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photo by Karen Christopher

After our performance as part of Open Schoolbook we gave a short talk about our experience of the workshop over the three years.

Karen spoke in three sections followed by three students each time.

The Dove, the Ghost, the Handkerchief Tree
Year One:
Tom & Alfie, Gionna & Katerina, Billie & Kalila, Matthew & Henrik, Harriet & JoJo, Ben & Tom, Chloe & Adrian

I thought of landscape as a memory container, landscape as a deeper anchor for being, and the object of an enduring love.

I thought about what the end of Dartington might mean to a group of students who would spend 3 years there and then leave for other parts. How or why does it matter to them?
How do I feel that I can never revisit the house I think of as my childhood home? A home I lived in for only 3 years @ ages 10, 11 & 12 which nonetheless bears the weight of the idea of my childhood. Knowing it has been demolished feels different from when I imagined it still existed. It remains a place of solace. As a child, the kind of attention and time I spent focussed on it marked it within me, ground out a foundation from which spring ideas about my own place in the world. I fixed on the idea of solace, of finding ways for those first year students I began working with 3 years ago (in the hexagon, in studio 33 and in the abandoned grounds of the long-empty Dartington Hall School) to imprint the contours both interior and exterior, the landscape of Dartington, the essence of its placeness.
We wanted to make of it a container. We held bits of it in our hands and we allowed those bits to determine our partnerships.

photo by Benjamin Thompson


Tom shouted “Falmouth you stepmother!” Kalila brought something inappropriate to the meadow. I said: discover or invent a history for a plant in the garden, memorize a path. We named or re-named favorite spots. We sang farewell to the land, buildings, place, to the feeling of being there.
We waved our handkerchiefs. We surrendered to goodbye.
Karen Christopher

photo by Ben Thompson

(yet to come)
Kalila Storey

Remembering when. Getting closer, stepping forward, stepping back, stepping forward. Getting to a point where I could have chosen to go up some stairs, over a bridge, or carry on with the path I was already on, And at the time only really considering the stairs or the bridge, as if I had forgotten that I had a third option. Breathing heavier, breathing lighter. Counting 61 steps. Attempting to lay a potentially ephemeral foundation whilst wondering how to look back.
Laura Doherty

(yet to come)
Josephine McCourt

Year Two:
Rachel & Matthew, Harriet & Jess, Sophie & Laura, Ben & Gionna & Kalila, Adrian & Tate, JoJo

To forget is human. Perhaps the essence of being human is not that we remember but what we forget.

We devised disappearing acts. We demonstrated laws: of nature, of physics, of performance, of society, of art, of the state. We contemplated what is affected by water, what is worn down over time. We contemplated the idea of giving ones life for one last glance back at a beloved home. We turned into rivers of salt. We regarded the horizon. We demonstrated the last gesture we would perform at Dartington and the first we would perform at Falmouth. We designed a walk. We memorized it.

We envisioned dear old Dartington alongside JoJo’s Nan. We adopted the postures of rock stars to prove we could take it. We could take all the salt water we had to. We stood there and wavered.
Karen Christopher

photo by Karen Christopher

This is an invitation to be yourself. Whoever that might be. It’s an invitation to show somebody a side they never saw of you before, whether that is real or imagined. Whether based on fact or fiction, be yourself. Or at least pretend to be.
Rachel Gibbens

When I was 11 I found myself to be in the final year that would go through my primary school. The school would relocate to a new site, the other children would move with it, but, as members of year 6, we would have to move on. On the last day my classmates and I stood on the school stage, and we cried. We thought that something would be forever lost.

On the last day of the last Dartington festival I found myself on stage again, and yes, tears were shed, but mass hysteria did not set in this time. This time hugs were exchanged, hugs of relief, hugs of grief and hugs which simply said, I’m here with you, in a way that words could not.

Each year this project has come like those much needed hugs. It has taken care of us, it has tended to our wounds, and somehow, it manages to soothe our constantly breaking hearts.
Matthew Smallwood

(yet to come)
Adrian Spring

photo by Lucy Cash


Year Three:
Alfie, Gionna & Harriet; Kalila, Rachel & Laura; JoJo, Matthew & Adrian

We walked in silence for 90 minutes. I neglected to stop. So long leading the march forward, so dogged, I couldn’t hear the closing bell. We found the grotto, we read the stone. We regarded our surroundings. the scales fell from our eyes. A meadow. It used to be a meadow. We drew a map of this moment (again). We found that each question had many answers. I prepared with a focus on the creative act of composing performance directives.

