A circle in 12 parts: Aquarius

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Aquarius is Maria Hayes.

Double Aquarius 14:02:22

We are birthday twins so we created this piece on our birthdays.

Working with Jake is always exciting and invigorating. Our creative conversations happen through initial talking, but mostly through the doing. We each work in our own ways but there is a connection, synchronicity and overlap in how we do what we do.

In making choices for this performance from Jake’s significant record collection and my overloaded image library I decided to be spontaneous. I listened to internal prompts and allowed those to guide me. On reflection I notice that many of the choices are things that have significance in how I have been formed, informed, shaped and made at different stages of my life. There are also sounds and images of my current obsessions. In addition there is the purr of my younger cat. All are soul connections.

This month we both lost our friend and collaborator Sianed Jones. Sianed features in my choices too. How could she not? She appears as butterfly. Psyche – soul – transformation. A butterfly can have the gentlest and most transient of presences yet affect complex systems in dramatic ways. And this can be true of us all.

And birds. Being an air sign birds are of significance to us both. I have worked for many years with the tension between freedom and security. Between trying to establish roots while desiring to fly. Between being of the earth and being other. Perhaps it’s something of the condition of being an artist and freelance working. Never quite belonging, but observing. Taking flight with our imaginations then nest building for the next project. It is so wonderful to find another member of your tribe, or flock, to fly with. Thank you Jake.

A circle in 12 parts: Capricorn

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Capricorn is Keryl Hodges.

“Yours is going to be the most complicated yet!”

“Why of course it is, I’m a Capricorn!”

“So do I need to talk about being a Capricorn, or my ideas, for this video?” I’m questioning, are my ideas for this video born of being a Capricorn or being me, am I truly a Capricorn?
When Jacob asked me to take part in his Circles in 12 Parts projects instantly I thought of at least 300 ideas, mostly fantastical, of things I wanted to do for it. I got super excited, this was in about April last year, plenty of time to plan, create, decide I thought! I wanted to express a lots of things that make me me, then I had to scale back a tad, I do a lot of things!
Composition…

Visual, it had to be visual. Okay, it’s time. I admit it, I’m a photographer, it’s taken me 43 years to get to this point of true admittance. I don’t like admitting I’m a photographer because it always feels like a sham. I was born with a camera in my hand, I’ll probably die with one, I’m qualified but still. (I wonder if impostor syndrome is part of being a Capricorn too because I definitely suffer with that). So it had to involve images, photographs & film. (Well that’s a start!)
Right, focus…

(459 ideas, they’re growing!)Many things happen in the house of Capricorn, there is the; Winter solstice at the start, Yule, Christmas, the dead days, New Year, National science fiction day, World Braille day, The 12th night, 3 kings, Global word search day, Martin Luther King Day, Winnie the Pooh Day, then there’s my birthday, on the 19th, the last day of Capricorn. (I’m a Capricorn on the edge!) What does being born in the house of Capricorn mean to me? (Now I’m starting to go down a spiral of am I creative because I’m a Capricorn or am I a Capricorn because I’m creative?, no that doesn’t make sense! Hang on, are Capricorns creative? I’m going to have to look that up now!) I know I’m unusual, I’m lucky in the fact I can turn my hand to most creative things very easily. I have a good eye, an artistic bent & love creating things. I have many hats but none I’m comfortable enough to wear for too long. (Don’t give me a title, oh no!) When I have to do something I focus & tend to try and pack as many ideas into one thing as I can because I get over excited (probably because I’m half goat). I get a lot of ideas, some fantastical, some mundane, some doable, some not. Then I question everything. My ideas, my ability, which I suppose is a duality thing? (Hmmm… Duality, that’s a Capricorn thing as well isn’t it? I know I’m bossy & know what I want, I know how to get things done, ask Jacob!) Are Capricorns easily distracted? No they’re supposed to be hardworking, ambitious & determined! Look!! ⬇️

