On a Tuesday evening in the middle of the Bristol Biennial I scurried over to Goldney Hall in Clifton to witness a performance by Holly Corfield called MINE. No sooner had we stepped into the vast and breathtaking property of Goldney Hall had Holly started her performance. A tour guide experience where the tour guide only speaks in continuous prose, a poetic landscape heightened by metaphor. At the beginning, Holly comments on the preciousness of time and that if we give her some of our time, she will return some time in exchange. But what does it all mean?
One of the first things that is brought up within the performance is the essence of time as most of the performance is poetic it was sometimes tricky to extract a literal message or a meaning. Holly comments on the essence of time, the moment we’re aware of it – the moment has passed, lost forever. The passing of time seems to be a genuine concern in the collective subconscious and for some reason it sits as an anxiety within my own worries, but why should it? Why can we not appreciate the moment as now, for what it is? I felt like Holly was inviting us to take this performance as a moment to stop and forget about everything outside of the confines of Goldney Hall.
In keeping with the theme of the Bristol Biennial of the crossing of a line or a boundary, the grotto posed a geographical enclosure which encourages you to cross into a vortex of the unknown. The sense of awe and wonderment caused by Holly’s choice of location greatly added to the notion of letting go of your boundaries and exploring the unknown and exposing a dark and sinister past.
We were guided through a path lined by trees either side on a well kept lawn and next to an incredible garden, we were overwhelmed by the magic of the landscape in front of us. This is a hidden gem, right under our noses. At 7pm the half light had crept across the skies and the atmosphere in the garden changed drastically. These were the first steps into another world, transported by the power of sense, smell, sound and word play…
The 18th century grotto is a real secret landmark, barely anyone knows it’s there and anyone who visits it will remember it for a lifetime. Step into the grotto and you will instantly be hit by the earthy smells and sights of this grotto, the walls and ceilings are encrusted in shells and diamonds. There’s a running water feature which extends up into the depths of the grotto where a Greek God statue has been positioned. This grotto seems Roman antiquity, and it’s WONDERFUL.
I am so pleased that I was brought here under artistic circumstances, Holly’s decision of place and the way in which her poetic words weaved throughout the crevasses of the textural walls and throughout the running water which echoed throughout the grotto. Holly’s work is themed largely by Bristol’s historical involvement with slavery and mining. With Kingswood having a strong mining history, you will be shocked to know that the mining industry thrived in Bristol for over 500 years until the Kingswood colliery was closed down in 1973(1).
‘wearing clothes still wet, speaking on the in breathe… ready gone yet yet set. So that as buffer against your inevitable loss. i could issue to each of you now some TIME, that you may use or trade or waste as you see fit.”
“…And to make sure this time, this time doesn’t move from me to you to some location beyond your reach again.. i’ve had it fastened down, slowed down. As if this water in our hands has ran back, brackish, turned to quick milk and embarrassingly stiffened with itself..So here, so we’re even… so we begin.” – Holly Corfield Carr
The rocks were offered to us as a form of infinite time, with the potential to exchange our time for words or words for time – the group were asked to interact. These games of being able to hypothetically change constant processes in our life was really interesting, the poetic license cast the imagination into a world where rules and reality suddenly didn’t exist. The grotto really helped transform this transportation into a temporary world.
Everything about the words which Holly said held suspense before suddenly all falling out and being spoken at the same time. The intonation and the expression was so poised, she took the stance of a tour guide but with words you’d expect to hear from Alexander Pope. The detachment of Holly as performer meant the words suddenly cut deep – at times they would become quite sinister whilst detailing the blood and the death witnessed during the horrors of slavery. I was engrossed within these words, as an artist, a tour guide, a poet and a story teller – Holly fused all of these roles together to deliver this excellent performance.
We went to explore the lawns of Goldney Hall after the grotto experience, already we were dazzled by this world which Holly had created for us so when we explored the rest of the area we all felt like we’d lost all sense of where we were. In a way, Holly had achieved this feeling of no sense of time.
As we walked back in, one of the members of the group timely pointed out that this hall was used for the filming of Watson’s wedding reception in the TV series of Sherlock! I never normally understand such specific TV references (I’ve usually missed the episode or more often than not, people are talking about Game of Thrones and I just haven’t seen all of it yet!) but this hall… I was overwhelmed!
Here are a few more shots from Goldney Hall..
Goldney Hall | Wikipedia