Beneath Clouded Hills
Exhibition at Bloc Projects, Sheffield
19 May – 17 June 2023
That I may awake Albion from its long and cold repose…
– from Jerusalem, William Blake.
Beneath Clouded Hills is a collaborative exhibition between artists Verity Birt and Una Hamilton Helle. Presented as an immersive sound and sculptural installation, their research excavates the mythic and controversial notion of a "deep" and "authentic" England, untouched by industrial progress, modernity and globalisation.
The project began over two years ago as a Harsh Light conversation webinar with Dr Edwin Coomasuru that explored a more critical and inclusive ‘Englishness’ through landscape, the occult and more-than-human connections. Since then, the artists have been co-developing this work closely with the support of Bloc Projects, with a mid-point research period at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire. The hope was to spend time listening to and collaborating with the ancient site as a living body, in the company of fellow practitioners in art, ritual, folklore and palaeontology.
Working through materials like moss, rocks and bones as well as writings, Beneath Clouded Hills presents an earthy ‘England’ that removes itself from more idyllic tropes of green, rolling hills bathed in eternal summer. How do such mytho-pastoral images resonate today? Is there scope to reimagine our landscapes, turn them into more inclusive and radically open possibilities? Una’s and Verity’s response can be found in this project, which includes turning the gallery into a dim, nether space filled with (un)familiar sonic and visual textures. By rooting one’s senses otherwise, Beneath Clouded Hills re-embodies Deep England in all its leaky, porous potentials.
A magical day of events took place on the 20th May. Our programme invited practitioners to collectively re-imagine what 'England' is by sharing ways of knowing that are guided by landscape, identity, place, spirituality, folklore and mythology.
Featuring discussions, musical performances, screenings and somatic exercises, the event investigated the term 'Deep England' by feeling-thinking alongside other cultural practitioners who foreground inclusivity, the radical imaginary and more-than-human forces in their work. It offered a chance to collectively reconsider an earthier, more capacious England in a specially facilitated setting.
Listen on Soundcloud for a recording of the discussion.
As part of our research we are producing a podcast, which will be hosted by Legion Projects sound commission series Ploughing Old Patterns, Raising New Ground.
A film that is part of the project was presented at the Conjuring Creativity conference on art & esotericism at Fylkingen, Stockholm, Oct 2022. You can see it here.
Scroll right for exhibition documentation (by Jules Lister) & film stills ->