I originally intended this blog to be a resource for artists and models from all over Cumbria, so I’m pleased to have a guest post from Anne Lees, a very popular life model from down in the South of the county. This is her impressions of the Ghostbird installation.
It is Saturday, 12.30pm and I am lying down naked and vulnerable, on a bed of mud, peat and heather . Midges and insects have become my companions. I feel isolated and abandoned to an uncertain future. But a small part of me knows better and I raise myself slightly to look on the opposite side of the bog ravine, where I can see the shivering body of my new found friend Steve, tucked in his own grouse hunting butt.
25 models are taking part over one week-end in a very exciting visual art performance in the Trough of Bowland and I feel privileged to have been selected. In the course of Day One, we all work hard, guided by a team of site managers, a choreographer and Louise Ann Wilson, whose project it is. The foetus position doesn’t allow me to move nor feel anything surrounding me. The wind is blowing and the temperature struggles at 11 Celsius.
For the 40 minutes shift that I lie here, I completely understand Life and Death, how fragile a species can be. I perceive footsteps through the heather; visitors coming to the performance seem to hover, silent and pensive then disappear quickly, touched by the tableau we offer them. Men in white suits stand still, rigid, wax-like, pointing in our direction and their presence on the moors is a daunting reality that our society intimidates hunts and kills what used to live up here. I am amazed that, for once, I am not just a body to draw or paint, but I carry a message, I feel involved.
During break times, the models wrap up and are welcome to a precarious hidden base camp. The tents that shelter us have been named Molly, Polly and Bob, they keep us warm, fed and hydrated and provide an exhilarating home to chat. The atmosphere is great, we only met a few hours ago and we bond over life modeling stories, the thrills of this performance and a huge supply of “ Butt” jokes. We laugh at our sockless walking boots and our Marks fleece robes. Louise seems pleased. As Jack Kerouac would say, All is well.
Saturday, 4.30pm, we put our clothes back on, walk down the fells, climb on the coach and head back for a good night’s rest and reflection. Sunday is a different story! The wind has picked up some strength and the temperature doesn’t want to rise above 10 Celsius. As we set off on our hour walk to the tops, the rain starts. The outdoor art gallery that we are working in is becoming very unfriendly and unwelcoming. Bob is now housing all our bags, as we try to keep all essentials dry. Molly will shelter us all the best it can but it’s not very big. Polly remains the hub, the kitchen, where brews, cakes and soup find us smiling.
We strip bare, once again but there is uncertainty in the air…Up the ravine, over the wet blanket bog, we all take our position, cold, wet, the visibility is so poor we can hardly see each other. It’s going to be a long day… From 1pm, we all know it can’t be done, it’s not safe, Louise calls the shots and cancels. We fumble into our damp garments, our wet jackets and our soggy boots. With our ponchos on, we look a sad lot. We all feel defeated and it takes a couple of hours for the troops to get back to the car park. Spirits are low but pick up soon enough: the experience has been unbelievable. We took part in a remarkable event and Mother Nature, the one we were portraying as a fragile entity in our live art installation, Mother Nature has had the last word. Good on her!