'VR gardens video'

How I Remember Myself

There's a thing about being old. You're not old! Sixty is the new forty, forty the new thirty, etc., You're only as old as you feel. I could, and frequently do, go on. The thing is that as I get older I define myself through memories a lot more as I come to understand the motivations that led me to take the actions I took. I also find myself confronted with the obviousness of life on a daily basis, but that's another story.

Retirement led me to sort through my old work, I never throw anything away, and made me think about a catalogue raisonné, which I started to put together in 2018. As things do this led me to think about the presentation of that and the prospect of it being more than a book. What about a piece that presented the work and the context for it simultaneously? What about something that tried to explain the creative process by providing witness to it? Not in the manner of the artist in his studio, but in his mind?

So this is what that is. Having cycled through titles – 'Et in Arcadia ego' – The Gardens Project – and a few others, “How I remember myself” is the current descriptor. I've started the script...

How I remember myself.

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

TS Eliot Little Gidding

Cave of the Sibyl

[A clearing or a pit on a dark night with a campfire. The flickering light occasionally illuminates a tunnel in rock face. You pick up a torch and move towards the tunnel]

The tunnel is cavernous. I don't like this description. The tunnel is five metres tall, and at its widest around four metres. The walls are cut perpendicular to the floor for around one a nd a half metres before slanting in to end at perhaps the same width at the apex. I shouldn't really say apex, it's flat across the top, it is just the top. The tunnel is one hundred and thirty metres long and is cut into volcanic rock, there are passages cutting across the tunnel every twenty five metres or so. To the right these passages are windows to the outside, a few metres away. To the left these passages are mostly shallow niches, but the third of them is a dark tunnel that leads downwards. At the end of the tunnel is the cave of the Sibyl.

The Cumaean Sibyl sat at the entrance to the underworld and would offer predictions written on oak leaves. That is one suggestion. She may have sung her predictions, she may have been cursed with eternal life but not eternal youth so that she faded until all that was left of her was her voice, kept in a bottle, until that became so faint that it was left open. If you listen really carefully you might catch a word on the breeze.

The site dates to the 8th century BC, or may be older, no one knows what it was for. The area around was certainly a greek settlement but some of the excavations are apparently older leaving room for dreaming.

The reason you seek a prophesy from the Sibyl is to gain some power over your future, to know whether you will win the coming battle or if your harvest will be good this year. But the Sibyl sits at the entrance to the underworld where souls go after death and has access to all history through Apollo.

Tunnels are built to increase the speed of travel or to extract something from the earth. This tunnel has passages into the depths. If, instead of walking to the Sibyl at the end of the main tunnel, you turn left in the darkness where will you arrive? The Asphodel Meadows perhaps? If you should do this, and are drawn further into the blackness, how will you ever leave?

You begin by following the light, or following your nose.

The Oak Leaves

[You fall onto a plane and as you orientate yourself you realise it is a leaf, an oak leaf, you can walk on it, trying to avoid the holes in its surface]

There is a small cluster of oak leaves, and you are as small as an insect, or maybe the leaves are the size of football fields and you're just yourself. The oak leaves act as a connection between the different chapters of the story you are following. Each new chapter is entered by stumbling across/into the hole in the leaf that serves as its entrance and from each chapter you return here to the oak leaves.

Chapter One: “Glover Street”

[You are in the back yard of a two up two down. The gate is open. Beyond the gate is the 'backs' and beyond this a small park behind railings. There is a slide in the park. Outside the park there are several streets and betond these there is open space.]

A back yard in Stoke-on-Trent in 1966, there you'll go to the park behind the house and start to accumulate the knowledge you need to know your future. The backs behind the house have a swarm of daddy long legs, you need to push through them at the same time as you shout your brothers. You want them to wait, but they don't wait, and you swallow insects as you run.

You slip through the railings into the park to catch them up, through the hornbeam and the holly, around the back of the pavilion. You see a young girl, a child like yourself walking across the park with a black and red toy as large as herself. She brings it all the way to the pavilion and begins to speak. It's a language you don't understand, something European. Eventually she leaves the toy and walks away. There is a longer story, the attempts to understand, the attempts to refuse, but this is what happened. The toy is inflatable and has a weighted base so that it doesn't fall over when you push it. Perhaps that's what she was telling us, that we looked like three people who enjoyed hitting things and was something to hit that wasn't each other? You hit the toy, it hits you back.

Now it's another day in the park and you're going on the slide. Your Dad's standing at the base of the steps, that seem impossibly tall, in case you fall. When you reach the top you stand in the cage and look around the park, to the left over the houses towards your school, or towards your Nana's house past the pub with the bowling green, where one winter night returning home with balloons you let them go in your excitement and saw a man emerge from the hole in the road to return them to you. Or look to the right towards the mine workings and the slag heaps beyond the big black fence over the road you can't go near, never mind cross, on your own.

You tend to push past these things and what they tell you as you move. Accepting the illusion of forward movement as evidence of progress.

You step forward and drop down the slide, your stomach flips, at the bottom of the slide all the things you remembered are gone. All that's left are things that were there all the time. Luna 1 landing on the moon, Henry Cooper fighting Muhammed Ali, The World Cup, Aberfan. You push through them out of the park, behind them are more things until you come to a shallow pool.

It's the boating pool by the pier in St.Annes and it's a year or two later. You are watching a toy yatch sail across the pool, in your mind you're on the boat. You remember a dead sheep on the beach, but that was much later, you look around and see a landscape of semi detached houses and small gardens with broken concrete driveways and wide road with trees. You see yourself playing football on a patch of grass with the shadow of your father falling across the scene as he takes the photograph. You don't remember this but you have the evidence that it happened. The things you didn't know about continue to pile up around you so that you have to keep pushing them away until you find an oasis of calm where things don't intrude. You walk down the driveway to the back of the house.

These are not your memories, these are photographs of events that you won't remember. There are old people, your Nana, and younger people, your aunty and your Mother, holding a baby, your sister. There you are, with your brothers. The garden changes, the garage is knocked down and rebuilt, the coal bunker is removed, a room is added to the house above the kitchen, the lawn is replaced and a small conservatory added onto the living room. You are always outside. Outside is your space and your are free in the different worlds you create there. Inside is family and is always shared. Inside is never your space and even when you are inside the house you are always outside of yourself.

Chapter Two: “The Dark Years”

Chapter Three: “Coronation Crescent”

Chapter Four: “Moor Lane”

Chapter Five: “Fairford Leys”

Chapter Six: “Tickhill Road”

The Project is blogged regularly beginning in November 2020 and starts here.The arcadia Project (R&D) 01

The project project is being built in Unity XR, you can download the files here Gardens Zip