Ruth Jones has recently started a three year AHRC research fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts. The research will build on her practice led DPhil – ‘Liminality, Risk and Repetition: towards a feminine becoming in contemporary art practices’ to address the following questions:
What are the conditions required for generating liminality within site-specific installation and public art practice and what consequences does this have for rethinking the relationships between ‘place’, ‘identity’ and ‘gender’?
The term liminal derives from the latin ‘limen’ meaning ‘threshold’ and has been used in anthropological contexts since 1900’s and in a broader cultural context since 1960’s. The liminal realm is a passageway between two distinct states of ‘consciousness’ (eg. awake and asleep), or ‘being’ (eg human and animal). Anthropologist Victor Turner has described the liminal realm as ‘a place that is not a place and a time that is not a time’. In liminal space, our normal understanding of time which gives sense and order to experience is suspended and we may experience an altered understanding of ourselves and our environment. The uncertainty of these in-between states has led them to be regarded with suspicion and anxiety. In addition, liminal experience has been associated culturally in a negative way with femininity. Ruth’s research aims to rethink liminal experience in a more positive light, drawing on the enormous potential that this space offers in terms of developing our understandings of place and identity in the context of contemporary art practice. She will also be questioning and re-examining the relationship between femininity and liminality.
Through her practice, Ruth aims to create physical and / or psychological spaces in which the possibility of an experience of liminality can occur for the viewer / participant. Since 2002, she has focused on collaborative and public art projects, which aim to engage people creatively in the project development and realisation of the work. Recent projects include Taniec Kruka, September 2005, a short film for a public art project in a disused textile factory in Lodz, Poland in collaboration with folk dancer Agnieszka Nagnajewisz (see www.site-ations.co.uk/senseinplace/), Sleepers April 2006, in conjunction with Oriel Mwldan, Ceredigion for which people were invited to sleep in an ancient woodland in Pembrokeshire and Ianuae, October 2006, an art-geography collaboration and public art project in Oswestry, Shropshire.
For this project, Ruth collaborated with Jane Lloyd Francis of Equilibre Horse Theatre, Machynlleth, to create a performative event involving a black and a white stallion, musicians and members of the local community on the Old Racecourse on the Shropshire / Powys border (see www.borderingart.org.uk). Ruth’s collaborative book and DVD project with Iain Biggs and Josh Biggs Chimaerae Verae has also just been completed (see www.wildconversations.isophia.co.uk).
Ruth’s new body of research will focus on establishing the optimum conditions to generate liminal phenomena through an artwork, and will explore the cultural effects that this could have. In order to do this, she will be examining how we can access the liminal realm through artworks by altering our experience of time through ritual. Public art projects, site-specific installation and lens-based work will be the predominant mediums employed to achieve this. As part of the research, she will also be seeking to develop and establish a network of artists and researchers working in the same field in order to curate a series of site-specific public art projects in and around Cardigan, West Wales, with the intention of exploring the different strategies which artists employ to create liminal experience and the effects this can have for audiences and participants. These projects, a symposium and an accompanying publication will aim to contribute to and promote further dialogue and research into liminality and its cultural implications.