Nimmi Naidoo

The Gleaner
b. 1950, London, UK

The two weeks as Artist-in-Residence at Hurst Castle has allowed me to notice and refine my working practice as a site-specific artist. I now feel the rightness of the impulse that urges me to come into a site with nothing more than my self as an organ of perception.

My practice has developed into initially gathering sensations as a being not a doer, allowing materials to come to me, then deepening my engagement through simple actions.

On the first day I was struck by the irrelevance of my pre-residency research, plans and ideas, and by the stark inappropriateness of the materials I had brought. To make work for this site I needed to be in it, to watch, to walk, to listen, to feel through my skin, to feel through my feet, to breathe in its very breath.

So I followed my fancy, combing the beach, entering dank chambers by their echoing steps, tapping gun barrels, wave-watching from rooftops, smelling mudflats, hearing birds converse, listening to stone. And walking, walking; each shushing of shingle holding me in this place at this time.

Slowly I engaged with materials, threading necklaces of stones and shell, collecting metal pipes, tops of tins, finding nylon twine and drift wood. Visitors were invited into the ʻShake, Rattle & Bangʼ studio to play with instruments I created from these found objects.

An instrument made from objects found on the beach

The invisible material of the wind keened and murmured, sang and sighed through the WindWhistle of plastic bottles I had gathered from the beach.

Wind Whistle

This residency, in which I lived alone and ʻoff-gridʼ, gave me time to sense the place, and to permit an understanding to emerge. The shingle and Castle, Castle and shingle, stone on stone. Learning the rhythms of the tide and wind, noticing the edge of the water breathing against the mud. I watched boats sailing, seagulls skimming across the water, and dreamed of the Castle floating by.

I now saw the Castle as stranded on a shingle bank, stuck, unable to float free; it had become beached. The site-specific intervention in the Underground Shell Store for 12.5″ and 10″ shells made visible this vision.

Beached

At Hurst Castle I saw the possibilities in using only the substance of a place to make a site-specific piece: the work becomes inherently connected to the site, it becomes aesthetically cohesive, it breathes without boundary into the site.

The Fleetwood Initiative Residency has been a rich and rewarding experience. Carrying water, collecting driftwood for kindling, washing myself with a flannel at the kitchen sink, all these slowed me and heightened my consciousness of being. I felt an inner expansiveness reach out into the flatness of mud and stone and the openness of sky. I entered another landscape through sounds heard, created, and recorded.

The immense value of this Residency has been in giving me time; time to drift into the unknown, time let go of formulating ideas and shaping work. I am aware of a deep shifting which I have yet to fully know. It was a fertile time, a time that fed me, that sits in darkness, maturing, waiting for an emergent voicing.

I would like to express my great appreciation to the Crane family for their generosity, hospitality and support, to the Hurst Castle staff for electric sockets and cake, to the Hurst Castle Ferries crew for carrying me across the water and carrying water across to me, and to The Fleetwood Initiative for the Residency itself.