Blog by artist/printmaker Dawn Cole
Sunday 23rd March saw the first Resting Place live performance event in Ellington Park, Ramsgate. This was both the beginning and the end. The beginning of Clarice’s diary, the beginning of the project as a collaboration, the beginning of a journey and the end of Resting Place being solely mine
Sunday saw me entering unchartered territory and challenging myself in how I represented my work to a public audience. The pillowcases which form the focus for Resting Place will now gradually be laid out over the course of the live events, but this aspect was something I already knew I wanted to do. The challenge has been to explore Clarice’s diary through others eyes and to revisit my own opinions and ideas around her archive. This aspect of the project, from my own perspective ,has been so far the most enlightening and inspiring and has provoked me into ideas and explorations that I would not otherwise have attempted. Stepping outside my normal, safe working environment is proving to be a very exciting experience, scary, self doubting, but exciting.
‘On wishing her goodbye’ saw an invitation going out across the country, mostly via Social Media, inviting people to send a message expressing what you would say to a young woman heading off to war, and to send the message in the form of a bunting flag. These flags i made up into strings of bunting and adorned the bandstand with them. This idea explored the lack of celebration and ceremony that women were given when leaving England to Nurse in France. It is well documented the sort of send off men were given in contrast. The response was overwhelming, with tears (from me) on opening every package that arrived, and many admitting on sunday hat they too shed a few tears when reading the flags. Now the first event is over I intend to bind the flags into books, that can still be opened out to form strings of bunting, but can be read and exhibited as the project continues. A permanent record of goodbyes. All the flags can be seen on the gallery on the Resting Place website
The nominal fee of women paying 1 shilling (5p) and men being given 1 shilling (5p) was also an exploration of the inequalities evident in the opening pages of Clarice’s diary. At a time when men were ‘taking the King’s shilling’ to enlist, Clarice writes that she had to send a shilling. Going around the audience on Sunday collecting shillings and giving them provoked a few raised eyebrows and quite a few indignant questions as to why; the response I had hoped for!
These are just 2 of the additional projects that have so far come out of the larger one. Something I had not planned would happen but that has begun a whole series of ideas for other smaller projects, each one exploring a different idea that the diary suggests.
It was interesting to see the whole event come together on Sunday. The country dancing and live performance, the spoken word, the bunting, the pillowcases, the tea and cakes. There have been a few critical comments, and for a rather abstract, conceptual event that is completely expected and welcomed. After all this is a new project in its very early stages and there may be things that don’t work and aren’t understood, but the overriding feeling expressed was one of emotional responses and for me the best moment was when the performance and spoken word ended and the audience were absolutely silent. There was a few moments of confusion where it was clear that the audience were not quite sure what to do. It was actually quite an uncomfortable few moments but to me, standing amongst the audience it was a very expressive moment and one that couldn’t have been planned or predicted and seemed to sum up how Clarice and her family may have been feeling – the unknown and the confusion that comes with not knowing what will happen next.