Collaboration Spotlight: Lucy Burnett and Kate and Oliviero Papi of OBRA theatre company

Dead-time / I am Talented (and Other Alternative Facts)


conference pic

‘Dead-time’ is the moment after an event before any system can record a further event. In their ongoing collaboration, poet Lucy Burnett and Kate and Oliviero Papi of OBRA theatre company, apply this term to the uncertainty of the contemporary political environment associated with Brexit, Donald Trump, the rise of populism, and notions of post-truth and alternative facts. Starting from a shared (yet varied) experience of the above, the three collaborators choose not to view this political moment as stasis, but instead as an abstracted state of potential, replete with the possibility for change. More specifically the piece of physical theatre / poetry currently being developed under the working title ‘I am Talented (& Other Alternative Facts) interrogates the fundamental rupture between language and intention (action, knowledge, thought) involved in post-truth politics through an improvisatory process of re-embodying language – to propose that what we do and say really do matter. Rather than seeking to persuade the audience of any particular point of view regarding contemporary politics, the work-in-progress views ‘truth’ as a meaning-making process. By placing language and movement in destabilised tension in the context of ‘post-truth’, ‘I am Talented’ both lays bare their dynamic relationship, and opens up space for new possibilities of meaning in a radical, participatory, performative account of politics in which we are all implicated – writer, director, performer and audience alike.

brainstorm 3

The performance of ‘I am Talented’ for In the Open has stemmed from three intensive periods of experimental research and collaboration at Au Brana, OBRA’s theatre workshop in the south of France. During these sessions, poet Lucy Burnett, Director Kate Papi, and performer Oli Papi, have developed  a range of improvisatory methodologies for collaboratively creating a work of poetry in physical performance, which together ask: how do our actions and words make meaningful and dynamic cuts upon the world, in the process of becoming ‘other’ with it? (And how might performances such as this help us reconsider our own contribution to a changing world?) The performance will run on a half hourly loop: presenting two fragments of the resultant work-in-progress, as well as outlining the collaborative methodologies and processes involved, and providing opportunity for discussion and questions. Over the course of the following year, Lucy, Kate and Oli will continue the development of this piece, with the aim of achieving Arts Council funding for a performance tour in the autumn of 2018

truth 2

Lucy Burnett’s first collection of poetry, Leaf Graffiti, was published by Carcanet Press in 2013, and her second book, a hybrid novel exploring climate change called Through the Weather Glass was published by Knives Forks and Spoons in 2015. A second poetry collection with Carcanet called Tripping Over Clouds is forthcoming. During 2015 she developed and toured an interactive installation version of Through the Weather Glass around the UK, which included both video and photographic art. Born in Scotland, Lucy now lives in West Yorkshire and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Leeds Beckett University. Prior to returning to academia and writing, Lucy worked as a campaigner for organisations such as Friends of the Earth.

British born Kate Papi is an actor, workshop facilitator, and co-director of the Au Brana Centre in Southern France. Following her studies, which included work with internationally acclaimed Teatr Piesn Kozla in Poland, she co-founded OBRA for whom she has directed Fragments, a bi-lingual stage adaptation of Roland Barthes’ The Lover’s Discourse and Ted Hughes’ Gaudete for an international cast. She has also guest directed at the Bristol Old Vic, South Bank University and is currently developing a series of short films entitled Ex-Situ in collaboration with VIDEOFEET in response to the changing architecture of the Occitanie Region.

Oliviero Papi is an Italian born, Australian theatre performer. He graduated from VCA drama school, Melbourne, in 1999 before performing throughout Australia, principally with the Sydney Theatre Company and the Bell Shakespeare Company. Since 2005 Oliviero has been the co-director of the Au Brana Centre, France and in 2006 co-founded OBRA Theatre. With OBRA he has devised and performed TransfixedFragments, adapted from Roland Barthes’ Lover’s Discourse, and in Ted Hughes’s Gaudete. Oliviero performs in VIDEOFEET’s new film installation project Thadows Loom and is part of the creative team on Ex-Situ. Oliviero also works as a member of The Awake Projects, an international theatre ensemble, with whom he performed Awake, and Song of Riots. Since transferring to Europe Oliviero has also toured and performed in Italy with Teatropersona and worked in collaboration with Poland’s Teatr Piesn Kozla.



