Published by Pavement Pounders CIC in 2011
Transitions is a forum for ideas celebrating crossings whether universal or local, real or imaginary. From myths of sea voyages and descents through psychology and poetry to real crossings, we explore such themes as rites of passage, migrations and transformations in personal ways, and by looking back look forward to the living mythologies of which we are part.
The concepts behind this year’s Triennial, A Million Miles from Home, which this journal supports, will like a wave unfurling, continue long afterward the Triennial. Let’s hope the journal will too, with more uplifting revelations triggered by Folkestone.
Departures and arrivals, losses and gains, transience and orientation, separations and unions all exist within the real geographical and allegorical ‘edgeness’ of Folkestone. With boundaries, real or metaphorical, it has been described variously as gateway and threshold, or remote, frontier place of isolation, exile, and displacement. Yet Folkestone is also ‘home’ as is well expressed by Strange Cargo’s Triennial publication Everywhere means something to Everybody, and its harbour not only symbolic ‘haven’ is threshold that allows influence from the outside world as well as entrance into it. Perfect template for the imagination its shoreline, cliff and open sea provoke wonder and awe.
In as much as there is change is also continuum. The wind in the wave that breaks on the shore in a dying crest is an energy which never dies. And if we go along with the Heraclitan idea that creation is all in flux and you can’t step into the same water twice, it is still the same river. Movement and migration whether in mind or body define and transform us also. This edition as a small attempt to fix the unfixable whether in fact, fiction, poetry, legend or living myth is made up of the three sections in variable layers –contrasting but overlapping takes on a theme - with something for everyone. Transience need not be arbitrary. Enjoy its patina!
Consider the ship. In Ships and Arks we will look at two views of the vessel as ark. Firstly, William Blake’s ‘moony arc’ that protects souls in their crossing of the Sea of Time and Space. Blake’s metaphor that describes our lives as ships crossing a huge ocean has its bearing in myth and fable as well as in the reality: our own Anglian Monarch, an Anglo-French Emergency Towing Vessel, has for instance saved lives. In sympathy with Blake’s concept Jim Fitzgerald views the Ark as protective symbol of psychological wholeness. But Karen Armstrong’s Noah’s Ark as a sealed box with blinkered mentality contradicts both. Then again a short story, Sunship, tells of the expansive rather than exclusive version of vessel.
Interesting to note, Triennial artist Tonico Lemos Auad has carved Carrancas - anthropomorphic figureheads used on fishermen’s boats in Brazil to protect them from evil sea spirits on the sea - on timber posts in Folkestone’s harbour. Hew Locke’s work of one hundred or so model ships suspended from the ceiling of St Mary and St. Eanswyth church entitled, For Those in Peril on the Sea has also used the protective, talismanic metaphor of the ship. Straight to the Christian heart of this belief we have the blessing of Folkestone’s fishing fleet every June. And Zineb Sedira also in the tradition of Blake’s ‘moony arc’ has called her film installation Lighthouse in the Sea of Time.
Crossings and Descents. Crossings remembers old biblical stories such as Jesus’ walking on water or Moses’ parting of the Red Sea, but in particular the heroic sea crossings of Odysseus, Jason and Leander made in Greek myth, as if in there is something of the mythic in the everyday journeys we make to recover kingdoms, homes and passions.
So to the new. Sonia Overall’s poem concerns Jason of the Argonauts. James Bennett’s addresses boundaries as an integral part of crossing. Nikolaj Larsen, film-maker of the Triennial’s Promised Land talks about the plight of refugees waiting in Calais to cross the Channel. Shaukat Khan, Cross-Channel swimmer, describes from his fictional biography, what it was like to swim the freezing cold waters. And Maggie Harris lends lyrical and rhythmic voice to her experience as migrant from Guyana.
For Descent myths we look at Blake’s character Los, and in mythology at Orpheus seeking Eurydice, Demeter Persephone and Isis Osiris. The importance of descent is in its psychogeography described in James Bennett’s article ‘Earth’s Dark Underbelly’. A short story retells the Sumerian myth of the goddess Inanna who abandons sky and earth to journey down into the Great Below, Maiuko sees the light after a Channel Tunnel fire and a short story features an allegorical tunnel.
Exile and Epiphany. Crossing imply arrivals. Descents ascents. But supposing there is no return, only separation and exile. Demeter is separated from Persephone, Orpheus from Eurydice, Isis from Osiris and Psyche from Cupid. Extracts from Sunjeev Sahota novel published this year express the cultural exile experienced by a second generation immigrant for whom there is no return.
Yet Demeter is reunited with her daughter and in some telling of the myths Orpheus with Eurydice, Isis with Osiris and Cupid with Psyche. A Triennial installation, a lonely sixteenth century bell standing out against the sea and sky, is a perfect symbol of reconciling exile with epiphany. The bell that A K Dolven has suspended from a steel cable strung between two high twenty metre beams thirty metres apart had been decommissioned by its church for having the wrong sound and lacking purity of tone. Like an exile, it stands alone, but now it rings out over the waters under the firmament unfettered by a bell-tower’s bricks and mortar. Dolven has given it new life, turning its difference to virtue and its isolation to strength.
From descent follows ascent. Mirroring the downward and upward direction of The Leas Cliff Lift Martin Creed’s soundscape installed within, alternates sombre then jubilant notes as the lift goes down, then up.
So in contrast to exile there are returns and reunions, even epiphanies as moments of great or sudden revelation. Supposing we have arrived? Has our journey transformed us? Julie Crick has transformed a painting and Gillian White having finally arrived in Folkestone is a transformed local! Two short stories describe local epiphanies.
Stories by Maryanne Grant-Traylen writing as Annie Webb from TRANSITIONS 1