june 2018

21jun16:1016:40Jess Allen: Drop in the Ocean16:10 - 16:40 B: Studio 1

Event Details

‘“I couldn’t get you to the ocean,” she said. “But there was nothing stopping me bringing the ocean to you”’ – The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2014).

Neil Gaiman’s character Lettie Hempstock persuades a body of magical water into a bucket to help release a boy held captive by a malevolent force. The image has immediate resonance because it taps into our subconscious understanding of the transformative potency of water; even, or perhaps especially, when constrained within the mundane objects of our everyday lives.

In this performance lecture – an experiment in what social sculptor Shelley Sacks describes as ‘parallel-process’; a ‘lecture/action moving between rational discourse and the intuitive’ – I offer an echo of my eco-activist walking performance Drop in the Ocean (2013-15). The full length work is a six-day walk in six widening, concentric circles: the ripples around a drop ((((((.)))))) Carrying water in two buckets on a milkmaid’s yoke, I invite all the strangers I meet to make a wish, by taking a stone from the water in one bucket and holding it in their wet hand, while I ask them five questions about water.

Through a series of actions, accompanied or interspersed with spoken text – in English and Welsh – this performance-lecture is an attempt to convey something of the multiple, layered experiences of doing-making this work. How can a rural-relational performance work with water to function as ‘affective alchemy’: creating, even momentarily, an aesthetic container in which an embodied ethical experience of the more-than-human is possible?


I am an aerial dancer, ecological performer and walking artist from Aberystwyth. I’m just completing a (second) PhD in walking and talking in rural landscapes as eco-activist performance, with the University of Manchester. I use long-distance walking to create unexpected one-to-one performance encounters in everyday life. Originally a biologist, I gained my first PhD from Aberystwyth before re-training in contemporary dance, latterly at Coventry with an MA in Dance Making and Performance. I’ve worked as landscape officer for local government, dance lecturer (experiential anatomy/improvisation), arts facilitator (AHRC Multi-Story Water) and as an aerial performer for Blue Eyed Soul (UK/US), Full Tilt and EVERYBODY dance (UK/Europe).


(Thursday) 16:10 - 16:40


B: Studio 1

Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EN