enter change Performance and Nature connect unsettle bridge
Bird Brain Critical Art Ensemble Welfare State International
Simon Whitehead
Shelley Sacks
green museum.org Fern Shaffer and Othello Anderson
David Haley
John Lyall
Ballet Atlantique-Regine Chopinot
Opening Essay Introducing the Artists Links and Readings
Hester Reeve Basia Irland


Diatribe on the Ebb of Our Estate





Drawing in World

My activity as an artist has always been based on a radical critique of received culture and normalised expectations of individual human behaviour. However, my work is not a rebellious or boundary pushing practice – more of a committed, dramatic offering of a life dedicated to the origination of artworkart as thinking well, art as manifestation of meaning through matter and art as embodied action.

Live art has become my main medium for public engagement and drawing has become the private foundation of all I create. My live art works do not have communication as their goal (that would be to admit to a full understanding of the issues at stake and I want for no such mastery or closure). Rather, I attempt to explore and expose the human-nature landscape to the point where it becomes fragile, fractious and perhaps more ‘truthful.’ Pieces are usually site-specific and are emphatically unrehearsed, once-only events. Each live action is a starting point, an arrival into a new place of experience.

The human being is a particularly strange animal in the field of nature. All is story, including nature. Some stories smell more than others, some created us in the first place. For all this, the storytellers are flesh and brain and can not escape self significance. The reflexive ego as pencil tip is the starting point of a world mattering at all and is the energy behind the boundaries of experience being drawn wide open.


live artwork and installed documentation for Between Nature Conference, Lancaster University, UK

Diatribe’ – the passing of time through discourse, to argue strongly against something.

‘Diatribe on the ebb of our estate’ was a 7-hour action performed overnight at Castlerigg Stone circle (3000 BCE), in the Lake District, England. Unrehearsed, my concerns about the difficulty of performance and nature were recorded via a clip mic as I performed my response/resistance to being in one of the earliest sites where human creatures marked the land - not in order to create shelter, but in an attempt to channel social experience into a relationship with the supernatural. The ‘diatribe’ was not in rejecting the site’s historical significance so much as in rejecting the expectation inherent in ‘eco-arts’ discourse that a germane performance site or cultural desire at large exists for expressing a relationship to nature. My raw anxiety and longing, given voice far away from the safe framework of the city seemed the only possible starting point; an experiment with living language.  

The recording was transcribed onto the glass top of a museum case and placed in the Ruskin Library at Lancaster University during the conference.

I wore military camouflage as the signature of ‘misplaced blending in’, a balaclava to suggest ‘semiotic terrorism’ and a police hat carrying my own constabulary badge - ‘the thought polis’. The axe with the shape of my hand cut out of the blade was a celebratory reference to the earliest technologies that shaped human culture, and a reference towards postmodern deconstruction of concrete thought and the autonomous object d’art. I lit a coal fire at the gateway to the stone circle where a post card to and of William Shakespeare was sacrificed prior to commencing the diatribe. These aspects of the artwork linked it to the symbolic ‘ebbing of our estate,’ the outmoded notion that the natural universe exists for us.

Excerpt from tape recording:

Midnight I stand, when every human mind is wrapped up in itself Sleeping. My mouth is on the rampage, art my own special brand of education to enter the wilderness. Get ready, we must return But only to a future no-where: Your acceptance of how things are Is smothering you. The thing you fear the most Is the ‘space’ you take place in (and it is eating you slowly up). I’m arresting you whilst you sleep, with handcuffs made of stone. These stones are also handcuffs but its all we have. I refuse to repeat what’s gone on before. I am sentencing you to sentences But here my voice is single, The only other voices here are silence. There is no audience And this is why this performance matters. It is and ever is (as opposed to was and is not). It is still going, and I don’t care if you don’t believe me. The act of hearing outside of your self extends on for ever. Here the needle’s on the record player Except that there is no song.


Yorkshire Sculpture Park, for the
Land Art-Land Use Conference
and The Big Draw

This piece placed philosophical thought quite literally in the landscape. My clothing was covered in quotations from Nietzsche and drawings which explored his thoughts. The piece aimed to uproot the expectation that art about the land must incorporate the material of the land as its medium in order to express its concerns. It attempted to excite the idea of the importance of humans engaging with critical thought as a methodology of care for the non-human. The action was comprised of my ‘drawing’ or ‘tracing’ the visual landscape around me with a large glass pencil into which I constantly breathed. The result was an embodied drawing (human as pen moving within nature as page) and a small amount of condensed breath (water as ink) in the glass pencil.

My art practice also incorporates philosophical essays, activism, an internet-based philosophical think-tank, and an oral history publication: “Libkovice: Zdar buh” DIVUS, Czech Republic, 1997. My art practice also includes works which are not about nature.


w : home website under construction
e : HRH.the at hesterreeve.com

Hester Reeve: A Near and Far Map at: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/depts/philosophy...

Photo credits:

1] Elham Kashefi
2, 3 & 4] Bruce Johnstone-Lowe
5] Julia Linsley

All photographs provided by and copyright of Hester Reeve.

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