Blog by artist/printmaker Dawn Cole
With less than a week to go to the third Resting Place event, a project that I began back in 2012 my thoughts have been very much preoccupied, once again, with pillowcases.
When I began researching for and developing Resting Place back in 2012 I wrote 2 blog posts about pillowcases (read them here and here) and these very early thoughts became the basis for the pillowcases installation that resulted and has now become the core of the project.
For each event the pillowcases have been used and installed differently and this, the Folkestone one, will see them for the first time, laid out as I had first envisaged.
For Resting Place: Ellington Park the pillowcases were installed predominantly under the shelter of the Victorian bandstand, folded and in piles; safe in their groups, with only 3 laid out as individual pillowcases, allowing their story alone, as told in the words etched into the fabric and the embroidery to be seen, exposing these 3 only to the elements.
For Resting Place: Charing Cross they were installed first on a train. This time all opened out but in one pile, offering the passengers the choice of whether to search through the pile or simply gaze and ponder the top one knowing others hid their story beneath, safe and secure in the confines of the carriage. On arriving at Charing Cross Station I gathered them up and passed them carefully to Niamh (Resting Place’s performer) who carried them onto the station concourse where they became a part of the performance. Shaken, folded, packed, laid out on top of an installation of soil from Ellington Park and rested upon. But all still under the shelter of Charing Cross Station and in the care of Niamh.
Resting Place: Folkestone takes place on Folkestone seafront, on a disused strip of land that borders the shingle beach and looks out across the english channel to France. There is no shelter from the elements, nothing separating this place and Europe other than a vast expanse of water. The pillowcases will be at the mercy of whatever the weather throws at them and I find myself excited by this prospect.
There have been some practical considerations to make as this place can take quite a pounding from the wind and so I have had to find a way to prevent the pillowcases from blowing away. As always with my work it had to be the right thing to use as weights, not just anything that would do the job and my Mum’s loft, as has often been the case, has provided the very thing. My late Dad was a compositor for Margate based printworks Thanet Press. Our home, when I was growing up was peppered with tools and print related bits and bobs, many of which I now own and some that still reside at my Mum’s.
A very large, and very heavy ex ice cream tub full of lead type has provided the perfect solution. It seems appropriate to use something of my Dad’s to secure the pillowcases. After all he always tried to protect me. But it is also appropriate that it is old printers type; letters weighing down and securing the pillowcases that are etched with Clarice’s words, and appropriate that it is lead; a metal often used to make shells and particularly the shell contents that caused so many horrendous wounds and fatalities through shrapnel, as described by Clarice in her diary, and a poisonous metal that can cause brain disorders and damage to the nervous system.
And yet for all my attempts at protecting the pillowcases their fate is somewhat out of my control. They are beginning to get dirty, the fibres that contain the burnt text are beginning to fall away, making the words harder to read but leaving the trace of them in the absence of those fibres, the ties that would secure the pillow inside are becoming frayed and what if the wind is so strong that the pillowcases blow away anyway in spite of my efforts to secure them. I find myself wondering and questioning what if they do? What will the audience do? Will they retrieve them? Will I let them go and see where they land? Will people try to protect them? It feels like a parallel to Clarice – that all the time she was on British soil she was protected, and now as she prepares to leave and go to France became more vulnerable. The project is beginning to feel like it is on a journey now, that it and the things associated with it are beginning to take on an existence outside of that which we as the artists and creators have made and that feels right. How else can it grow and develop?
Resting Place: Folkestone
Sept 28th 5pm
Folkestone Sea Front
Under the A K Dolven bell