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elemental:winter with Xaverine Bates and Clare Whistler

elemental:winter with Xaverine Bates and Clare Whistler

elemental: winter

elemental:winter returns in the New Year 2018: a 6 week course for women exploring the elements through meditation, dance, talks, walks, art making, writing, assembling, sharing and imagining, led by artists, Clare Whistler & Xaverine MA Bates. If you’re feeling the need to reconnect with the natural world, this could be just the thing for you, inspired by the work of Joanna Macy, Mary Reynolds Thompson and the tenets of eco-feminism. Zelly Restorick asks Xaverine some questions about the elemental series.

All details about dates & booking here.


Tell us about elemental and the catalyst for this project? 

The germ of the idea was formed early this year. Clare had just had a screening of her film, Gifts at the Electric Palace Cinema, and had got in touch with me to invite me along.

Clare’s Gifts project was inspired by a naming day gift for Clare’s eldest son in 1989. It was a box containing an egg for life, some coal for heat, evergreen for eternity, salt for health, a candle for light, bread for food, a coin for wealth and a silver ring for love throughout life. The project had come to an end and Clare was wondering what to do next.

Clare and I first met thanks to social media. I had been manically sharing articles about art & feminism as part of riart Grrls, the feminist arts collective I’d founded in 2012, and Clare had got in touch to find out more. We then collaborated together in 2013 for green:purple, a week of events inspired by the suffragettes with a 21st century twist.

When we first discussed the idea for elemental, I was very involved with the Hive, a local women’s circle run by Sarah Bullock and was inspired by the growth of women’s circles around the world. We wanted to do a project which embodied the tenets of eco-feminism, due to the scary and very real effects of climate change being witnessed all around the globe, but drawing on the philosophy behind women’s circles.

We came up with the idea of exploring the elements through site-specific artworks, meditations, movement and more, encouraging participants to think about which element they most identified with. When exploring our own identities, we decided that Clare most represented the elements of air and water, personified by her work as a dancer and her annual project, Waterweek; and I am earth and fire, as I am very passionate and committed to the projects I take on.

elemental background 2018

Do you think it’s important for us humans to have a connection with the seasons and nature and creativity? Why?

Many of us have lost our innate connection with the natural world for all sorts of reasons. The most significant of these is the materialist/dualist philosophy underlying our culture: that we as humans are separate from and superior to nature, rather than an intrinsic part of it.

We hope to bring about an ecocentric, rather than an egocentric philosophy in our workshops, which are inspired by the work of Joanna Macy & Mary Reynolds Thompson.

Macy is a deep-systems theorist and eco-philosopher who founded The Work that Reconnects. The spiral of this work starts with coming from gratitude, honouring our pain for the world, seeing with new eyes and going forth, as described in her seminal work, Active Hope, written with positive psychologist, Chris Johnstone. It was written with the intention to give hope to those who feel utterly disturbed at the state of the world on all sorts of levels: ecological, political, economic & psychological, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

By acknowledging our grief for the devastation we have caused as a species and envisioning a better future for all, it is possible to find something that we can do to make things a little better within our own lives and within our communities.

Projects such as Treesisters are doing just that. Born out of a vision by founder Clare Dubois, who during a car crash into a tree had a near-death experience and received the project with the words, ‘The Experiment’ to replenish the rainforests by 2020. TreeSisters is now “a global network of women who donate monthly to fund the restoration of our tropical forests as a collective expression of planetary care”. The organisation has two central aims: to facilitate feminine leadership and tropical reforestation – and their goal is “to make it as normal for everyone to give back to nature as it currently is to take nature for granted”.


Who are the sessions aimed at?

We welcome women who have an interest in exploring the elements experientially: by appealing to more than just sight, to include touch, smell, taste and sound. Drawing on the Greek Goddesses, the four humours, fairy tales, myth, archetype and much more, we will create and leave traces in the landscape through meditation, dance, talks, walks, art making, writing, assembling, sharing and imagining.

Join us to explore the elements you most identify with and expand your awareness of the elemental around and within us all. Participants are invited to bring their own special journal to map this elemental journey.

How did things go when you ran the last sessions? 

Some of the things we did during elemental:summer included making a stone cairn at Ore Valley DIY Regen, writing an airmail letter to the Air on the East Hill, making a water labyrinth at West St Leonards beach and burning the rulebook in Ashburnham, inspired by Burning Woman by Lucy H Pearce. Each participant kept a journal throughout the course, adding drawings, poetry and any thoughts that came up for them when exploring each element.

elemental: summer participants’ fedback:

Each week has been a voyage of mysterious discovery. The venues have all been magical and the train journeys and walks to the sites have been an additional pleasure. I have enjoyed being in such a stimulating and diverse group. Each member of the group will have had their own hopes and expectations for taking part. As you may know I became very unwell about 3 years ago. I had lost the confidence to take on unfamiliar experiences in case I found that I could not cope. So when the opportunity came of joining you on your exploration of the Elements I took the chance. It has helped me to reach back into the past and reappraise my life and to feel able to evaluate some my artistic practice and rekindle a flame. I am beginning to work again after such a long time.”

Thank you for yet another fascinating workshop session. Such novel ideas were inspirational to engage with. I think the Elements were enjoying them too, joining in! There was a particularly magical moment when I was looking into your pond, and the sunlight highlighted damsel flies flitting to and fro, their iridescent colouring shimmering and illuminating!! Loved the burning of the rule book.”

The workshops were delivered with gentle kindness, humour and love and the group experience was very nourishing with like-minded people. The programmes were very well planned and organised with much thought and consideration. There was a sense of humour throughout but with a very serious undertone. Clare’s love of poems was beautifully shared and your free spirit is an inspiration.”

Who are you both?

Clare is a collaborative site responsive maker, whose work aims to create an art that loosens boundaries between the disciplines, an art which can be a metaphor for opening up perception, experience, time and focus. She seeks to find ways to offer insight, feeling, and moments of timeless beauty, whether in performance, site-specific work, text, music, visual art and landscape. With a source in movement, dance and gesture, she responds, interprets and collaborates. As an artist she is always looking for ways to encourage, ignite and inspire creativity in others.

Xaverine is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses the power of her art practice as a potent therapeutic tool, crossing mediums, embracing photography, performance, poetry, installation, drawing and sculpture: an idea will emerge and the medium forms itself around it – each gently guided by itself. She has collaborated with other artists on many occasions and loves the transformative process of collaboration: the fusion of ideas to create something altogether new. She is currently focusing on writing as a means to condense ideas into a small space, as she works from her tiny study in the spare room at home.

Are you local to Hastings? What’s your connection?

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


elemental: winter 2 artists, 4 elements, 6 weeks, 8 women

An experiential exploration of the elements through movement, site-specific artworks and meditation. Create a visual memoir of your journey through earth, air, water & fire and what they mean to you.

The exploration includes 6 site-specific workshops for women based around the four elements, which will be embodied, ephemeral & experiential. Artists Clare Whistler & Xaverine MA Bates return for this second set of seasonal workshops and bring their experience with a wish to explore in place earth, air, water & fire. Two book-end workshop meetings to un-fold 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!

9 January – 20 February 2018: consecutive Tuesdays 12 – 2pm. No session 13 Feb.

All booking details on eventbrite here.

Details of past projects here

More information: Xaverine Bates and Clare Whistler.

Posted 12:53 Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017 In: Nature

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