Capricorns are practical (ah-hem!) as well, taking things one step at a time (errrr!) and being as realistic and pragmatic as possible.(guffaw!) Those with a Capricorn zodiac sign are extremely dedicated to their goals,(oh really!) almost to the point of stubbornness (yep!) . Those victories sure smell sweet, though, and that thought alone will keep Capricorns going (nope!).
Depth of field…

For me it has to be being born in the months of the darkest days and longest nights, the still sun, the teetering & tottering on the axis of the Earth, bringing light back into the dark. So I turned my attention to Solstice; the sun standing still, the longest night and shortest day, the unbalance. These thoughts turned to reflection; the old and the new, the looking back and looking forward, the God Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, endings and of motion, after who January is named and the spirit trapped within the tail of the fish. (I want to say fish, is it a fish? It’s definitely a goat, well the top half anyway? A mermaid, no that’s stupid, it’s a goat fish? Isn’t it Babylonian? Ea? A sea goat? That’s it, a sea goat, called Ea. Or is it Greek, something to do with baby Zeus and his baby eating father Cronos and a goat called Almathea.) I made notes. So I started thinking (dangerous!). What could I use to capture that day, that moment , that time, those images, the still sun, natures physical essences of Capricorn. It would take planning, not my strong suit. I Decided it would all have to be created in the time of Capricorn. So I didn’t think much about it again until November.
Reframe…

November arrived. I started by thinking about a time-lapse of the day of the solstice on the first day of Capricorn, the first day of winter, the 21st of December 2021. I thought filming 16 hours time-lapsed was going to be about 15 minutes of video but instead I was duped by new technology in my phone and the 16 hours of filming actually turned into just under three minutes of video, great! (I need more material!) I had been sent flowers because my dog had died, roses to be exact. (What’s the flower of Capricorn? Is there a flower of Capricorn? I’ve looked it up, apparently it can be a pansy, it can be a carnation, it can be whatever the hell one person or another wants to say it is to sell flowers in this gloomy time of year!) The petals had fallen and dried and I kept them on the windowsill, (they become packaging I use for another endeavour!) so I took a photograph because they looked like skin, shedded. I’d been playing with a movie app on my phone that had a kaleidoscope setting, so I started playing with that, then all manner of ideas started coming to me of what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something with light, a projector, it’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for awhile but with no direction for output, now here was my chance. I started thinking about playing with reflections & time & light & creating a mirror of spirits with projections. I wanted to do something where I projected an image onto a person, a real-time image but slightly out of sync, as to cause a delay, a jarring but capture it in real time rather than using post editing. I wanted Jacob to look like Janus looking backwards and forwards, I wanted Jacob to reflect on himself multiple times. (deep!) I wanted to be playing with time, capturing moments of layered light out of the darkness & spectral imagery and I wanted it all to be captured live, a challenge. (Jacob outright flat refused to wear the all in one white lycra skin-suit I wanted to get for best projection reflection. And even the mere suggestion of white face paint was rejected on the spot, so I had to improvise & luckily he always wears his white performance shirt so….) I wanted to do the projection thing & take photographs, because as I said before, I am, at at my core, a photographer.(another admission, I must be careful!) So there had to be me taking stills while the projections were going on, more reflections. Also it would have to be done & recorded live on the chosen day.
I had the forming of my idea but how to put it into action? I need equipment! “JACOB!!”
Adjust the white balance…

In the meantime I’d got busy making fun short films using my phone. So … there’s a short video of my fire reflected with a representation of the sun, still & fixed in the middle (flamma, another obsession). I, like many, always like to light a fire in the dark and cold months, a yule log so to say, it plays a big part of my life. Then there is a short film which is the reflection of the petals and being able to see images of creatures and people within those petals that you don’t see without the reflection, things within things, looking back at each other but unseen. Then there’s a short film of the solstice time-lapse, which I also reflected as a triple reflection. (There’s a definite theme here).Then there’s the solstice day time-lapse with the film Capricorn One’s intro audio over it, just because it’s Capricorn ‘innit. You will notice the tarot card for Capricorn, The Devil, don’t be alarmed, (it’s not really the devil but Pan on the card & yes I’m learning to read tarot) it’s not an evil card. Ok it does hold a little toxicity, greed guilt, addiction, fear, control & possession but to me it represents being strong willed & ambitious, imagined insecurities & bondage. I may feel trapped but it’s by my own choices, (too many?) but I have the ability to break free at anytime to follow my ambitions, be determined & stop at nothing to obtain my goals. So going with that and truly embracing my full goat there was no stopping me!
Press the shutter…

