Soft split the Stone

8 April - 20 May 2023

Philippa Brown, Aled Simons, Tom Cardew, Alice Briggs, Rebecca Jagoe

Tom Cardew, Machynys Forgets Itself, 2023
Tom Cardew, Machynys Forgets Itself, 2023

The third group of the g39 Fellowship programme - Philippa Brown, Aled Simons,
Tom Cardew, Alice Briggs, Rebecca Jagoe - present a collection of new projects, ideas and proposals for works.

Soft split the Stone is an exhibition at g39 that brings their works together for the first time. The cynghanedd sounding title, connects them all in some way – from Philippa Brown’s portals inbetween worlds to the split bluestones of Aled Simon’s Legend Extension II; the lost islands and ghost tunnels of Tom Cardew’s filmwork that slips in and out of different timelines; Alice Briggs explores the archeology of family and place in Each of These Things Is True and Rebecca Jagoe, who looks at the language of stones to discuss illness and geological timescales.

Soft split the Stone is a pause, like any good exhibition should be. The work is not static, but shifting and changing in meaning and context. Below and above the crust of the earth – between the particles of sediment and the flow of lava, stone is not set.

Philippa Brown creates playful, sometimes humorous, often ambiguous work; tension is never far away, kept just beneath the surface. Growing from an intuitive approach to studio-practice-as-daily-ritual, her sculptural work is sometimes fragile, often unstable and shifting. She finds interconnectedness between histories, materials, beliefs and bodies of all kinds.

The portals for her to explore new meanings in objects are nostalgia, subcultures and the occult. She crafts hybrid narratives about conformity and alternative tactics for living.
It is a human and material collaboration – a process of alchemical experimentation that delves into witchcraft, the uncanny, allegory, symbolism and mythologies – both ancient and personal.

Aled Simons’ Legend Extension II invites the viewer to re-imagine a Stonehenge arch as if it was made of plastic aerobic gym equipment - a totem to keep-fit cult leaders and their desire to make us live forever, perhaps. What if our memories and collective knowledge were recorded, rewound and re-recorded onto mouldy VHS tape? Stonehenge was originally erected in Wales; it now stands as a second-hand monument built of Welsh bluestone.

This readymade sculpture accompanies a looping eight-minute video featuring crude 3D animation, archival footage and animated gifs with a voiceover in parts, written and narrated by the artist: pondering contagious non-conscious mimicry and excavating debatable anecdotal facts - skewed as they are repeated time and time again. At points we find ourselves inside the dark recesses of a video tape cassette, as if exploring the corners of a pixelated 64-bit computer game environment.

Legend Extension II is intended to allow room to consider slanted personal histories and a blurred nostalgia. Mundane misinterpretations, wrong translations, internal space and pulse. Class, micro and macro voids, a stomach. Breathing; ritualistic repetitions and faux mysticism.

In Each of these things is true Alice Briggs has spent time at Cwm Elan, exploring the site with her parents and children, but particularly her father, discussing the history/archaeology/culture of the land and family memories.

She is looking at how the same instant can be recalled infinitely subjectively; how the adult (parent) differs from the child, that lives seemingly experienced together can lead to understanding, but also misunderstanding. Working with her father, a piano at the g39 space makes a link with the rooms that she grew up in, family and the familiar.

This piano is now tired and broken, but its last performance, an improvised track by her father accompanies a film. The piano vibrations and strings filter through moss and grasses of the Cambrian mountains, a place once described as a ‘white desert’, devoid of beauty, nature and life – but not for her. The great rock is both wild and tamed, a desert and a sanctuary, a point of extraction as well as immersion.

Machynys Forgets Itself is a film, installation and AI-generated image research project by Tom Cardew. It explores collective memory, social class dynamics and the anachronistic collapse of linear history through collective myth-making and the digital. Machynys is a place that was once an island, but is no longer built up above sea levels. It was a place of underground tunnels and, later, of industrial factories, burning furnaces and terrace rows. Now, the site of a centuries old, self-serving community has become a luxury golf course, the only remnant of its past found below, down underneath, through the golf course hole.

At g39, the film work is the central element, which is the result of extensive research into Machynys’ history. Tom worked as writer/director with a group of Welsh actors and film crew in an attempt to reimagine Machynys’ significant historical moments: from a 10th century monastery and possible network of secret tunnels, to its 19th and early 20th Century height of industrial and communal, working-class life, to its 1970’s derelict, and soon-to-be demolished, form, and finally its unrecognisable present day. The film incorporates live action, archival footage, AI generated images and lip-sync interludes. It is housed within a tin sheet storehouse: an anachronistic portal into Machynys’ industrial past. Lastly, a series of AI generated images explore Machynys’ blurred histories and anecdotal records from one of its previous inhabitants.

Working throughout g39 testing new work, Rebecca Jagoe works across text, performance and sculpture. Their work is a material memoir of how their experiences of illness, madness, and gender are informed by specific Western, Christian narratives around the ‘human’, and human dominion over the earth. Against this they use the figure of the monster, the animal, or other-than-humans to consider other forms of subjectivity and agency.

Here they bring together two strands of a project exploring the animism of European medieval stones. The Stone of Folly is a proposal for a performance based on the eponymous Bosch painting. Across material experimentation for costume, sculpture, script and sound, the work explores madness as a refusal of coherence, the violent legacy of ‘cure’, the distorted voices of mad elders, and the pathologisation of queerness. Throughout, madness is depicted as an intimate relationship with a shard of flint.

This work is shown alongside the film A Sicknesse, A Ston [CORAL] screened during the exhibition. Commissioned by Site Gallery as part of Fresh Takes, accessibility is built into its structure. It is based on The Peterborough Lapidary, a medieval text of different stones and their cures. In this first chapter, a pseudo-scientific paper narrates the intention to discover whether stones are alive, if considered over vastly extended timeframes, and beyond anthropocentric terms for life.

The artists have been based at g39 during the last two years on the g39 Fellowship Programme, which is part of the Freelands Artists Programme. Soft split the Stone is a mixture of new work, work from the last two years and from projects that have grown alongside the parallel exhibition In the Same Breath at the Freelands Foundation, Chalk Hill, 23rd March - 29th May 2023.

Featuring: Aled Simons, Alice Briggs, Anisa Nuh-Ali, Emmie McLuskey, Helouise O’Reilly, Jan Hopkins, Jonathan HS Ross, Lea Torp Nielsen, Matt Zurowski, Myrid Carten, Philippa Brown, Phillip McCrilly, Rachael Colley, Rebecca Jagoe, Renèe Helèna Browne, Robin Price, Ross Fleming, Seiko Kinoshita, Sekai Machache, Tom Cardew.

In the Same Breath features the work of all twenty artists based across the UK participating in the Freelands Artist Programme and is accompanied by a publication, Unchorus.

  • Aled Simons, Legend Extension II, research image, 2022
  • Rebecca Jagoe, A Sicknesse, A Ston [Coral]. [Still], Single channel video, 2023
  • Philippa Brown, 2022
  • Alice Briggs, Each of these things is true,2023
  • Tom Cardew, Machynys Forgets Itself, 2023