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Above and Below

From the the beginning, we knew that exploring above and below ground and above and below water would be important themes for DREAMING PLACE. Not only are we personally interested in these themes, the geology and geography of the Marble Arch Caves Geopark demands it!


These themes both directed many of our adventures as well as our philosophy of the project. We wanted to explore “above and below” with the people, places and things of MAC Geopark. What is so important about above and below?

We are accustomed to experiencing the surface of things the “above” version, but delving into both paints another picture of place. “Below” is also very much linked to exploring dreams, because often to understand the meaning of dreams or understand the “dream meaning” of a life experience, one must delve below the surface meaning and explore the many layers.

To be a “Place Dreamer” is to explore the many layers…..

You can read about our first underground experience with Dave Scott here and a little bit about our wild swimming adventures here.

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No 2. DREAMING PLACE data sheet

Ideas are burr shaped: biodiversity expert Rose Cremin

A great technique to Fast Dream ourselves into place is to meet with Experts in the field. We like to visit them in their natural habitat and in this case Biodiversity officer Rose Cremin chose to share her expertise with us in the education room at Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre.


As well as finding out about butterfly transects and red squirrel ” hotspots” within Marble Arch Caves Geopark, we hope to learn how a biodiversity officer like Rose operates. What science does she do, what are her concerns, which creatures does she work with?

Our first encounter with her is a delight . She’s so nice and she shares her really posh hand cream with us before we switch on the recorder

bur
When we meet with the experts we are naturally keen to learn about their specialty, but as artists we are helplessly curious about all sorts of other things. So Rose herself quickly became the object of study; an interesting specimen that given close attention we might learn from. We are intrigued as to how different experts gather their data, what specialist kit do they carry to help them in their work and what they wear into the field. And how does their specialist apparel compare with our own. What can we learn from them that will be of value to our own DREAMING PLACE  field work?

Kit is something that we obsess about a teeny bit and this is because kits feature strongly in our practice. Click here to find out more about our Exchange Kit.  One of the things we are doing in our research is to put together a DREAMING PLACE toolkit for people wishing to delve deeper into place.

bur
Like the gait (or jiss) of a butterfly our  Dreamers‘ attention wanders all over the place, we need to be experts to anticipate it. The gait of our attention is erratic and today it has alighted on Roses’ cream waistcoat, which is lightly fuzzy. The textured material is ideal for attracting ideas and we hypothesize that ideas might be burr-shaped. “Does she wear a furry “burry” waistcoat for collecting specimens we wonder?” At the close of the session with Rose we retreat to the car to scratch away with pens at our  sketchbooks to release our ideas.

Rose proves to be an inspiration to us and we decide to  visit her again, this time in her own environment at the Town Hall, where we ask to see the equipment she needs for her work with butterflies. Here she is demonstrating usage of some of her specialist biodiversity toolkit.

Let’s Dream Potions?

We know we’re not the first to invent the idea of a dreaming potion……how could we be? Well its hardly an original idea is it? People have been dreaming for donkey’s years, people have been wanting to tamper with dreams since time. There are always going to be those who want to dream differently themselves or affect the dreams of  other Humans, Animals and Things.

dreaming potion postcard

The complete requirement for DREAMING POTIONS through history and prehistory, must have been immense.  Rather than buckets full of potions it is more appropriate to talk of A SEA OF POTIONS.  There have been  just so, so many humans, pre-humans and proto-humans, dreamers all, some of whom at some point will have wanted to change the quality, quantity, content of their own dreams or dreams of others.

That’s so many dreamers wanting a potion to enhance their dreams. – A potion has been sought to DREAM MORE INTENSELY, DREAM BETTER, DREAM CHILDREN, DREAM DIFFERENTLY, DREAM FOR OTHERS, DREAM FATTER, DREAM FASTER, DREAM THE FUTURE, DREAM WILDER, DREAM IN TECHNICOLOUR, DREAM LESS. DREAM SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS, DREAM WHERE TO GO NEXT, DREAM BACKWARDS, DREAM THE ANCESTORS, DREAM PLACE, DREAM PROSPERITY, DREAM DREAMS, DREAM WHERE THEY LEFT SOMETHING, DREAM THE NEXT MEAL or maybe just DREAM MORE full stop.

