15.3.16

Playing Safe Underground


'What It Is Rite' in Llangattock Escarpment


Recently I took a part of an installation I had made, deep underground within a cave. A friend has been making a film in the cave and I went to keep her company. We had been there once previously and I had wandered off down various chambers exploring and trying to make sense of place as she worked.

The cave is accessed through a small hole in the side of an escarpment in the Brecon Beacons. On climbing through the hole you enter a large cavity apparently once used as a church. From this first chamber there are three chamber systems. The chambers (one in particular) is covered in graffiti linking visitors from across the centuries. I am particularly drawn to the polite copperplate writing of visitors from the 18th and 19th centuries. Mainly names and dates. It hints that I am not alone, that I am by surrounded by centuries of fellow travellers. It does not feel like a lonely cold place although in many ways it is.

In another chamber I lie down and squeeze under a large overhang. I turn off the torches and listen. Water drops down the rocks with a regular beat. I discern a further sound, regular and following a slower beat. At points the one becomes the off beat of the other. They play a rhythm together.

I expect that the darkness will be inky and velvety, but it is not. It has its own quality that is tricky to describe. I expect that after a few minutes I will feel panicked but I do not. I feel relaxed. I wonder if this is what being inside a floatation tank feels like. The sensation reminds me of a work I made in 2013 Polar Exploration. In that work I sort to create a neutral space where the senses were blurred through ear defenders, the space smelling of mint and the audience eating a mini Kendal mint cake. Visually the audience were made ‘snow blind’ via the installation being large wendy house structures made of film lighting gel in ‘heavy frost’. Although a space of light, the inability to see or hear properly led the visitors to go inside themselves. It is this quality, that I feel in the cave.

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