Notes from Wales Issue 1: Autumn 2014 - Page 30

Open Frequency Cymraeg > Writer and curator Ciara Healy profiles Ruth Jones, whose wide-ranging work explores the communitarian and spiritual value of creative rituals and rites of passage in west Wales West Wales has a very physical landscape, where one can often experience a profound sense of melancholia. Communities living here can be fractious and suspicious of the newcomer and of change, preferring instead the security of certainty. Certainty is a challenging condition for any artist to navigate, yet artist Ruth Jones is aware that the need for certainty comes from an understandable human response to living on this unpredictable rainsoaked edge of the Irish Sea. Ruth Jones has been living and working in West Wales since 2003. Her practice as an artist, writer and curator is concerned with building connections for communities through creative rituals and rites of passage, a process she believes can create new identities and social relationships. ‘Chwarel’ (2010) is an example of how Jones addresses this notion in a physical space. This video installation work, produced in collaboration with Cardiff-based artist Andrea Williams, was filmed in the disused quarries at Porthgain in Pembrokeshire. Placing an ad in local papers, Jones invited volunteers to dress up in the style of a group of quarry workers found in a photograph taken in 1908. The film begins with a rotating 360-degree panorama shot of the quarry area. However, with every additional rotation, layers of other moments in time emerge and recede. In one rotation the volunteers appear standing against the looming rocks; on another they have vanished. ‘Vigil’ (2009) also investigates liminality in the landscape, this sense of shifting time and space. This work is presented as an installation with 5:1 surround sound, creating a completely immersive environment for the viewer. It depicts a number of different physical spaces: a lighthouse and the surrounding landscape irradiated by its rotating beam of light, a farmhouse interior which contains a heavily pregnant woman sitting alone in an empty room, the beam of light rhythmically illuminating her features. The final world presented in this film is the bottom of the seabed, where seals dart through drifting hedgerows of seaweed. Like ‘Chwarel’, the multiple narratives Holy Hiatus ritual, community and place 2008, curated by Ruth Jones. Image: Alastair MacLennan Lure in Rule, durational performance, Cardigan. Credit: Ben Stammers ‘Building connections for communities through creative rituals and rites of passage’ and perspectives in this film are anchored by a rotating axis – in this case the light of Strumble Head Lighthouse in North Pembrokeshire. This rhythmic light seems to permeate both the land and the psyche of its inhabitants, accompanied by the pulsating sound of a baby’s heart. in 2008 and included the work of five performance and lens-based artists, all of whom made work that addressed ritual, community and place. In 2010 this project was collated into a publication, with contextual essays by Jones, entitled ‘Holy Hiatus: ritual and community in public art’. ‘Holy Hiatus’ (2008-present day) began as a curatorial project and has now developed into a formal organisation involving a programme of workshops and talks by artists with a participatory practice. The first Holy Hiatus event Jones curated took place in Cardigan, Pemrokeshire, This bilingual book, published by Parthian, was launched in conjunction with two symposia hosting international speakers from a broad range of disciplines, including Cultural Geography, Archaeology, Theology and History. NOTES FROM WALES | AUTUMN 2014 29