a necrology: - REQUIEM - DONA EIS - PROBASTI ME - TINTINABULATION - DELINEATUM EST - (8.09.2022 - 19.09.2022)
This is a time-specific series of five loop-pieces created, between the 8th and the 19th of September 2022, in response to the funeral pomp and communal outpouring of grief that followed the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Rather than directly focusing on the dead monarch, her legacy, or indeed the monarchy, these works primarily aim to address the passage of time and the fleetingness of human lives and endeavours. They are, in a sense, an extended 'memento mori'.
The videos include footage gathered from news channels, as well as original footage, including documentation of two ritual-actions performed especially for the occasion. The videos are soundtracked by loop-tracks created using samples taken from the Service for the Reception of the Coffin at Westminster Hall (14.09.22); the Prince's Vigil (18.09.22); the procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch (19.09.22); and Jocelyn Pook's 'Requiem for a Queen' (2014). [Her original composition is part of the soundtrack to King Charles III, a 2014 play written by Mike Bartlett and directed by Rupert Goold. King Charles III is 'a future history play' that imagines the events following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. In 2017 Bartlett and Goold adapted the play for television, the film was first broadcast on 10 May 2017 on BBC Two.]
REQUIEM - first vigil (8/9.09.22)
In what I realise now was a kind of vigil/wake, this is a time-specific loop piece created between the evening of 8th and the following afternoon on 9th September 2022. I began it as the UK and the world started to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and published it before King Charles III gave his first speech as monarch. It became the first in a series of five loop-pieces I created responding to this historic event. The most repeated phrase is the Latin 'Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis' - which means 'eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them'. The focus here is on a plural them. Therefore this loop piece is intended, above all, as a condolence note to all those currently in mourning, and is a kind of love letter to mourning itself - in particular communal outpourings of grief.
Whilst the soundtrack is obsessively repetitive, despite what it might sometimes look like, none of the footage has been looped. It has only been either sped up or slowed down. The piece's duration is itself an endurance challenge to contemplate death, grieving, loss, mourning, and the seismic event of the 24 hours prior to the video's publication. All this, and the fact the piece was created on the cusp of a series of events and processes of historic proportions (national mourning, proclamation of the new monarch, etc.), heightens the temporal and time-sensitive nature of the piece. [It is worth remembering the video was created through the night, between the evening of the 8th September and the following afternoon. The piece was published before King Charles III gave his first speech as monarch.] The footage used includes: an informative video published in 2020 by Business Insider outlining the planned protocol in the then future event of Queen Elizabeth II's death; footage from the crowds gathering at Buckingham and Windsor between 8th September 2022 and the early hours of the following day; the arrival of King Charles III to Buckingham Palace; and some archival footage from The Queen's life.
The audio is a loop-track that samples and layers Jocelyn Pook's 'Requiem for a Queen' and her soundtrack for the filmed version of Mike Bartlett's play King Charles III. In fact, the loop-track opens with the first sentence of the film, and closes with the second one. The film's soundtrack opens with eight tolls of a bell. On the ninth toll the music fades in. The unexpected correlation between this detail and the 8th of September, the actual date of The Queen's death, led me to employ a simple rule for the composition of this loop track: each of the main motifs is repeated 8 times and on the 9th repetition, a new main motif is introduced.
DONA EIS - wake on the sea (9/10.09.22)
The first part of this piece's title, 'DONA EIS' meaning 'grant them' in Latin, comes from the Catholic funeral mass: 'requiem aeternam dona eis, domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis' - 'eternal rest grant unto them, oh lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them'. The focus, in this specific instance, is on a plural them. The second part of the title, 'wake on the sea' is a play on words. On the one hand it alludes to a funeral wake. On the other, it is an English translation of a fragment from Antonio Machado's poem "Caminante no hay camino" (meaning 'Traveler, there is no road'). The last line reads: 'sino estelas en la mar' (meaning 'only a ship's wake on the sea').
This loop-piece premiered on Tuesday 13th September 2022: which was the eve of my (insignificant) return to the United Kingdom [a country I left after participating in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, and now officially in mourning for The Queen], and the (significant) day of the dead monarch's last return London [incidentally, in Spain, Tuesday 13th is thought of a bad-luck day]. Whilst the soundtrack is obsessively repetitive, despite what it might sometimes look like, none of the footage has been looped. It has only been either sped up or slowed down, thus heightening the temporal and time-sensitive nature of the piece. This second part of the series continues the funereal tone of the first loop-piece, specifically seeking to play with the juxtapositions, divergences and overlaps between the significant and the insignificant, between remembrance and oblivion, between the nameless and the named, between the one and the many, between change and continuity.
The video lasts between 8 and 9 minutes. It documents the ritual action, which took place at midnight, of scattering out to sea from stern of a moving ship 22 remembrance cards, the kind usually given out at German funerals. The above numbers are a deliberate nod to the date of Queen Elizabeth II's death, a monarch with German ancestry. The footage was recorded on the evening and night between the 9th and 10th of September, as the fist fully day after her death came to an end. The video opens with a still image of the first sunset of King Charles III's reign. The footage that follows was filmed on the way to and from Tabarca, a small island off the coast of Santa Pola and Alicante, Spain. The island was repopulated in 1769 by the Spanish monarch Charles III, with 323 Genovese citizens he had rescued from their captivity in the Tunisian island of Tabarka, which is where this island takes the name of Tabarca from. Charles III ordered the construction of the island's fortifications, homes and church. Today, Tabarca is the smallest island in the Mediterranean which is continuously inhabited (51 in 2019).