Collaboration Spotlight: Carole Webster & Adrian Evans

Adrian Evans, ‘Arichonan 1’
Adrian Evans, ‘Arichonan 2’
Adrian Evans, ‘Arichonan Wayfarer Seafarer’


The risk is
calculated: the
number held and

the cancelled
digits touch
the grey sea

null of
drift and away –
beyond those finger

tips and
you have

to grasp

you looked for. We
can barely

see your
wrist bones, a
bird flight and

you are
too young
for such

I can see
a dark

line across
your palm
it was your thin

mark on
life, a shadow divide –
your hand

on the
cave wall
is virtual

and every mother
one of us would
despair to take it:

palm to palm
thumb to thumb
fingerprint to fingerprint

we see, we
feel, we know. I
am ashamed.

Carole Webster, ‘a bird flight and you are too young for such distance’

bell blow
from the kirk
told and telling

it is a short iron
call cold wrung
through the glass

less window and
the sky sings
with scribbled rain; so

wave work prints
grey stone walls-

overlaid slivers
and skived sharp
like shoes without

soles and it
steps light
and shadow

against that
house sheaved
in late yellow

summer grass
where voices their
inter graced

notes; descended
feathers – all we
say is air

and our words
fly from mouth
to earth to sky

the silver ones, so
herring gathers: the finger
ring cast in

salt a whiteness a
whorled into

the sadness of
you along
straight bones,

you loved
you wept
you said

such words
across and entered,
you spelt yourself

and she read
you utterly and
truly the making

and the leaving
it is all here
in this roofless house.

Carole Webster, ‘against that house sheaved in late yellow summer grass’

There is the difficulty of

my tongue – the muscle

of my culture over-writing yours:


where I stand

this time is

earth for now


here in the east

by a brown sea the

silted mass of Doggerland


dropping away

eaten by the

spring tides.


It has become

my home space: first

I came from the


chalk born

by a bluer

sea and shingle shifts,


deep dives into salt

and ship ways

a grey scaled child


and now I need to think

my self into another time

another speaking


this the

problem of my tongue-

if I use your words


will I mis-say what

you mean? Do I spin

them in, weave textiles


of seeming –

an appropriation like

some story theft


or myth borrowed:


a nest to utter a fluttered


stuttering form of

being – your griefs,

happiness or striving and


I will survey

your broken homes

your evictions engraved


in stones

the roofs collapsed

like hope carried


in rags, those

things which don’t

make sense without


your place. Food

snatched from a hearth,

a toy to calm


the child cloth-wrapped in

your arms,  all

that you spun and lost.


I feel unequal to this telling

my imagination might

push you further


beyond time and land-

your words, your lives, your

work and deaths.


I am writing them

with mittened fingers

wrong tongued/


whisper guessed

in the summer rain

obscuring everything


with versions of un

wrapping your days

in words two centuries away

Carole Webster, ‘Arichonan: wrong tongued/whisper guessed in the summer rain’

Collaboration Spotlight: Elizabeth-Jane Burnett & Rebecca Thomas

Field Notes / Field Study

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Rebecca Thomas

We propose an Art book which explores both narrative sequence and mapping. The book will include a fold-up map created from our time spent in, bordering, and away from, three fields in Devon. Our collaboration uses mapping as a practical starting point for articulating these fields, operating both metaphorically and visually, involving different stages of drawing, writing, performing and imagining. Two screen prints will also be produced for the book.

Fields in Ide

As well as using on-the-spot, site-specific writing and drawing, we are interested in how the project develops away from the site, to include an imagined and re-imagined landscape. A series of small paintings of Fields-dreaming, in anticipation of one of the fields will be produced to feature in the book, as well as Dream-writing in response to the same field.

Diagram of the Book

The fields we are “mapping” are located in the Devon village of Ide. They appear as “Drewshill 1, 2 and 3” on a sketch map drawn by the writer’s father, a historian, who discusses the etymological history of these fields as meaning “the fields of the Druid.” These ideas and fields are also being explored in Burnett’s A Dictionary of the Soil.