Thats soooo  many off the shelf and bespoke DREAMING POTIONS  for the many varieties and classes of  DREAMERS with their many and distinct DREAM REQUIREMENTS. It seems  impossible to even begin to think about them all. But we can at least begin.

I have heard that marmite is a good dream potentiser and it has worked for me.  A bit of toast and marmite at  bed time.

potions for dreaming

To take a tiny whiff from a small selection of the probable potions is to be assaulted by the heavy stink of crushed, pounded, squeezed melted, seeds, plants juices, minerals, extracts, organisms, fermentations, secretions, oils and incantations. These potential DREAMING POTIONS are so powerful, so intoxicating, so overpowering as to render even a sturdy dreamer completely and utterly DREAMLESS.

We can’t document even a tiny proportion of all potions designed to affect DREAMING. It just can’t be done. Its too tedious, scary, mad….. to do in a lifetime. So though we won’t document Marble Arch Caves Gopeark dream potions we will make a LIST OF SOME DREAM POTION CONSIDERATIONS and we will think about making our own.

If you intend making your own DREAM POTIONS you might like to consider the following.

Ingredients, quantities, smell, taste, consistency, toxicity, addictiveness,storage, availability of ingredients, appearance, know how, price, method of mixing, sell by date, potency, distribution, functionality, container, recipient, exlusivity, time taken to make, legality, time to repose, quantity to take, effectiveness, dilution, mixing bowls, social stigma, side-effects, availability to the consumer, secretivity, desirability……. gloopiness.

How have all the potions that have ever been shaken, stirred, sampled, gifted, smuggled, tasted  within the lands of what is today Marble Arch Caves Geopark changed the pattern, shape and texture and history of the landscape of dreams?

No 1. DREAMING PLACE data sheet

This is Number One of  our DREAMING PLACE data sheet images. I know you are going to like them, so we’ll put them inbetween our regular blogs.


Potholer questionnaire – poem

Are you an adventurer teaser, deep delver, descender, tunneller, get swalloweder, explore underergrounder, catch sighter, day benighter, holey moleyer, badluck frightener?

Are you a squeeze througher, death defyer, dive downer, swim upper, happy go lucka, good time smuggler, listen to the darkness in silencer, truth weazler, get scared by nuffin’ er?

Are you a bravehearter, underworld dreamer, mole tamer, knee crawler, luck bringer, light swallower, gone undergrounder, bearer of prayerser, night reveller, dark hounder, rights of passage saver?

Are you a cavern punter, into the wildernesser, fear fighter, just passing byer, wanna be blinder, vision questioner, fast believer, pitch blacker, potato snuffer, slide by nighter, fear flunker, stagnencey stirrer?

Are you an Alice in wonderer, downderryer, badger terrier, earth enterer, otherworld finder, fast believer, pitch black minder, caver saver, light exterminator, hyena trainer, edge througher, never guess whoer?

Are you an illegal stiller, underworld tiller, albino signer, drop downer, paddler to other worlder, see in the darker, bear scarer, little deather, pure air breather, landmark dealer?

Are you an imagination brewer, leach purveyer, excitement seeker, porqupine squiller, fashion slayer, lifestyle  illuminator, bat trainer, land of deather, light transformer, future healer, cave reader?

Craic between the paving stones?

We spent whole days working on our DREAMING PLACE collaborative drawings. We’re so sad its over… it was really good craic, just the two of us drawing together in the van, propped up on pillows with the rain outside.  We have lots of ideas for how to share the drawings, but should we use our ££$$$$ to get all 22 A3 pages scanned into tiff files by a drum scanner?

While we mull it over again, here is a photo  of just a small section of the sheet  begun at Margaret’s cottage and finished on the ferry back to Wales.

Wildlife: Photographers

A wondrous sunset is spread out over the Cliffs of Magho tickling the surf at Bundoran to the west. We are cooking supper in the higher altitudes of a post glacial landscape. Our eyes blink, drinking in the glorious colours, but inside our rucksacks, our cameras are blind to the glory.

recording the starry saxifrage Like wildlife photographers documenting rare species we can’t resist snapping away at photographers.

