Monday, August 01, 2005

We Are Seven

Today I set out with six other New York-based artists (Ian Cooper, Daphne Fitzpatrick, Rachel Foullon, k8 Hardy, Adam Putnam and Dana Sherwood) on a flight to England, where we will be in residence several hours north of London, throughout the month of August.

We were invited here by Adam Sutherland, Director of Grizedale Arts, a contemporary art commissioning agency located in Grizedale Forest at the heart of the Lake District in Cumbria. Working in partnership with The Wordsworth Trust, Grizedale Arts will be hosting us in a country house near the town of Hawkshead as well as in a hamlet of stone cottages in Grasmere once occupied by William Wordsworth.

Grizedale Arts is currently engaged in an ongoing series of residencies, exhibitions, festivals, public art events and other artist exchanges in the UK, US and Japan called Romantic Detachment. The Lake District is known as the place where literary Romanticism was born, and this multi-layered project explores contemporary artists’ relationships to notions of romanticism, landscape, history and tourism. A group of British artists recently traveled to the US to explore various romanticisms of the American landscape, presenting an interactive exhibition of collaborative projects and performances at New York’s PS1/MoMA in the fall of 2004.

Our residency was conceived as an opportunity to look at an American take on Romanticism, organized around the notion of an experimental commune. As a group, we have adopted the title We Are Seven after the Wordsworth poem in which a young girl attempts to reason with an adult that the dead siblings she plays with in the cemetery are actually still alive. Combining a perfect mix of childhood fantasy, audacity and morbidity, we felt it was a good starting point to describe ourselves, a group of artists from New York City whose work, though diverse, is connected by ideas of history, horror, and sexuality.

Here are the lyrics:
--A Simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
--Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said
And wondering looked at me.

"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

"Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."

"You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven!--I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be."

Then did the little Maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree."

"You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little Maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.

"My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

"And often after sunset, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

"The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

"So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

"And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."

"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little Maid's reply,
"O Master! we are seven."

"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"


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