Surface and Depth

Thomas is also interested in drawing while walking in the field, constantly making marks whilst moving. Using oil pastels or other mediums she will record, physically and literally the movement of the body through space. She is interested in working with a writer, with a view to exploring the relationship between this physical mark making and language in the conventional sense of the word.

Collaboration Spotlight: Clare Davies & Lucie Winterson

Language and the River

Having been paired for collaboration, we very quickly found themes in common.  Clare at the outset had expressed an interest in using poetry with photography, and to convey movement using texts and layering.   Lucie, working in photography and layering in painting, was interested in the languages and poetics of nature.  We both have deep connections with rivers and sea so it has been a natural impulse to explore this process by engaging with a river.

We agree that we want to convey the mood of the ‘post’ era that we are in – ecological as well as social. Timothy Morton’s view that we are ‘post nature’, and in a state of ‘ecological emergency’ is an influence on the framework of Clare’s first poem for the project which is integral to the three collaborative images attached. The intention is to show the utterances of the river juxtaposed with surprising language that conveys a sense of human separation from the environment; the language of business, war, and segregation. Lucie is interested in the liminal space between a river and its bank and Clare has used this within the poem’s framework to convey that this space, devoid of human interference, is where the river can truly be itself.

We are interested in both the catastrophic separation of humans and nature, and also in the places where humans and nature do align.    In the pieces so far, the attempt is to show both the separation and the coming together,  as part of the eddy and flow.   Words flow in the river, sometimes integrated and sometimes jarring.


We wanted our collaboration to be site specific and centred around a particular river.   After much discussion we settled on the Taw in Dartmoor. The choice of river is practical (we both know it) and inspirational but in a sense the setting is unimportant. It could be any river in a rural setting.   We meet there to encounter the river, undertake site specific explorations, photography and in Clare’s case, writing.

There are a number of directions we are pursuing.

  • To create image/poems that are examples of the idea of writing as part of nature, the river itself as a poem.   A fusion of photography and words that are woven into the  movement of the river giving a sense of ‘utterance’ in parallel to the sound of rushing (or still) water.
  • Experimenting with floating words downstream and documenting this with photography and film.
  • ‘Shape poems’ –  shapes of poems as they are arranged on paper to emphasise the sense of movement to and fro from verbal to visual engagement – further evoked by ‘shaping’ the photographic montage accompanying the poem.
  • A short film of words and river in motion.

Anticipated Outcomes


Works on paper

An artist’s book – an assemblage of the images/words

Short film

Documentation of site specific pieces


Collaboration Spotlight: Ann Fisher-Wirth & Barbara Howey, ‘Damaged Landscapes’

We propose a series of paintings and poems to be included as part of In the Open Exhibition; our work  addresses cross-cultural aspects of damaged landscapes in the American South and Britain. The approach we are taking spans various personal, political, and historical aspects of our encounters with trees within landscapes that have been marred by pollution, flytipping, and neglect.


Barbara Howey



                        Cypress Lake Trail, North Mississippi

You can begin a hike arguing about neoliberalism, trying to figure out what it means, and after you have listened to your true love tell you about the Whigs and the Federalists, and Britain in the nineteenth century, and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and civil rights, and Clinton and the injustices of NAFTA, and the original meaning of liber, free, what that might mean in terms of generosity and open-mindedness certainly not operative at present when Scott Pruitt just became head of the EPA—goodbye EPA, goodbye wolves and bears, goodbye redwoods, goodbye tribal lands, goodbye water, goodbye air, goodbye the tattered remnants of life as it should be lived on earth, goodbye goodbye godbye, god be with you shattered forests, god be with you toxic waters, god be with you small anguishes, starved bent & twisted lives, the reasons for grief are nearly infinite—after you have listened you can both fall silent as you walk with this man you will love to the end of your days, and notice the downed and leafless trees, the ant trails, which are lines of sifted dirt that cross the path heading from spiky dried reeds to more spiky dried reeds, notice an anthill climbing all the way to the top of a clump of daffodils that grow off the trail in a weedy field, choking and killing the flowers with its thousands-of-tiny-bodies formic acid, and looking up, acknowledge silently that there is a white-bellied hawk, yes, wheeling and calling above the pine trees   keee-ir   keee-ir   almost like a cat, and fleecy clouds that presage rain on what is still a sweet morning, frogs hiccupping and spring peepers shrilling, invisible, somewhere around the lake, and all around you tiny insects, the sun hitting their wings, like translucent diminutive angels.