Photography is part of the the biodiversity of Marble Arch Caves Geopark. And along with  drawing, writing, data sheets, collecting audio and blogging, photography has an important place in our “Place-Dreamer’s toolkit.”  (We’ll put blogging under the magnifying glass in a separate blog.)

photographing the photographer

We exchanged shots with Trevor Armstrong; photographer from the Impartial Reporter at the river entrance to Marble Arch Caves. The article on us and DREAMING PLACE in early June attracted lots of attention, and his photo of us acted as a kind of spotters guide for local people who learned to recognise us in pubs and nature reserves.

Happenstance brought us together with another photographer on the banks of Lough Erne. We got chatting with him and his wife at Knockninny and we asked him if he’d take some photos of us dreaming on the shore ….. and here he is doing just that.


It’s real fun to turn the tables and take photos of photographers themselves.  And It seems that the more used to being behind the lens as a professional, the more shocked  they are at the proposition of being “captured on film!” One of “our” photographers flatly refused flat to have his photo taken.

DREAMING PLACE Mobile Library

A BIG  THANK YOU to all the contributors to our mobile library!

Welcome to the DREAMING PLACE mobile library. It traveled with us throughout our “traveling residency” at the MAC Geopark snuggled up against the wall of the van and up against our bedrolls at night as we dreamed. If we had continued our fieldwork beyond 40 days and 40 nights, our library would have continued to grow, ever expanding with gifted books, borrowed books, bought books and acquired pamphlets, papers etc. We used our library as a traditional reference source to look up an unknown plant, bird or flower or to explore the source of local place names or meanings of Irish Gallic words. Sometimes we selected books to read from at night or in our camp on sunny days. And who knows, perhaps some of the library books’ contents crept off the pages and into our dreams as we slept next to them in the van…..

Our mobile library really shone when we needed inspiration for our collaborative drawing and it was pouring rain outside – too wet to go to the source out of doors. In these moments we reached for a book and allowed information to filter into us and out through our drawing pens.

***Wondering about the stuffed animal husky? That’s our Dreaming Place mascot, brought from home by Anna to assist her Ice-Age Dreaming.

Find out more about Anna’s Ice Age Dreaming here .

Technicolour Dreamcoat

Many years ago in Spain I had a dream. The image I saw in it was so powerful and so surprising that in the morning I took up my colours straight away and tried to paint it. I painted a lucid yellow coat with patterns of people and things spilling across it. I called it “My dream coat”. I can still see “my dream coat” in my minds eye.

I’ll try to find that picture with its clear yellows and oranges so you can share my dream. I wish Claire and I could wear such a coat for to dream in. Everyone knows about Joseph and the amazing technicoloured dreamcoat. But if you don’t click here. but this would be our special Dreaming coat.

Or do you think P.J’s are fine?

People, places, things: expanding the world of knowledge in an ethical way (+ audio)


A novel technique for “fast dreaming into place” is to interview people, places and things.


We record these exchanges with hand-held digital audio recorders; we edit the interviews on our trusty Macs and curated outcomes meet audiences in a number of ways: via audio blog, exhibition or radio broadcast.

ethical interview
Dreaming Place Interviews are a way of gathering valuable “data”. How we treat this data is very important to us. An interview is both a resource and a powerful tool that demands rigorousness and respect. Outcomes both directly influence the progression of individual projects and the general direction of our collaborative practice.


Over the winter months we will make careful transcriptions of our Dreaming Place interviews. We archive the recordings to keep them safe and warm inside our hard drives. The data we have gathered at Marble Arch Caves Geopark is gold dust to us and and choc full of potential.

interview with an expert
However editing is a risky business and dangers lurk in every corner. When using our data we must make careful choices, so that we can expand the world of knowledge and perception in an ethical way.

Listen in to our a clip on “Crossing Borders” (Barb and Len are from Canada and were fellow campers at Rushin House Caravan and Camping Park, Belcoo, N.I., MAC Geopark).

interview for blog

Thanks to the lakes, fast flowing rivers and bogs….

