inside the Dream Matrix tent, swaying intermittently as the wind circled and gently flapped at the doorway. Veily canvasses on which dreams could be brought further into existence, a social tapestry, dream fragments...small pieces of cloth drawn on, written on, marked, painted, pierced, one-by-one joined and eventually stitched together. It's been an honour piecing together these little squares of cloth, stretched out across my floor at home, handling them has felt very tender and very precious......

Above: Jess Tanner

Below: the 'social tapestry' created during this year's dream matrix...

Charcoal, a process of transformation...

 

On the Saturday afternoon I led a Charcoal making workshop at the fireside with a wonderful group of souls. Sticks were foraged, stripped back and each one cut to size and placed inside small tins for burning. I remember the first time I tried this myself and each time I am reminded how simple yet how deep a making process this is. The alchemy, the passage of time, the patience.....And the sheer joy of opening up a freshly cooked batch of delicate, willowy sticks to make marks and adventure with. No two batches are ever the same, each one reflects it's own character and quality, of branch, of season and of place. These days when I take myself off walking I am rarely without a stick of charcoal in my pocket. There is something incredibly special about the intimacy and relationship towards our own wild-crafted tools and materials, they seem to carry with them their own unique soul and a deeper, truer purpose. For me this brings about a sense of surrender, of being led by the materials themselves, led closer to nature. It was such a joy to share this making process at the gathering, tending the fire and our materials, I loved every moment!.

 

Sunday Morning Sound Walk.....

 

We were few and already a bit soggy with the early morning drizzle but at around 6.45am quietly we went down to the river...

 

Silent instructions and invitations for sound mapping and visual score making were given, mark making materials were gathered up and we started our walk. Moving, creating marks, shapes and lines as we went, we documented what we heard, life down by the rivers edge. I was struck by how lush the land looked in the morning rain. Willow trees lined the river, majestic in their early morning shower. Droplets splashed and everything glistened as the day began to unfurl around us. We each took a slightly different route and for a while all ended up near to a pebbled, beachy area. I took shelter from the rain drops underneath some of the bigger trees and put pen to paper. The road in the distance translated as thick grey scribbles interspersed with blue and grey dots to mark the birdsong that seemed to fill every space in between. Senses heightened as colours started to bleed into one another. Engines on tarmac..Big scribble...Rain on river... Soft sweeping lines, dot, dash, dot. The sounds of my own scafflings trying to keep dry...Zips being zipped...Droplets on leaves falling from a great height...The flattening of grasses under feet...Velcro, Toggles...Dots, lines, swirls...Something splished into the water..Pools of concentric circles....Rustlings on the other side....

It was so interesting to see how different our sound scores were, one participant a music therapist had found herself recording the sounds in accordance to frequencies, and we wondered about ways in which these sound scores could be turned back into music...As we talked I learned about the French composer and ornithologist Olivier Messiaen who was fascinated in birdsong and birdsong notation and would incorporate his transcriptions into his music.....

 

“It's probable that in the artistic hierarchy birds are the greatest musicians existing on our planet.”

(Olivier Messiaen)

 

This was such a lovely way to start the day, perhaps next time we might try this at dusk too and explore some of the differences between and of the sounds and the marks made....I have been deeply inspired by all who participated in these workshops and thank you all for everything you contributed.

 

I want to thank all of the organisers at Edge of the Wild for creating the opportunity to discover more what Ecopsychology is and might be, and to all of the wonderful workshop leaders and teachers that made this such a diverse and special few days. I had a wonderful time with you all.

Reflections from the Edge of the Wild Ecopsychology Gathering 2017 by artist-in-residence,
Jess Tanner