Performing the outside world

Two people seen in profile sit back to back on a mossy forest floor, surrounded by the trunks of tall fir trees. A man in a denim shirt and jeans sits on the right and gazes into the woods. A woman with short red hair and wearing a yellow top sits on the left and gazes up towards the sky, resting the top of her head on the back of the man's neck.

Captioned for d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing viewers

Performing the Outside World brings together short films by UK-based artists and performers that explore themes of access to nature. Through simple, shared actions, the films evoke different sensory experiences – of touch and tactility, movement through landscape, shifting colours and textures. They question how elemental phenomena may be experienced when disability and limited infrastructure restrict access, and they harness experimental, DIY solutions to negotiate these barriers. The films share a sense of wonder and fascination with the natural world, and joy in the freedom to explore, touch, and interpret these environments. 

The title of this film programme is borrowed with gratitude from Abi Palmer’s article ‘A flat-packed forest’ (Wellcome Collection, 18 October 2021)

Films

Slow Progress is a small selection of documentation of physical practice of Julie Cleves and Robbie Synge, filmed mainly in Scotland within the period of 2015 – 2018.

Sitting on the grass or moving along a forest path together are activities most friends might manage without much effort. Julie and Robbie’s practice has involved developing simple but highly effective designs – wooden ‘blocks’ and ‘boards’ and a plastic version. Embedding these objects within choreographic actions, Julie and Robbie constantly enjoy searching for new challenges and places to share time together.

Julie Cleves (London) and Robbie Synge’s (Highlands) practice and friendship investigates the possibilities of sharing time in different spaces together, over-coming disability access issues with proactive and novel DIY design solutions. Founded twelve years ago in dance studio-based research around the possibilities of moving together on the floor, they soon became bored of the studio confines and took their practice into the public realm. Their adventurous spirit and highly visible performed actions seek to enable new personal shared experiences and to feed into overlapping discourses around access, design, cooperation and embodied actions and solutions.

Forest Floor builds upon previous self-filmed documentation as seen in Slow Progress. Shot in Abernethy Forest in the Cairngorms, Forest Floor considers different bodies and physical access challenges in a rural location. Close friends Julie and Robbie sit quietly together on the ground – a simple idea requiring a novel approach.

“…a short film of astonishing beauty that redefines “adventure”… first they solve the technical challenge that besets all good adventures — how to get there — and then, they dance.”
– Keme Nzerem, Financial Times, May 2020.

Julie Cleves (London) and Robbie Synge’s (Highlands) practice and friendship investigates the possibilities of sharing time in different spaces together, over-coming disability access issues with proactive and novel DIY design solutions. Founded twelve years ago in dance studio-based research around the possibilities of moving together on the floor, they soon became bored of the studio confines and took their practice into the public realm. Their adventurous spirit and highly visible performed actions seek to enable new personal shared experiences and to feed into overlapping discourses around access, design, cooperation and embodied actions and solutions.

All the worlds you’ll never see explores artist Abi Palmer’s relationship with her housebound cats. She lives on the third floor of an “accessible” building, but that doesn’t make it easy to access the outside. By default, Abi’s kittens are indoor cats, but she started to understand their desire for an outside which they cannot reach. It is a desire very similar to her own, which is why she brought them into her home to begin with. Abi writes “I, too, hunger for the outside world. I, too, am craving wildness.”

Abi has been exploring ways of reproducing the outside world for her cats in ‘miniature’: foraging for found objects such as feathers, plants, and fallen twigs and leaves, and building small indoor forests for the cats to explore. She wanted to invite the experience of becoming lost in nature, to experience reverie. The process of sharing her findings has become a regular aspect of play and bonding. It’s bittersweet: in recreating and discovering aspects of the natural world Abi loves, is grieving for, and can’t access; and being aware that she has passed this experience on to them.

All the worlds you’ll never see is a short sensory film, originally designed for virtual spaces. Abi says “I wanted to explore the potential of an online gallery, by floating multiple films as if hanging in infinite space, but was surprised by how much my brain wanted me to organise the films as if on one wall of a white cube. This is a boundary I would love to keep pushing – what can the virtual world do for the way that we experience art that is different and transformative?”

A note on poison 
In the film, Abi wanted her cats to experience the magic of finding life growing in the strangest of places. Near her home, a fantastic meadow of wildflowers grows by a large and polluted roundabout. Abi picked some of the flowers and brought them home. However, when she researched the plants, she learned that many of these flowers are toxic to cats and potentially very harmful.

