Presenter: Louise Ann Wilson
Title: Creating Warnscale: Applying Dorothy Wordsworth’s Mode of the Feminine Sublime to a Walking-Performance about In/Fertility and Biological Childlessness
Abstract This paper will focus on Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk Reflecting on In/fertility and Childlessness (Warnscale) created and written by Louise Ann Wilson.
Warnscale is a self-guided walking-performance specific to the Warnscale fells south of Buttermere Lake, Cumbria. Mediated through a multi-layered walking-guide/art-book, the walking-performance is aimed at women who are childless-by-circumstance. Society offers no rituals or rites of passage through which women who have ‘missed’ the life-event of biological motherhood can be acknowledged and come to terms with that absence. Warnscale, however, offers imaginative and creative ways through which participants can engage with landscape in order to reflect-upon, re-image and transition (even in the smallest of ways) the liminality that this circumstance can lead to.
This paper explores how Warnscale was developed through: an in-depth, ‘situated’ study of the landscape in which it was created; observational research in fertility clinics; and a close reading of the journal writings of Dorothy Wordsworth.
Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journals describes how she walked in, and engaged with, the landscape in a manner that was embodied, multi-sensory and materially specific – a mode, I suggest, that can be understood as a form of the ‘feminine sublime’. This sublime, I argue, can also be located in her ability to notice the ‘common-place’ and thus see afresh ‘everyday’ objects, people and experiences that are ordinarily overlooked, or on the edges of social and cultural discourse. Warnscale works with an applied use of Wordsworth’s ‘feminine sublime’ mode of walking, dwelling and noticing and is framed by extracts from her journals.
Dr. Louise Ann Wilson (Ph.D.)
Louise Ann Wilson is a researcher and scenographer who makes socially engaged scenography that takes the form of visual and multi-sensory site-specific walking-performance performances in rural landscapes that seek to articulate, reflect upon, and transform ‘missing’, unmarked or challenging life-events. The performances and walks she creates are developed in close collaboration with artists from a broad range of creative disciplines, experts from fields not usually associated with the arts, and people with lay and local knowledge and skills associated with the site. They are made through an extended period of immersion in a chosen landscape using three tiers of cross-disciplinary research in the site, the subject matter and the participants.
Louise has developed a scenographic-led methodological approach to making her productions, which involves: an extended period of immersion in a chosen landscape; three tiers of cross-disciplinary research; the practical application of a series of principles based on the concept of the feminine sublime. These focus on the site and its physical features, the subject matter and its science (biological and social) and on participants who are themselves experiencing the effects of the underlying subject matter.
She is the Artistic Director of Louise Ann Wilson Company Ltd (LAW Co) (www.louiseannwilson.com). Recent practice and research includes: Mulliontide (2016), a coastal walk from Poldhu Cove to Mullion Cove in Cornwall, evolved in collaboration with local residents, that notices the effects of tide and time, acknowledges deep feelings for place and recognises the challenges of change – personal and topographical; Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk Reflecting On Infertility and Childlessness (Warnscale) (2015-ongoing), a self-guided walking-performance and specific to the Warnscale fells in Cumbria aimed at women who are biologically childless-by-circumstance and mediated through a published walking-guide/artist book; The Gathering / Yr Helfa (2014) (with National Theatre Wales), a site-specific walking-performance that revealed the seasonal reproductive cycles of the ewes of Hafod y Llan, an upland sheep farm in Snowdonia, Wales; Ghost Bird (Sept 2012), a silent walk and live-art installation in the Trough of Bowland; Fissure (May 2011), a three-day long pilgrimage exploring death and renewal in the Yorkshire Dales; Still Life (Sept 2008, rev.2009) and Jack Scout (Sept 2010) both co-productions with Sap Dance in response to two locations on Morecambe Bay, Lancashire.
From 1998–2008 Louise was the Co-Artistic Director of wilson+wilson (www.wilsonandwilson.org.uk) makers of site-specific performance whose works include: Mulgrave (2005)a four-mile journey into Mulgrave Woods on the North Yorkshire coast; News from the Seventh Floor (2003), a journey around Clements, after-hours; Mapping the Edge (2001), which led participants on an epic journey through the city of Sheffield; House (1998), which transformed two nineteenth-century terraced houses in Huddersfield into an immersive performance that combine theatre, installation, poetry, music and sound.
In 2017 Louise was awarded a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies from Lancaster Institute of the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University. The title of her written thesis is: ‘Emplacing, Re-Imaging and Transforming ‘Missing’ Life-Events: A Feminine Sublime Approach to the Creation of Socially Engaged Scenography in Site-Specific Walking-Performance in Rural Landscapes’
Louise is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and works as a visiting lecturer and associate lecturer in Higher Education at undergraduate and postgraduate level and an External Examiner for the BA Performance Design and Practice Central St Martin’s, UAL, London (2014-18).