The auspicious day arrived, the day of the performance & recording and with projector & camera set up and ready & a very nice camera in hand it was over to Jacob. The performance begun & I started shooting, I shot Jacob. (A joke my Dad always used to make about going out & shooting people at a wedding! He was a photographer too.) I was tripping over tripods in the dark, and forgetting that fade to black stops everything, and press that button, don’t press that button, and click over here, then find a better angle, oooh great lens, and gawd this camera is heavy and just when I was really enjoying it, it was over. Done, captured, completed. A little off axis, a lot of reflection and I still don’t know if I’m much of a Capricorn, or if I managed to express it, but I got it done. There’s a few errors, lessons we’ll call them, as they say the devils in the detail, he’s definitely in Capricorn! But much fun was had & I’m looking forward to doing more things in the next cycle.

I’d just like to add that these records I chose were by fellow Capricorns – Patti Smith – Because the Night, David Bowie – Heroes & the BeeGees (Gibb twins; Robin & Maurice) – Night Fever. 

The others were The Beatles (no Capricorns I’m afraid) – Here comes the sun. The Unexplained flexi disc, (because it’s all spirits) And a tone test record (because I like tone/drone sounds).

K.

Half a circle

At this point I realise that I haven’t written on the process of creating this body of work, if indeed that’s what it is…I am reminded of a Don Van Vliet quote “I’m interested in playing, not working”, gotta love the captain!

I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and engagement of my invited guests over the last 6 months and feel a need to pause and thank them all for the time and effort given to this unfunded, personal project.

It’s been such an interesting process working with the artists through the last 6 months, each bringing their own interpretation and understanding of their zodiac sign and how to engage with the project. As the series has progressed there is a sense that each sign is intrinsically connected to the last, potential methods of interaction and engagement increase with every iteration.

How appropriate at this point in the cycle to be challenged by a Virgo to ‘Do something you haven’t done before‘, I decided to take that principle beyond the improvised audio and break the visual format established in the previous videos too, breaking down the individual video components and creating new visual options for future participants to explore.

I am looking forward to working with my next half circle of guests and hope they will embrace the project as fully as the first half circle and be bold in their suggestions and participation.

“It’s only music when you’re playing it, if you’re not playing it, it’s not music” John Leidecker aka Wobbly

A circle in 12 parts: Virgo

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Virgo is Jay Hodges:

“I know you’ve seen the note. I know you know what it says. How did it come to this? It’s not my fault, I’m innocent! I didn’t want to do it! I’M A PERFECTIONIST!”.

Ok, ok, back to the beginning and how or why I got involved in all this despicable, unholy behavior. It all started quite innocently in ‘The Before Time’. A couple of visits to the pub and this guy invites me to take part in his New Musick project, I’m a little sceptical but I think ‘hey, just Roll With It‘. He’d found a brewery with extra special ales, delivered free, that we could drink in his home. What a process! Order beer, deliver beer, drink! True explorers, finding random new hops whenever they arose – FOUND HOPS, what an amazing project, I’m fully on board, totally committed. Then he starts drawing circles and all manner of shit happens.

The soundtrack was the start of it all, if we had just used my suggestion of Madonna’s Like a Virgin, her ‘magnum opus’, none of this would have happened. I tried telling him of her integrity, originality and dedication to her art, and the deep emotional content of such a seminal track, but all did was ramble, speaking in tongues, muttering things like; “commodification of music”, “corporate whore”, “selling sex”, strange meaningless sentences. For him the soundtrack would be a live performance, Analogous to the project, something to “sample the Hops and Skip the Juice“. Performance! Sampling! Things were beginning to get weird, his fluid performance was about to become binary and there were way too many binaries in this world; Love and Hate, Life And Death, Analog and Digital.

