Preston, Julieanna. Waning [performance] at Birling Gap, UK, 19, 20, 21 Sept 2016 sunrise to sunset.


This artist’s residency developed and produced Waning, a public artwork, a durational performance, sited at Birling Gap, the site of the Seven Sister’s chalk hills situated between Brighton and Eastbourne on the southern Sussex coast of England. The performance served as a witness to the on-going rapid rate of erosion of the hills at the water’s edge; it memorialised the continuous loss of face and noted the sacrifice the chalk hills make to ecological systems. As a lament, the performance recognised the chalk hills as live entities, vibrant material, in the process of negotiating new alliances with other worldly matter. While humans may grieve over the seemingly violent impact such erosion has on the loss of property, infrastructure and historic structures, it is the hills that yield their soft, white, porous and supple bodies to the ocean’s unrelenting force towards become something other.

The performance Waning shaped a conversation between the chalk cliffs and myself. This conversation extended over a period of a few weeks such that the weather, audience, mood and mode of the work registered the multivalent subjectivities of the site and situation and dispelled the sense that the cliffs have a singular and static identity. I posed this durational conversation as a form of ‘being with’ the wall and ‘being in’ the transformational zone of action. I related to the chalk cliffs through spoken, written, haptic and contemplative dialogue. These actions were punctuated by invited contributions from local experts on the site and subject such as historians, geologists, ecologists, political theorists, climate scientists, eco-feminists, new material philosophers, chalk manufacturers, cartographers, farmers, geographers and other artists to come know the chalk cliffs from an array of perspectives; to honour, in an affirmative way, the complex implications of the hills’ contract with entropy.

The score for this performance emerged over a 10 day period proceeding the performance where I met with people to hear their stories, opinions and dreams of the chalk cliffs, the historic site, climate change, the weather and other associated subjects. These conversations really began more than a year ago when I first visited Birling Gap during a 10 hr hike along the coast from Eastbourne to Cuchmere Estate. These conversation formed the basis of an exhibition at ONCA gallery / http://onca.org.uk running 14-18 September 2016. This exhibition was accompanied by a public lecture entitled "Waxing on Waning"  on 14 Sept at 6 pm and a seminar for University of Brighton MFA students on 16 September.

This artist residency has been supported by School of Art University of Brighton, ONCA, Historic Trust, Wealden District Council and The College of Creative Arts Massey University. Thank you especially to Duncan Bullen, Claudia Kappenberg, Lydia Heath, Persephone Pearl, Natasha Sharma, Graham Keane, Adrain Harrison, Tom Dommett, Rory Mortimer, Helen Goodwin and all the many people who took the time to converse with me about chalk over the three weeks.