Photo by Jonty

~ THANK YOU! ~

Our deepest thanks to the people, places and things of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark for hosting DREAMING PLACE. Your generosity helped create a wonderfully fruitful project with an exciting  future. Our 40 days and 40 nights at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark was really productive as well as an enriching experience. Thank you for helping shape DREAMING PLACE by sharing your wisdom, specialist knowledge, places, things and good craic with us.

As you know, our fieldwork is over, but we are still blogging…..so join us at our blog here to continue the collaborative adventure!

We are also in the process of creating a short radio series with the multitude of audio recordings from our stay at MAC Geopark and we are working on venues to exhibit our collaborative drawings from this traveling residency.

We will keep you posted as the project develops. We hope you will stay in touch with us as well! We plan to come back to “your neck of the woods” one day!

Continue reading here….

Becoming a Human Talisman

claire as talisman

Talismans are an important  part of our DREAMING PLACE  toolkit. Talismans are objects of power with the capacity to change our perspectives. So we like to give talismans of found or modified natural materials to our participants to act as guides. The talismans act to influence or transform their experience. With a pony hair bracelet or a piece of string fashioned out of soft rushes as guide to an experience, the world becomes new.

Something curious happened to us at Crom Estate. Cradled in the mossy lap of an ancient oak tree close to the Crom Estate church we literally became “human talismans”. A happy shift in scale and perspective….

How wild is wild? (+audio)

Are dreams wild?

To help us discover more about Wildness we posed the question, “What is wild?” to Martina Magee, Geopark Development Officer and Education Director for Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

Listen to Martina’s response here:  

On the theme of WILD….During an interview with cave geologist Les Brown he spoke about WILD CAVES…..which intrigued us. He explained that Show caves such as Marble Arch Caves (Marble Arch Caves Geopark) and Kents Cavern (English Riviera Geopark) have been altered to accommodate visitors, yet wild caves remain unmodified by humans and retain their essential wild nature. Find our recent post with Les Brown here.

Two heads – four legs dreaming our collaboration

We dreamt our collaboration into existence with 4 legs, 2 noses and 2 x 6th sense.

During our traveling residency, we “dreamed the world” in our own collaborative image by encountering two headed animals.

collaboration what does it mean

A two headed, two armed kid on the ferry cavorting up on deck in spitting rain alerted us to our double headed state;

a donkey with two heads watched us pass from an emerald field,

a push-me-pully deer froze our gaze on the banks of Lough Oughter,

 mobile studio

a double yellow kayak held us in its smile,

we laughed and cried,

the twin cultures of Cavan (Eire) and Fermanagh (N.Ireland) welcomed us,

we walked a bridge linking  two cultures,

we spoke and were silent,

we dreamed by day and night,

we laughed at the double entendre,

we met Geopark officers from both sides of the border,

twinning

we found our way over and underground,

we  listened to two trees  kissing,

we remembered and we forgot,

audioing trees

we were lost and found,

we caught the landscape gazing at its reflection,

we experimented with ancient and modern,

ancient and modern
we took photos of each other,

we followed a bifurcation,

we walked a ridge joining two borders,

we looked east and west,

we ate breakfast side by side,


we listened to the voices of two nations,

we spoke and listened,

we matched-up splitting images, played at duppies, captured mirror images with our cameras while the hills reflected in the sky,

we heard the drip, drip of water as it echoed into a cave,

we  dreamt double,

twin camouflage

we learned of old and new traditions,

we drew from twin imaginations,

we did science and art,

we pedaled sister bikes,

our bikes

we heard how Bridget and her dad saw two houses where there was once one and thought they were tipsy,

we learnt Gallic and English names of towns and people,

our nostrils smelled in tendem,

we followed two rivers,

we minded and not minded,

reflective space

we saw through the looking glass,

we worked with dual purpose,

we dreamed up past and future lives.

Drawing out the past: a tribute to Johnny Mckeagney (+ audio)

Anna and I with Seamus and the two of Johnny McKeagney’s sons

I expect some of you will have heard about the Cathal Bui festival in Blacklion, (Eire) and about Johnny MeKeagney, author and illustrator of  In the Ould Ago?  A shop keeper by trade, Johnny McKeagney had a passion for people, places and things and spent many years of his life literally “drawing out the past”.