The Separation and the outlawing of performance should have put and end to this absurdity, but it just fueled his madness, A Perfect Storm, he was to take things to a new level – a full circle with 12 co-conspirators, he had a crew and they could remote. Why he decided to convince me to join up I don’t know, perhaps he felt sorry for me but I was in way over my head. I should have ran there and then but I was committed and guys like me when we commit, WE COMMIT! My part in this demonstrable ritual was to use our original sample plan to create a circle (again with the circles), analog to digital – an improvisation. Improvisation! How could I? It’s against my nature, I’M A PERFECTIONIST! But all he could say was “Hey man, let the computer do the work, this ‘aint no job, it’s a Vocation“. I was reeling, Twisted Sour, my mind recoiled back to simpler times and the Double IPA‘s of FOUND HOPS. Thats it! I would double down, Madonna to the power of 6. I would lure him into unfamiliar territory – a first – and from there bring him back from the brink. However I would also be in virgin territory.

It was during the performance as I was about to unleash the power of the prickly pop princess that he finally revealed himself, amid Wave After Wave of expertly crafted crushing reverberation and modulation – a transformation, a digital wizard, the circle complete, my plan was in tatters, I was lost, the madonna had fallen, there was no going back, BUT I’M A PERFECTIONIST!  That’s when I found the note, carefully placed only to be discovered at exactly the right moment, as the last fragments of reality dissolve. You’ve seen it, you know what it says! Those Dark, Stout, ominous letters rendering themselves onto my being

LIFES A PITCH THEN YOU DELAY

I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway and I know I can never go back but all I want to do is return to the pub where it all started and begin again, “like a virgin…Hey!… Fucked for the very first time”.

A circle in 12 parts: Cancer

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Cancer is Kathryn Campbell Dodd:

Home is where the haunt is

These days I’m pretty sceptical about astrology, but, in my younger years, I enthusiastically learned and absorbed the traits of my star sign. I think, perhaps, the quasi-scientific nature of astrology satisfies a deep desire within us to see ourselves objectively reflected and to catch a glimpse of our ‘true’ self. Sometimes I wonder whether we are so taken with this mirror to our character that we accept the reflection as the real. We confuse the given traits of our star sign with our own, ’Well, I’m a Cancer so of course I’m a nurturing, slightly over sensitive home lover’.

As above, so below is the credo of astrology. My celestial companion is the moon and I’ve been looking for her reflection in the stuff of my every day.

The ‘typical’ Cancerian feature that seems to have chimed with me consistently throughout my life is a preoccupation with home, and the things of the home. I’m particularly interested in the unhomely and the haunted home, the disturbance of the unfamiliar becoming manifest within our most intimate environment; the way that small disruptions in atmosphere and perception can make the familiar suddenly uncomfortable and alien.

I decided to choose just one record from Jacob’s collection to build sound for the piece, Ghosts by Japan, a piece that cultural theorist Mark Fisher cites in the title of his book Ghosts of My Life: writings on depression, hauntology and lost futures in which he describes its “…sense of enervated foreboding…”:

When the room is quiet, the daylight almost gone, it seems there’s something I should know….

Whilst I’ve been thinking about the work I wanted to make for this project, there have been disturbances at the threshold of my home. For a couple of months, a crow has been coming to knock the windows with its beak and ‘caw’ on the windowsills. Sometimes it comes with a companion who sits on the roof, sometimes it comes alone, but it always follows the same routine, four or five times a day, landing on the same two windowsills and performing specific routines. It’s the kind of encounter that is freighted with folklore and superstition. Whatever its intention, it feels portentous and significant.

During the timeframe of these avian encounters, I’ve also stepped into the last year of my fifth decade. I’m adjusting to a new sense of identity. What does it mean to be an old(er) woman in our culture? The hag, the wise woman, the grandmother, the elder…the overlooked, the unheard, the vulnerable, the marginalised. Where do I fit and who are my allies?

When the room is quiet, the crow and the crone are tapping at my windows in the moonlight.

