'Cow and Calf Rock', Ilkley Moor
One snowy day in January a prehistoric carved stone issues a call. I have not constructed any idea of its agency, sentience, interests or needs. I have no idea what the stone is saying. The stone has been calling me for years.
My project documents a solo performance on Ilkley Moor responding to ‘heritage control’ whereby the landowner English Heritage restricts access to prehistoric carved rocks. These rocks were originally scattered in the landscape by the tremendous force of Ice Age glaciers. It is illegal to leave ‘litter’ or in any way deface the rocks and there is an invisible two-metre boundary around each stone. One stone is known locally as the ‘Fertility Stone’ and has been a sacred site for five thousand years from Neolithic times to the present day. My birth family (the Vehro’s from Italy) were ‘Travellers’. Like the Neolithic mark-makers they were nomads with their own customs and traditions. They lived outside borders and did not recognize boundaries.
What power resides in an object that causes its recipient to pay it back? My insertion of a scroll of mono printed rice paper in front of the stone is a sacrificial gift and deposition of 'ritual litter' and begins a transformation of fragile paper into stone. Against a canvas of white snow, the ‘Fertility Stone’ appears to splinter like an iceberg ‘calving’. A detached fragment moves away from the original rock dancing and shape changing in response to the prevailing winds. By penetrating the liminal boundary I am symbolizing fertilization and birth. By reclaiming ancient ritual space as art I am giving a voice to what is called ‘thing-power’.
The stone accepts the sacrificial gift. The mute idol speaks. Thing-power is restored.
I rename the stone 'Cow and Calf Rock'.
The work comprises one large photograph 190cm x 250cm and four smaller photographs 60 x 45cm approx. on the six metre linear wall space (this allows for a border around each image).