A performance directive is a written inscription, composed or constructed from gathered material. One of the particularities of a directive is that it is a suggestion towards a possible future or a possible performance. A performance directive is not written in anticipation of a right or wrong answer. Rather than telling how something should be done, it is an invitation. An invitation to be translated according to and depending on the person responding.

A performance directive is a creative act. It is an invitation to respond with care, to lift from ‘casual’ to ‘eventfulness’. You may want to consider it as a system of limitations that supports proliferation.

Notice there is permissiveness inherent in every directive.

Take a moment to remember a successful directive you’ve been given in the past or maybe you need to remember when you made something you loved and think back to what the initial spark was, what was the first act that lead to the discoveries that became something you were happy to work on?

Make notes on what qualities a successful directive should have.

Write a directive to bring in to the first day of the third section of The Dove, the Ghost, the Handkerchief Tree. Your directive should address three elements that make up different aspects of material to be generated: duration, speed, rhythm, content (subject), body part, materials, color, text, etc.

A performance directive is:
a form of future building
a runway for take-off

There’s a load of gravel and we are taking off our shoes.
Karen Christopher

photo by Lucy Cash


The first time I went to Dartington I fell in love, I wanted to run away to be part of what was there. Falmouth was, for me, tainted by the loss of that. I wasn’t in love with this place and I felt as if I was watching the death of someone close to me. Even as I was saying goodbye I was resisting that I had to. I’m still not in love with Falmouth, maybe I never will be, but I’m choosing to take this opportunity to help others find here what I found in Dartington.
Gionna Rose

(yet to come)
Alfred Heffer

(yet to come)
Harriet Couzens

photo by Lucy Cash

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Below is a bit of the story about Simonides and his memory palace ideas.
Here is a link to a current story about memory which also includes a description of the memory palace concept and how it has been used thorough the ages.

Story of Simonides:

The Memory Palace
Simonides of Ceos was an ancient Greek poet who wrote many elegies and epitaphs. He was the first poet to accept payment for his poetry. He lived from 556 to 486 BCE (before the common era). During a banquet with a number of notable Greeks, Simonides stepped outside to discuss a payment dispute. While he was outside the building, its roof collapsed killing everyone inside. As the rubble was being cleared he was called upon to identify the bodies of the dead so that their families could give them proper burial. He was able to do this by remembering the locations where they had been sitting around the banquet table.

This experience gave rise to his ideas connecting memory triggers with physical location which became the foundation for the art of memory. The exercise and strengthening of one’s memory was essential training for any scholar or orator in ancient times. It was as much a part of life as exercising one’s body or bathing.

headless statue from the grotto


By the middle ages, memory arts were studied through the writings of Cicero, the Roman orator whose De Oratore in 55 BCE includes, as part of the section on Rhetoric, the story of Simonides at the banquet as a way of documenting the origin of the art of memory. Scholars in the middle ages used Cicero’s texts to recreate the practice of the Art of Memory and the use of loci as triggers for stored memories. There is however no complete set of instructions for the art of memory as it was practiced in ancient Greece since every document that exists assumes general knowledge of this practice is commonplace.

The Art of Memory employs loci or physical locations—spots in a house or market or temple or other structure—to hold a series of thoughts for later retrieval. The idea is that one strolls through a building, one’s own home for example, and locates spots of significance (instructions are that this spot must be well lit and striking in color, shape, or emotional impact) and in these spots, points along a trajectory of thought or even exact words in a pre-composed speech are stored. First the building must be well known to the person storing the ideas, then the ideas must be firmly planted there in the mind—the mind associates the ideas with the loci. The loci are thought of as the wax tablets or pages on which the ideas are written—then retrieval is achieved later by taking a mental walk though this memory palace when the speaker needs the information in the course of speaking in public.