We’d just begun our own collaborative Geopark drawing, when we first spied Johnny’s book “In the Ould Ago” in Enniskillen castle museum bookshop. The detailed pen and ink drawings and large format of this incredible book SPOKE OUT LOUD TO US.  And now we badly needed a copy to help “fast dream us into place.” Most urgently of all, we wanted to meet Johnny, naturally. Sadly, Johnny is no longer with us, but happily, we can all know him through his work. We  had the good fortune to meet his sons, pictured above at the Johnny McKeagney tribute evening.

JM Book Front Cover

Our collaboration with Marble Arch Caves Geopark comes with lots of perks, and the best thing is they actually SUPPLY US BOOKS…..!!! We love them for that…. and we know that this will make you all a little envious. You see, a collaborative project like ours works as a kind of exchange. We are fond of Exchanges as you know.  Our project is funded by National Lottery through Arts Council England which means MAC Geopark gets us and Dreaming Place for free. In return they provide us with contacts, experts, books, lifts, maps, free entry into show caves, amazing PR and stuff like that.

This appealing and informative book is choc full of detailed observations of  Marble Arch Caves Geopark heritage… and even some dreams. Our admiration for this man has grown as we too have been invited into strangers homes for tea and chat and have drawn our vision or Aisling.

Johnny’s book shows him to be full of curiosity, love and respect for his homelands, its people, places and things. A tireless documenter, he forayed out into the twin counties of Fermanagh (Northern Ireland) and Cavan (Eire) gathering heritage “data”, even as he grew sick. Like us, he was uncertain at first how to share this “data” with others. Eventually plumping for a hand illustrated book. Much of his work was achieved from his own Dreaming Place: his bed.

As heartfelt descriptions of Johnny McKeagney’s work by Séamas MacAnnaidh and others filled the tribute evening, we began to better understand the breadth and depth of his fieldwork, drawings and the process of presenting it all to a wider audience. We related in particular to the reflections on the challenge of presentation, as we face a similar conundrum with our own drawings and fieldwork.

Listen to an audio clip from Séamas MacAnnaidh’s tribute below:

We recommend In the Ould Ago to anyone and everyone interested in Irish culture, oral history and the creative presentation of a place, its people and their material culture.

The smell of home turf



The lower flanks of Cuilcagh mountain are now cosily blanketed in revived boglands rich in species who make up the ecology of this very special habitat. Incredibly,  as recently as the nineties this elemental  bog was endangered because of  the commercial extraction of peat for fuel. It looked like a giant carpark (parking lot), a land with its skin peeled back. A lot of TLC later and these “badlands” are again home to a huge variety of wildlife.

We are not experts but the commercial rape of the land by the large turf industry seems like quite different thing from the traditional small scale harvesting of neighbourhood turf for winter fuel. This image shows the peat after it has been cut drying in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark breeze.

Funnily enough the drizzle doesn’t seem to affect the drying process too much.Turf has been burned here since the bronze age and in the Geopark, we noticed burnt mounds that look a lot like burnt peat. (The demands of blogging mean that I may not have time to check all this info so do feel free to comment and correct please.) And a turf fire, as it is called here, is surely the smell of home. Adan a young guy who farms his family homelands on Galloon Island could NOT believe we had NEVER smelled a turf fire, not ever.  He simply rejected the idea, what total deprivation….

We vowed to light a real fire and found an opportunity at MacGrath’s cottage and lit one just for the craic. Our English, Valencian and New Mexican burning experiences have led us to burn mostly wood and never turf. The very idea of burning the earth itself seems strange to us. But it was the first fossil fuel.

I know that lots of you have no tradition of burning turf fuel. So here is a short explanation. Turf is peat and comes from the buildup of mosses and other vegetation where the accumulation of dead vegetation exceeds the decay. The reason this can happen is that in the  wetland environment the mosses are not able to break down for lack of oxygen. The fungi and bacteria that recycle the dead mosses cannot live in this waterlogged environment and decay is halted. Gradually, gradually there is a buildup of vegetation which becomes compacted and swallows up the surface stones and features. Peat that forms in these conditions on the sides of mountains is called Blanket Bog. Lowland bogs are slightly different, but essentially the process is the same. Turf that is burnt in homes in Northern Europe have normally taken hundreds or even thousands of years to form.