Ann Fisher-Wirth

Barbara Howey, ‘Vinegar Pond’

Winter Day on the Whirlpool Trails

Oxford, Mississippi


Where the power lines go through,
the red clay gullies and pits, not even
privet can grow fast enough to bind it.
We clamber down and up, and down and up,
and turn to enter the woods. Further along,
we come to broken glass, old brown bottles
nearly buried, a toilet choked with brush,
bricks, some pipes, some turquoise plastic coiling.
It’s just like that, here—people dump things
and they sink, protrude rusty and jagged
from the mud, or block the trail,
stained with leaf mold. To the side,
some withered Southern red oaks,
a blackjack oak, knobby trunks of nameless
trees choked as they grew by spiraling vines—
Virginia creeper, poison ivy—
and leafless sweetgums with their little
sci-fi seedpods, clusters of loblolly pines.
Everywhere rotting, everywhere teeming,
moss like emeralds on the stumps,
the hollow logs. This is my home, this leaf-duff
and dereliction, where look—a vulture wheels
above the cedars, searching for what stinks.
Where a first tender violet, blooming
by my feet before Valentine’s Day,
signifies the seasons are in heat.
The great blue heron’s not here today,
standing motionless among the reeds.
But a turtle slides off a distant log, and sunlight
scatters like shot across the scum-slicked pond.

Ann Fisher-Wirth

Collaboration Spotlight: David Walker-Barker & Dan Eltringham

The reservoir dam under construction c. 1900

The artist David Walker-Barker and poet Dan Eltringham are working together on a collaboration focused on the submerged reservoir landscapes of Midhope and Langsett, around 10 miles north west of Sheffield, in search of the illegible, erased and underground.

We are following traces of vanished ways of life, using archival photographs, old maps and the records of local rambling societies. The objects of our search so far are remnants of the drowned village of Langsett; the “Jossie Cabin”, an eighteenth-century shepherd’s hut that may have fallen victim to enclosure but was still visible in the 1930s; the Shepherd’s grave at Midhope Chapel; fragments from the eighteenth-century Midhope pottery works that was finally closed by the reservoir in the early twentieth century; and the ruined North America farmstead.

The shepherd's hut?
The shepherd’s hut?

Our first excursion to this landscape yielded more unknowns than sureties: in search of the shepherd’s hut on Stanny [Stony] Common, the rain and wind was so bad that not much could be made out. We don’t know if we found Jossie’s Cabin or not; a pile of stones was our the best bet, but one pile of stones looks very like another in poor visibility. We’ll have to go back.

North American farm
North America farm

The walks feed into the work we produce, but are discrete from that work: visual and verbal records of pedestrian excursions that seek not only to document the experience of the landscape as we have seen it and taken it in through the other senses, but also its histories and hidden communities, human and nonhuman.

The shepherd’s grave?

The work is also what we find, as well as what we (so far) have failed to locate. David’s artistic practice is centrally focused around collecting and the taxonomy of arrangement, in artist’s cabinets he builds himself to house his interests in minerals, fossils and relics of human community such as bottles and ceramics. Dan is working on a poetic text, R/S Res., that plays with the formal taxonomies and juxtapositions of David’s artist cabinets, as well as with mini-fields of open-form verse plotted across a page, allowing ‘R’ to speak with ‘S’, Resource with Surface and Resistance with Strata. The objects David finds mix time scales, from the vastly geological and prehistoric to seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century objects of common use.


The Midhope Pottery yielded some such daily records, in the form of plate-ware pulled from the mud around the ruined farmstead, and brought to the surface with the help of nonhuman excavators: fox holes throw up a lot of good stuff.

What we have so far are a lot of unknowns, losses, overwritings, and several strands of work-in-progress. We plan to return to Langsett in the Spring.