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The elements

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elemental: summer

2 artists, 4 elements, 6 weeks, 8 women. Artists Clare Whistler and Xaverine MA Bates return for elemental: summer, the third set of seasonal site-specific workshops for women to explore in place earth, air, fire and water. Zelly Restorick writes.

The workshops are described as ‘an experiential, embodied and ephemeral exploration of the elements through movement, site-specific artworks and meditation’. As a participant, you are given the opportunity to create a visual memoir of your journey through earth, air, fire and water and what they mean to you. Previously, Xaverine and Clare have run workshops on the elements related to Winter and Spring< Now it is the turn of Summer.


elemental participants on site

First Xaverine tells us a bit about herself and Clare, her fellow artist and co-creator of elemental.

Clare started her career as a dancer and has moved into an array of art forms including performance, site-specific work, text, music, visual art and landscape. She uses her history and practices as an artist to source and value one’s own creativity, and value the humanities as a way to embrace living. She is a trustee at ONCA in Brighton, a charity and gallery that supports artists and audiences to engage with environmental and social challenges, and has also recently created writing workshops with Kay Syrad for the Donna Harraway ’Staying With The Trouble’ creative writing group.

She has recently done an introduction to eco-poetics which will be a full course in Autumn 2018; a gallery exhibition, ‘Ritual Burial,’ with photographs, text, ritual robe, installation, flowerbed, seeds and interaction in November 2017; a window display at Christmas 2016 of ‘Gifts Objects’; and had a residency for a week on Dowsing with fellow water artist Charlotte Still. She has just finished delivering ‘A Humanist’s Guide to Art, Design, Community, Collaboration and the Earth’ at Stanford University, California.

Xaverine: A multi-disciplinary artist and writer exploring themes of gender, mental health, consciousness shift and eco-spirituality. She recently started a new eco-feminist writing group, the worldsmiths, which is an inclusive space for anyone who identifies with the tenets of intersectional ecofeminism – imagining and dreaming a more equal world where we replenish and restore the delicate balance of the eco-system around us rather than consuming and ravaging, as per the current capitalist/patriarchal model of society. She has had poems published on Rebelle Society, which reference the #metoo movement and white supremacy. She has also just started studying permaculture, with a view to creating a more abundant and sustainable life for herself and her family.



What was your catalyst for elemental?

As artists with an awareness of the ecological crisis we are facing, we wanted to do something to acknowledge the situation we are in and help engage others in reconnecting with the natural world. The myth of separation, that humans are somehow apart from – or above – nature, is the main cause of the kind of thinking that has got us into the mess we are in, so we wanted to do something that helped people to remember their innate connection to the more-than-human world.

By using the elements as a starting point, we were able to plan each session with a variety of media, such as poetry, music, drawing and movement, to help each participant to identify the ecological, social and psychological aspects of each element. For example, for earth, we led participants through a guided meditation which encouraged them to think of the sadness of the earth, inspired by Joanna Macy’s Spiral of the Work that Reconnects, and to remember their roots and connection to the land. This was particularly resonant as we were at Heart of Hastings Ore Valley for this session, a site which was once a power-station that burned down, so despite the burgeoning wildflowers and other species reclaiming the site, we were able to acknowledge the site’s damaged past and honour the attempts to bring it back to life.



This is the third in the series: you’ve covered Winter and Spring and now Summer: what do you have planned for this workshop?

We will be following a similar formula to the previous workshops, although this time they will be in the order of the Celtic wheel of the year, i.e. earth, air, fire and water, to reflect the ancient practices embedded within East Sussex. Each set of workshops begins with an introduction to all the elements through drawing, poetry and meditation, as well as a brief exploration of different cultures’ understanding of the elements; and then we go out to carefully chosen locations to explore each element in situ. We encourage participants to think about each element as an aspect of the self, as well as its expression in the outside world. We also notice that identifying with an element may change over time: someone who has a fiery temper may feel more fluid or earthy one day, or like an airhead the next.

How much of this relates to our experience as women and how does society shape our understanding of the elements? Is it ok to be in a flaming rage or is it more acceptable to be yielding like water? How are the elements expressed in myth and fairytale? We explore these questions and much more.



What sort of feedback have you received?

One participant from elemental:winter said, “It was exactly what I need at exactly the right time. It really helped me reconnect to things outside of myself and got me writing again.” Another participant from elemental:spring was so inspired by the work at Heart of Hastings Ore Valley, where we held the earth workshops, that she said, “It’s become my second home thanks to Earth Elemental, my first visit there!” and has been busy volunteering on the site ever since.

What might participants hope to gain from the elemental experience?

A reconnection to the more-than-human world, a revival of a creative practice, a connection with like-minded women, an exploration of something that goes beyond but is embedded in the ordinary.



Do participants work as individuals or as a group?

A bit of both. Some exercises are individual, e.g. responding to a piece of music with drawing, or writing a poem in response to a site we are on. Others are more collective, such as group meditations on the land or carrying water through a water labyrinth.

Tell us about your and Clare’s connection to Hastings.

Xaverine has lived in Hastings since 2001 and Clare has lived in Ashburnham, near Battle, for over 20 years.


elemental : summer with artists Xaverine MA Bates and Clare Whistler

Two bookend workshop meetings to unfold and fold up the experience will be held in The Music Room, 6 The Uplands, Lower Maze Hill, St Leonards TN38 0HL. The other four meetings will be in locations chosen as being most expressive of each element, so be prepared for weather, i.e. the elements! More information via: elemental:summer.



Timing: 6 June-11 July: consecutive Wednesdays, 10am-12pm.
All details and how to book hereSuggested donation £85-100 for full course of six sessions.

NB: a moderate level of fitness is required as some sessions involve walking on uneven ground. However if you have particular needs we are happy to accommodate and adapt the sessions to ensure they are accessible.


Posted 15:20 Sunday, May 13, 2018 In: Arts News

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