Thursday, 1 July 2010

flowers on stage: the daffodil

In the second in our summer series of blogs, the artist Sue Palmer writes about the daffodils and the desk fan in Mary Southcott's 'Let’s get some weather in here'

One moment – a movement - remains with me. I can remember none of the content now – it is about 8 years since I saw the theatre performance and the stories are blurred, fleeted. What I do remember is Mary performing her solo show, and one moment within it has fused itself onto my memory.

Just off centre in the performance space is a window box, a white plastic window box, and facing the audience are a row of daffodils, yellow and bright in the studio lighting. They are looking perky and buoyant as only daffodils can, and very yellow, the trumpet variety. At one point in the performance, Mary switches on a desk fan that stands behind the daffodils and a deeply satisfying event takes place.

As the fan turns its automated 120-degree span, so the daffodil heads respond - bobbing, nodding. The bobbing heads in the breeze are met by collective warmth and delight from the audience - our attention is absorbed by the responsive movement of the flowers that is so familiar, so recognisable.

Mary’s simple creation of a small ‘weather system’ in the studio is utterly captivating: the outside is suddenly on the inside. The relationship between the wind and the flower is placed at the centre of my attention, so I can see in absolute detail the architectural brilliance of the flower at being able to both receive and resist the wind. Due to the travel of the fan, the breeze interacts with the flowers over an arc of time so the daffodil heads respond to the beginning of the wind touching them, nodding vigorously as the full fan passes over them, returning to a small stillness before the process loops to a return.

The articulation of the flowers and their ability to work with the wind ‘speaks’; their ‘heads’ work with receptivity, capacity, intelligence. The daffodils have performed for us.

At ‘Presence’ Festival, Dartington College of Arts, Devon, June 2002

Photo: Ed O'Keefe

See also flowers on stage: the poppy. Next: flowers on stage: the lotus.

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