Having spent a few hours on a train from Bristol to Newcastle last Saturday, then an hour on a coach, I found myself at dusk, sitting in a forest of pine trees near Kielder Water. I’d made this journey for a sound installation/performance by Chris Watson and Iain Pate called Hrafn: Conversations with Odin, using the sound of 2,000 ravens coming in to roost to create a 40-minute piece that was both unsettling and somehow, oddly, reassuring.
The last thing we were told before walking intoNorse myths, Odin has two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who he sends off every morning to fly around the earth, and they return every evening to tell him what they have seen.
We were encouraged to do what we felt as the ravens started to ‘arrive’ – stay in one place, or get up and move around the performance space in the deepening gloom, among the tall, godlike dark trunks of the pines, listening in on different ‘conversations’. It had a symphonic effect (though never reaching the crescendo that I’d expected), with the layering of the different voices, and what seemed like an underlying rhythm.
The reason I went was partly to do with the fact that I found the idea intriguing, and partly because I’m looking for inspiration of how to use
audio at Croome, especially in a way that doesn’t take an explicitly narrative-based approach. I’d heard about it when some of us went to JerwoodSpace, as the Jerwood Foundation collaborated with the Forestry Commission to fund this and another piece.
I stayed in Newcastle overnight and had another unique experience in the morning – having to queue for breakfast, at the Quay Ingredient. That people are willing to queue for a good
meal at this time of day is very heartening. After breakfast, I headed to the Baltic – Tate Modern-like in its offer, and with its own Millennium Bridge to boot.
Lydia Gifford’s show Drawn was one of two exhibitions open, and this was further work that I found appealingly unsettling, with its constrained yet deeply expressive humanity.
I also went to the Laing Gallery, which was rather like a national gallery for the North East, before heading for Edinburgh and a meeting with the weavers at Dovecot to talk about artists we might like to collaborate with if we were to do something with them.