The funeral remembrance cards used are of no particular significance to me, I did not know these people - and therefore, whilst it uses totemic artefacts from my personal collection, this is not an autobiographical piece. It was during the clearance of my great-aunt's house in Germany after her death (incidentally I didn't know her either) I came across a whole collection of remembrance cards from funerals she had attended. There seemed to be three main repeated cover designs, one featuring Jesus on a cross, one featuring the Virgin Mary, and this one featuring hands in prayer - which is based on a pen-and-ink drawing by the German printmaker Albrecht Dürer (c. 1508). I collected the cards and kept them all these years, as totemic artefacts, knowing they would some day feature in a performance. Although named, and not strictly nameless, the people whose funeral cards I discard remain anonymous and unknown. Since I discarded the cards out to sea, in performing this ritual action, I am myself going through a process of loss.
The audio is a new version of the loop track I initially created for the first part of the trilogy.
PROBASTI ME - wings of the morning (18.09.22)
This piece was specifically uploaded at 8pm on Sunday 18 September 2022 - whilst I stood in Parliament Square (London) - the exact moment Big Ben did not mark the hour as usual, but instead remained quiet; the very moment the UK held a minute silence in remembrance of the dead monarch. The video footage was recorded that same morning, of 18 September 2022, at St. Martin in the Bullring, Birmingham, whilst the bells were rung as part of the national mourning tributes. The piece therefore continues, in a particularly heightened way, the time-specificity that characterizes this series of works.
The audio features a loop track created using sounds from the dead monarch's lying-in-state, and the service that opened it: the very moment the coffin arrived at Westminster Hall, with the instructions 'In. Out.' given to the coffin bearers; the metronomic sound of sword against stone, ritually marking the changing of the guard during the Vigil of the Princes; and a reshuffled version of Psalm 139, as sung by The Choir of Westminster Abbey & The Choir of His Majesty's Chapel Royal - conducted by James O'Donnell on 14 September 2022 at the Service for the Reception of the Coffin.
The title of this loop-piece, PROBASTI ME - wings of the morning, combines a part of Psalm 139 in Latin (you tested/searched me) and a part of the English translation sung during the ceremony.
In reshuffling the psalm's lyrics, I have attempted to widen their reach, so they might be more specifically applicable: to this particular moment in time, to the dead monarch, to the thousands of mourners who filed past her coffin, and perhaps to the monarchy itself.
TINTINABULATION - for The Queue (19.09.22)
This piece was published exactly at 6.30am on Monday 19 September 2022. It is thus intended as a special marker and celebration of the end, the finishing time, of Queen Elizabeth II's lying-in-state. In particular, this loop-piece marks the 'death' of what came to be known simply as The Queue - those thousands of people who patiently waited their turn to attend the dead monarch's lying-in-state.
The main part of the audio was recorded on the morning of 18 September 2022, at St. Martin in the Bullring, Birmingham, whilst the bells were rung as part of the national mourning tributes.
The video images includes footage recorded at San Juan beach, (Alicante, Spain) on 13 September 2022; footage recorded on Parliament Square (London, UK) of the minute silence held across the nation at 8pm on 18 September 2022; and footage of The Queue as it snaked its way over Lambeth Bridge towards the final stretch.
DELINEATUM EST - the least I could do (19.09.22)
This piece documents a ritual-performance that was both site- and time-specific. It took place across Westminster Bridge, from the South Bank Lion to Boadicea and Her Daughters on the other side of the river, on the day of Queen Elizabeth II's funeral and committal services. The action began at 3.50pm - not long after the coffin reached Windsor Castle; and it ended at 4.26pm - shortly after the beginning of the Committal Service at St. George's Chapel. The video documentation premiered at 4.20pm on 22 Sept. (72 hours / 3 days after the event).
The first part of the title ('DELINEATUM EST') means 'it was drawn/outlined/delineated' in Latin. The second part ('the least I could do') is a sentence that was used, over and over, in media interviews by the people who left flowers at royal palaces, those who waited as part of The Queue, or those who camped out to see the funeral corteges.
The piece involved the simple action of drawing a line in chalk. Dressed in black (donning a necklace and earrings, and trailing four pieces of white lace behind me), I crawled the length of Westminster Bridge on all fours. With my right hand I drew the line with chalk, and with my left hand I pushed along an hourglass. I wore a black and a white glove in order to made the journey's traces more visible. As well as the expected stops to start a new chalk stick or to turn the hourglass, there were unexpected ones: when I paused to check the hourglass, which was becoming increasingly unstable and eventually collapsed a few times; when I had two exchanges with police officers; and one occasion when I stopped to catch my breath. There were also smaller pauses, as I carefully pushed the hourglass over the bridge's expansion joints. Even as I was engaged in the task, it dawned on me that these various stops and pauses made the piece associatively resonate with the Stations of the Cross. Whilst there are 14 moments which chart the events in the Passion of Christ, from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to his entombment, my crawling-and-drawing action accidentally had 12 significant stops. [The video contains time-stamps so you can jump to specific 'events' along the journey.]