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Cortege by Hondartza Fraga

on Thursday, 26 September 2013.

cortege  

How did you find the poet?

The work is part of a project titled Scale, which was a curatorial collaboration between Longbarrow Press and artist Paul Evans. They paired artists with writers and poets to collaborate. Due to the nature of our works, I was paired with the poet Rob Hindle. The both of us focused on some aspects of travelling and wandering. So, the starting point of our collaboration was a collection of existing poems by Rob entitled Flights and Traverses.

Note from Rob Hindle:

“The poem itself was the result of a commission by Longbarrow Press in which several poets were asked to respond to the theme of walking. I produced 5 'itineraries' in and around Sheffield, all of which explored personal or public histories through the context of a one-way journey on foot. The poem we agreed to use for Scale followed the funeral cortege of Samuel Holberry, a Sheffield Chartist who died following a period of imprisonment in the 1840s. His body was transported through Sheffield on an open carriage. The cortege procession attracted in excess of 50,000 people.

The poems are to be published in October 2013, along with work by six other poets, in a Longbarrow anthology called The Footing.” 

How did the poem inspire you - did you automatically visualize something similar to your film?

It was definitely not an instantaneous idea. After discussing with Rob, we decided to focus on his poem that followed the path of chartist Samuel Holberry’s funeral cortege in 1842. We met and did the walk together with his poem, discussing different ideas, from installations to objects. I was attracted to the dialogue between the present and the past. Brian Lewis had made a sound recording of Rob reading the poem, so I decided to work with that. 

What was the creative process behind the mix of animation and still images?

I have done work with animation from still images before, where very little happens or the narrative goes on in loops. I am interested in that tension between stillness and motion. Because of the content of the poem, I thought that animating old photographs of Sheffield will work perfectly to express that dichotomy between now and then, but also between fact and fiction.

How did you know what type of images you wanted to find?

I didn't know at first. Once I had decided that I wanted to look for old pictures of Sheffield, I started looking in the library and local studies archive, which has a great collection. I searched for images of the specific streets and places that are mentioned in the poem and then for other images that inspired me to create a feel or an atmosphere…

What was the inspiration behind the videos besides the poem?

I wanted to create an atmospheric landscape that would complement the poem, not simply illustrate it. I am interested in artifice, and artificial and mental spaces. So I wanted the landscapes to seem staged, but to also still remain inviting. I wanted them to have an air of decay and fragility, and also to have an air of old fashioned cinema perhaps - like theatrical backdrops brought to life.

Was a mix of poetry and film something that has always interested you?

I have only recently included spoken word in my work, and this is my only work to date in direct response to poetry. Involving more words (written or spoken) in my work is definitely something I want to develop and do more of.

What is significance of the birds?

There is no human presence in the scenes. Because of this and despite the fact that we can hear other people in the background but can't actually see them, I felt the images needed some kind of element of warmth and life in them. They can be interpreted as companions to the poem, or as witnesses. I actually love walking around in British cemeteries and I love how many crows are usually around them. On the other hand, through history, crows have been seen to have both positive and negative symbolic meanings. In this respect, I prefer to leave a certain ambiguity in my work.

What’s next for you?

Throughout this year I have been an artist in residency at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre, at the University of Hull. It is a project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I am making work in response to the archives of Hull's whaling past. The exhibition will be opening across Hull in October. It has been a busy year and a great experience. (http://seawardpeep.wordpress.com)

 

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