GRANDMOTHER'S KNOWLEDGE, written By Dr Ben Cranfield, Director of PhD in Humanities and Cultural Studies Birkbeck University, as part of In dialogue residences within our practice and Resilience LAB project April – November 2015.
back to where we have not quite been, some response to a listening event by Fourthland
Grandmother’s knowledge. A deep stirring knowledge. A handed-down knowledge. A cut and paste, glued and fastened knowledge: yellowing,annotated, borrowed, gathered and hidden. A knowledge of materials, a material knowledge. Preserve, conserve, re-use and repair. Hang-it, draw-it,pluck-it, store-it, fold it, wind-it, peel-it, core-it, wrap-it, steam-it. Talk about it, write it down, publish it – why not? Record and transmit, but always handle with care, never take for granted, not in vain. Not to own, only to borrow, carry for a while, pass-on.
To be sliced and shared. Loaves and fishes,oranges and lemons, tea and sympathy, round-about-a-pound-a-week. Add a pinch to a mixture, make a wish with a stir; beat with a wooden one, fold with a metal one. Worldly wisdom is hard to come by and easily buried, with letters and formula. Buried not gone. And should Alexandria be burnt again the ashes will fertilize the soil in which the tubas of experience are softly held and from which shoots, like sign-posts in the dessert of ignorance, will emerge.
The Museum of Lost Process does not have glass cases, interpretation panels or visitor surveys. Skills are not learnt, they are found. There is no History here, only tales-told, times-when, memories-of. Rough-ragged, lightly-rolled, exquisitely-hewn, these are congealings of nature-culture, insectmouthed,finger-and-thumbed. A process is lost to be found again. Hands and mouths move silently in the shadows of history.
Home is where we arrive to. We started from another place full of givens, of course, off course. I got a train, she took her bike, making our way through the city using devices that make good-passages from bad. And why? A promise? Perhaps. A commitment and professional interest, a conviction and an idea that you had long ago that one should not always know why or what or how. Because you said ‘yes’, because you always say ‘yes’, or too often say ‘no’. For the love of God. God! For love? A sense of something bigger, not already accounted for, chalked-up, impact-defined,books-balanced. Where I come from, where you come from, they are like this, we are like that. A place, yes, given to us, assigned to us, a starting point over which we had no control. But a home? Surely not. We arrive at a home, temporary, imagined, nomadic, but a home none-the-less. The child who can play is able to overcome the irrevocable gap between inner and outer realities. Creativity is the freedom to illusion and disillusion the world.
Finding ourselves at home we trust ourselves to play – picking out a sound, picking up an object – folding over a word, folding out an idea. I travelled bundled in expectations, tied with labels, already placed in hopes of finding somewhere, no-place, where I could untie the knot of ownership and unfold in common. Home at last.
How do you lose yourself? How do you find yourself? In the moment of encounter we must choose; choose whether to accept or refuse the radical transformation of the encounter. A sound so familiar that it is totally foreign. A sensing of bodies, animate and inanimate, noisy and silent. Do we accept these beings, soundings, movings, stirrings? Do we become one with the affective field, knowing that we must give up the certainty of our selfhood? Or do we resist, say, ‘yes, I know that and that and this’.
Listen for the bell. A crisp call to consciousness that places us back. Back where? Back where we have not quite been, in a space that is not quite the same. A gift has been offered, on the one condition, that you are able to receive it. Not so easily done. This is where it begins. Opening a mouth: silence. These sounds, whose are these? Sounds cannot be owned – even the most private sounds echo through us to be caught as vibrations by another ear. Lost words are found again in a different key, resonating with new meaning in a fresh mind. What if all those words were misplaced, all the labels in the museum brushed away by an over-zealous cleaner who wished to keep the objects free from the dulling dust of language? I lost my words, as she had done on a night when dream became more important than waking conscious desires.
Forgiving, forgetting, forgiving, forgetting. Forewords, all forwards. The words that frame, that tether and tie. Undo the bundle let the words fall away. But not so we can mouth forever in silence, but so we can find words again and hear them like the timely ring of a bell with clarity. Word-objects, object-words unfolding their meaning like a ground on which to play.