As taught in the middle ages, vivid images are used to symbolize ideas. In the mind’s eye, one then places each of these images into different loci. They can then be recalled in order by imagining that one is walking through the building again, visiting each of the loci in order, and mentally viewing each of the images that were placed in the loci, thereby recalling each piece of memory or speech in order. One might imagine that this practice took time to learn and to use well. The practice of using the method would strengthen with time and the facility for memorization would improve with repetition. This method was used not only for rote memorization but for composition as well. Taking a stroll through the structure—past corners and pieces of favorite furniture or windows or doorways—can also suggest ordering principles for ideas one intends to express. Senators and other orators in ancient Rome could speak for two hours and longer without recourse to notes and it is understood that though in some way they were speaking extemporaneously, their ideas had been pre-composed and ordered via memory palaces constructed as part of a discipline that was an ordinary part of education. A method that focused not just on facts but on mechanics of thought itself. For monks in the middle ages it was also a method for memorizing and recalling sacred texts and prayers. Illuminated manuscripts with their bright colors and vivid images aided in the memorization of the texts they contained.

star pond at the grotto


In our time the aspect of the mind’s capacity that is most attended to and admired is the imagination—great powers in any field are attributed to a great imagination. In the middle ages the aspect most admired was memory. Not just because people were thought of as repositories of great works but also because this extended and developed memory gave them great discipline and capacity of mind. Thomas Aquinas was said to be able to dictate to four secretaries or scribes at once keeping each train of thought separately developing—and this is the dictation of four different texts fully composed in his mind
and waiting there available for recall.

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A workshop led by Karen Christopher

The Dove, the Ghost, the Handkerchief Tree is a three-part workshop taking place over three years involving students from Dartington College of Arts and interested members of the surrounding community focused on generating performance material through collaborative devising processes. Focus will be concentrated on the ideas around the last days of the Art College’s residence at Dartington. Each of the three parts will involve participation in workshop activities culminating in the presentation of performance material. The first part of the project is a one-week workshop beginning March 9th, 2009. Participation in this week does not necessitate participation in following years nor does non-participation preclude future participation. It is expected that, though a core group will follow through all three years of the project, some people will come and go after each segment.

Goat Island film project, super8 film still--Lucy Cash

Goat Island film project, super8 film still--Lucy Cash


The performance-generating activities of this workshop will focus mainly on the body as a site of information and expression. Using research methods from both studio experimentation and field or book study, participants will make short, time-based compositions in collaboration with others. Through writing, moving, and gathering, both solo and group work will combine to provide a textural latticework of interconnected ideas in proximity to our central focus on departure.
During the first year’s week-long workshop participants will focus on generating material in site-specific locations. In the second year we will involve members of the Dartington community who will be asked to make creative responses to public presentations of works-in-progress. Some of these responses will be chosen for inclusion in the next phase of the work. In the final year, the workshop events will culminate to combine material from the past two years’ workshops taking it into a new location and a final presentation. In this way the number of participants changes with each phase of the project.
Goat Island film project, Super8 film still--Lucy Cash

Goat Island film project, Super8 film still--Lucy Cash


As a member of Goat Island, a collaborative performance group currently in the process of touring our final work together, I am focused on ideas of lastness, ending well, lasting, and legacy. Considering the historical context of the Dartington estate and the changes it is going through at present and Goat Island’s years-long engagement with both Dartington Arts and Dartington College of Arts I am interested in further study of ideas around ending within the context of the final days of the art college’s residence at Dartington and the effect of its relocation on students and the surrounding community. In Goat Island’s work we are finding positive, creative ways to address change, interruption, and finality and I would like to expand on these ideas within the context of Dartington.

We all have a place in our hearts that provides sanctuary. It may be a house we knew as children or a tree or a corner of a street in a particular town. The garden at Dartington is such a place for many people who have been here over the years and especially to those who have studied here and afterward had to move on. As part of this 3-year project various activities will be undertaken in workshops with students drawing consciousness toward how the history of a place influences the present and how we in the present can make a lasting imprint for the future, as well as how one takes a place away with one, or documents it, or finds a way to memorialize it to protect it as a site of personal solace or inspiration. Workshops will focus on generating performance material and writing with a focus on lasting, ending, absence, residue, leaving, and surviving death and change. Performance elements will be focused on the idea of leaving the garden, leaving a part of the self behind in the garden, and keeping the garden with you when you go.

Click on this link to a downloadable PDF of the workshop description:
the-dove-the-ghost-the-hkrchftree-descrp

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