“The conflict here is painful. I tried to create an accessible version of the outdoors for my cats but I was clearly projecting what I felt they should know rather than being led by their needs. It’s also true that the moment I picked the flowers, they lost what I attempted to convey.

This very often happens in access. I am left reflecting on what it means to translate an experience in ways that are both powerful and safe for the bodies who will be taking part. How do you distill and translate the essence of a poppy without using a poppy? It always comes back to centring the user.”

Animal welfare statement: throughout this process, the cats were closely supervised. No animals were harmed in the making of this film.

Abi Palmer is an artist, writer and filmmaker exploring the relationship between linguistic and physical communication. Key work includes Crip Casino—an interactive gambling arcade parodying the wellness industry and institutionalised spaces—shown at Tate Modern, Somerset House and Wellcome Collection (2018-20)—and Sanatorium—a fragmented memoir that jumps between a luxury thermal pool and a blue inflatable bathtub (Penned in the Margins, 2020).  Personal essays and articles have been published by The Guardian, Vice and Wellcome Collection Stories.  In 2016 she won a Saboteur Award for her multi-sensory poetry installation Alchemy. In 2020 she was awarded a Artangel Thinking Time award in order to address the pandemic. She was awarded a Paul Hamlyn Award For Artists in 2021. Abi can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @abipalmer_bot.

Be Different Today is a short film by artists Ruth Barrie and Juliana Capes, commissioned by BBC/LUX Scotland as part of the Now and Next Commissions.

Be Different Today was filmed over seven visually described sunrises on Portobello beach in February 2019.  It has grown from Juliana’s passion for equal access to the arts and her experience of  working with visually impaired audience for the last 15 years in Scottish galleries as a visual describer. Consequently she considers visual description a creative practise akin to the making of a painting, and of equal benefit to visually impaired and sighted audiences alike.

Juliana and Ruth’s collaboration speaks about the difficulty of describing the indescribable (such as colour, such as grief, such as love) and operates on the cusp of the personal and universal, drawing on each of the artists’ life experiences. They have also been inspired by a shared love of Portobello beach, ASMR youtube videos and transcendental meditation. The resulting film “Be Different Today” speaks of the dualities of living: of simultaneously keeping close and letting go.

Ruth Barrie and Juliana Capes are artists and friends who both live and work five minutes from the beach in Portobello, Edinburgh.

Ruth Barrie (1979, Glasgow) trained as a filmmaker at Edinburgh College of Art. She has directed documentaries for Channel 4 & STV and regularly collaborates with musicians and artists to produce moving image work.

Juliana Capes (1974, Grimsby) is an award-winning multi-disciplinary visual artist. She has worked in the arts in Scotland for the last 23 years, exhibiting most recently at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, Royal Scottish Academy and Edinburgh Art Festival.

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Slow Progress
Dir. Julie Cleves and Robbie Synge (UK, 2017, 10’17)

Forest Floor
Dir. Julie Cleves and Robbie Synge (UK, 2019, 4’45)

All the worlds you’ll never see
Dir. Abi Palmer (UK, 2021, 5’34)

Be Different Today
Dir. Ruth Barrie & Juliana Capes (UK, 2019, 4’40) 

All films include subtitles for d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Free, optional donations welcome

Watch at Cample:
Thurs 25 - Sun 28 August

Films screening on a loop throughout each day – drop in (no booking required)

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Watch Online:
Sun 28 August - Sat 3 September

Introduction by Métis Curator Jennifer Smith

Watch an introduction to Rhayne Vermette’s ‘Ste. Anne’ by Jennifer Smith – a Métis curator, writer and arts administrator from treaty 1 territory, today called Winnipeg, Canada. 

Of the film, Jennifer says “The moments I have felt the most intimate with are the long shots of Renee out on the land reflecting. These shot celebrate the land the film was shot on, and celebrate the land Renee loves. It shows how land can be healing in the fact that this is what Renee does when she needs time away from a difficult situation, and the shots give us space as an audience the reflect and just spend time with the film instead of consuming the film.”

Supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI

Let us know what you think
If you attend this screening, please take a moment to complete this short audience survey

Enjoyed the film? 
Please consider making a donation to support CAMPLE LINE