The ‘and’ of the hand
Our hands (27 bones) and feet (26 bones) are the primary points of contact with the world. Working along the Jurassic seaboard over the past six months, we have been meeting, talking and collaborating with people who specifically use their hands and / or feet to work, navigate or investigate the Dorset coast and its associated landscapes and ecologies.
Through walking, research, conversation, skill exchange and both a physical and metaphorical approach to engaging with the landscape, we are discovering and articulating the conjunctions and exchanges between the physical body and the landscape – the ‘and’ of the hand.
The 26 and 7 Bones ‘fieldwork’, from November 2011 to February 2012, involved conversations with a broad range of people living and working along the West Dorset coast from Lulworth and Portland around to Puncknowle and Charmouth, with a particular focus along the Chesil, to West Bay.
We invited participants to respond to a series of questions about the use of their hands and / or feet in relation to the landscape or places they engage or work with. Our dialogue is around how hands and feet are marked by activity, how they are used to make or shape, particular tasks performed, knowledge gained, use of tools, details and stories.
From these initial conversations with people including a herbalist, sculptor, coastguard, foot surgeon, archaeologist, runner, embroiderer and freediver, and in addition to our wider research into both the landscape and our anatomy, we are drawing out relationships and connections. Our first ‘collection’ and sharing of working processes took place at an informal gathering with people who have participated in research, and the producing partners on our project, on Saturday 25th February 2012 at the Salt House in West Bay.
From March through to May, we continued to collaborate with interested project participants, as well as inviting new people into the project. We invited participants to give us waste or discarded materials generated by their work or activity for us to respond to; a collection of ‘waste’ objects that intimately connects people and place, hand and foot, and contributes to the layer of contemporary archaeology and the ‘Anthropocene’ era.
Showing (and making again)
26 and 7 Bones is a collaborative arts project – an action, a journey, an event – taking place as part of Earth Festival 2012. The project culminates in a public event over the weekend of Saturday May 26th and Sunday 27th 2012 at the Salt House in West Bay, Dorset which displays, articulates and praises our hands and feet and the multiple lived stories they are part of. The exact nature and form of this event has grown directly out of our research and engagement with people and place.
Our working process
Both the artists have worked for many years on collaborative, participatory projects in public contexts and spaces, and have a very particular interest in collaborating with people across discipline, age and background. With 26 and 7 Bones, we are focusing on bringing a diverse group of people into a kind of ‘orbit’ or ‘constellation’ with each other, using our extraordinary hands and feet as the organising principle to explore making, working, places, objects and materials.
We find participants through research, following our noses, phone calls, ‘call-outs’ and small ads, by making contact with groups and individuals who we perceive may be interested in our project. We also use our own network of friends and contacts to meet people, but we particularly like to make contact with strangers.
We are also fascinated by the circulating contexts: the minutiae, the small lived details, the aeolian debris, the global reach. 26 and 7 Bones aims to make connections, to draw things into relation, to see what occurs and what is then made visible through the ‘collection’. Alongside our work with participants, we are researching cartography, geological layers and the Jurassic period, historical narratives including the sailing of the Dorset Pilgrims to America, the Dorset Button industry, and looking at other related landscapes and global influences in relation to this distinctive seaboard.
26 and 7 Bones is a collaborative arts project – an action, a journey, an event – taking place as part of Earth Festival 2012: a celebration of the Jurassic Coast, of people engaging with place, and is produced with support from Earth Festival and PVA Labculture, and funded by Arts Council England. Research and development funding from Activate Performing Arts.