“The word ‘haunt’ and all the derivations thereof may be one of the closest English words to the German ‘unheimlich’, whose polysemic connotations and etymological echoes Freud so assiduously, and so famously, unravelled in his essay on ‘The Uncanny’. Just as ‘German usage allows the familiar (das Heimliche, the’ homely’) to switch to its opposite, the uncanny (das Unheimliche, the ‘unhomely’)’ (Freud), so ‘haunt’ signifies both the dwelling-place, the domestic scene and that which invades or disturbs it. The OED lists one of the earliest meanings of the word ‘haunt’ as ‘to provide with a home, house.” Mark Fisher, k-punk.abstractdynamics.org

KCD July 2021

A circle in 12 parts: Gemini

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Gemini is Ceri Owen-Jones:

“When Jake asked me to take part in this project, the first thing I looked into were the origins and myths of Gemini. At my friend Sue’s suggestion, I went from Latin to Greek (Castor & Pollux) and back to Gemini’s Babylonian origins in the Great Horse Twins, and the parallel Vedic tradition of the Twins, the Ashvins, which means the ‘possessors of Horse’. According to Joseph Campbell, the mastery of the Horse brought a new energy and vitality to the dawn of the Iron Age and its symbolism replaced that of the Bull.

There are many horse songs in traditional Welsh music. I chose to play & record a Ceredigion melody, Y Dau Farch. Y Dau Farch is a conversation between two horses, one old, one young, about their past and future, which feels perfect for Gemini, a sign with an emphasis on duality and communication. Keeping Gemini communication in mind, the albums that leapt out at me in Jake’s vinyl library catalogue were the Welsh language learning albums. I wanted to explore communication in a second language, the difficulties of learning and expressing oneself, how comprehension in certain registers and subtle expression can be problematic.

With what I now know is classic Gemini superficiality, I mis-read Jake’s guide to album choices. Once figured out, I was glad to see that amongst his base-line choices was The Planets by Holst and from this I liked an arrangement of ‘Mercury’ (ruling planet of Gemini) by Tomita, a fuzzy soft Moog version. Jake also pointed out that one of his Gemini readings by Melvin J Gunton and Brian Skinner was made in Canada, a great choice for a Canadian in Wales / a Cymro who grew up in Canada. The constant idea in my life is duality.

My birthchart has seven planets in Air signs as well as my Midheaven (I’m Air heavy!). To represent Air, I chose the tracks Air and Listening Wind by Talking Heads, Walking in the Air sung by Aled Jones, and The Dragon by Vangelis (the Dragon, especially in Chinese myth, being a creature of clouds and air and a potent symbol in Wales). I saw that Jake has two copies of this last record in his listing – found at Emlyn Antiques – one with a cover, and one without.

I added a Miles Davis album as we share a birthday. It was a choice between Dr. Jekyll and Decoy. Although the title Dr Jekyll seems appropriate to describe the duality of Gemini, I veered off with the Decoy as the feel of the music seemed good for the flightiness of the ruling planet Mercury. This album was given to Jake by our great friend Peter Stevenson.

In medieval music, each modal scale was associated with a planet. Mercury was hypo-phrygian and as one of Gemini’s characteristics is the enjoyment of improvisation and the ability to adapt easily, I thought I would improvise variations on this mode based on the Welsh melodies Y March Glas and Triban y Cathreiwr (for the Ox in me).

Thinking of form: moving from calm to frenetic is the two parts, yin and yang, of Gemini. This will be based on feel, and collaborating with Jake. It’ll just have to happen as it happens.

Dragons swirl amongst the clouds. The heartsease, Viola tricolor, with its zygomorphic flowers, are like the Twins. A Tibetan singing bowl to clear the space and air, along with gifts given to me and Elsa (musical Twins) from Jake, completes the Circle.

I paired this with Taliesin of the Shining Brow: Canu y Gwynt; a riddle of the Wind.”

Ceri’s record selection: Talking Heads – Air; Talking Heads – Listening Wind; Aled Jones – Walking in the Air; Disciau Dysgu Difyr – Adar; Miles Davis – Decoy; BBC Radio – Welsh for Beginners; Cwrs Cymraeg llafar;