 

Turf extraction, as we know, is not sustainable, (mostly) which is why lots of us now prefer to buy non-peat based composts.

 

In these Geopark lands, turf drying in the fields is still a relatively common sight; one that attracts our attention. And many families have a cut in a newly harvested field. They must go down and shift the peat once it has dried and stack it at home. Tur, as we found out, burns almost without flame and is red hot. It burns more like coal rather than wood. We stoked and blew under the turf all night trying to get some flame before we understood the error.

turf

Potent brew: our future in a teacup

Making and sharing tea is an important tradition in many parts of the world. And Tea culture is very much alive both at Marble Arch Caves Geopark and in our own arts practice. Tea has even taken protagonism in our Exchange project. And hey wasn’t Asterix’s magic potion TEA?

Exchange Teapot
Teapots are still ubiquitous inhabitants of cottages, palaces, boats and other homes around the world. Tea is an offering of hospitality and good cheer. It is fit for the gods.

Tea leaves are also used as an oracle; to tell the future. On the Crom estate in Marble Arch Caves Geopark there lives an old lady who practices the art of reading tea leaves.

Listen here about this 90 year old fortune teller. 

teaboat
In own projects tea is always drunk a lot (redbush mostly). Likewise in the territories of Marble Arch Caves Geopark tea is drunk heartily on both sides of the now invisible border. What stories does our lovely second hand shop Teapot have to tell?

tea ingredients
And the potency of Tea? We think  some of the potency resides in the water used to make tea. This golden water from a spring already looks like tea. Water straight from the earth is called “Slap Water” in Northern Ireland, used to wash dirt-covered potatoes just harvested on the way in to the house (described to us in a conversation with a local farmer).

And of course TEA is a strongly uniting factor. Many activities in Eire and Northern Ireland happen around mugs of steaming tea. Forget Irish Whisky and Guinness! Tea gives rise to good chat and hell, it gives rise to some proper good craic.


This magic frog prince tea cup came from Germany. It changed raspberries into tea when ordinary tea was accidentally left behind on our Exchange project field visit.

frog cup exchange
Out in the wild kettles can always be filled from waterfalls, so long as the water is boiled for 3 minutes.

Wild Kettle
Being an artist is thirsty work sand there is nothing like a cuppa to turn a new campsite into home. We usually fill our thermos with hotwater for later a comforting cuppa in the day. Our essential tea kit as illustrated below consists of:-  bikes for fetching water, table for brewing, kettle, soya milk, insulated cup, camping stove. How much regalia. And a bowl for washing teacups.

Tea table
We were invited into this narrow boat for tea at Derryvore jetty near Belturbet, Eire. Find out more about this craft, its people and animals via The puzzler blog.

Narrow boat tea
Oh and this is the kettle that lives in MacGrath’s Cottage, at Killykeegan nature reserve, on Marlbank Scenic loop close to Marble Arch Caves. It is a small visitor centre with a hearth and a turf fire. Bit dusty but sure it will still make a good cuppa

McGraths kettle
And in the rain there is nothing so good as a cuppa tea.


Life without tea would be faster, but it would stop being extraordinary.

Eating habits and habitation

Food Luxury
While inhabiting the MAC Geopark, we’ve chosen to keep our accommodations simple. However, cooking on a camp stove and eating out of storage bags and boxes has not cramped our culinary style. Good food (especially good veg) is one of the luxuries that we have chosen to sustain during the project. (Some of you who’ve been following our blog closely may have already surmised this!) In fact, we believe that culinary choices deeply affect our experience of place on several levels: 1) the physiological affects of different foods on the body; 2) the experience of place while cooking and eating out of doors instead of inside a house or restaurant; 3) the experience of eating food grown or produced in the local proximity……and there are many other levels I’m sure.

How does food affect, create, or influence your experience of place?