Above Me The Wide Blue Sky

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky is a performance installation that explores our profound connectedness to the natural world, original production 2013

Illustrator required…

DSC_0580We’re looking for a fantastic illustrator to work with us on a new online art project based on our 2013 performance installation Above Me The Wide Blue Sky.

We need someone who specialises in or has previous experience of drawing:

  • natural environments
  • landscapes
  • or an interest in cartography

For more information and how to apply, see the project brief.

Deadline for portfolio submissions: Friday 10 January.

If you have any questions, please reply to this post and we’ll get back to you.

 

From rivers to fields to Highlands…

DSCF1469

An update on the Above Me The Wide Blue Sky pop-up.

As Autumn is unfolding I’ve been out and about walking and talking with folk all over the UK. Meeting young couples, grown families, early morning swimming pals, to share a journey and the particularities of the places they call home.

From the lakes and lidos of London, through fields and cemeteries, to the Highlands of Scotland, gathering what’s described, what’s noticed, what’s remembered and not quite forgotten – moorhen red, a child turning with the March yellow flower, lush green, the smell of the sea coming up from the riverbed, vast goose greyed skies – wonderful things, tiny things, living things from the land, threads that will come together as part of a new work from Fevered Sleep in 2014.

Next stop in November will be a windy walk along the coast of Great Yarmouth….

For more information on the project see www.feveredsleep.co.uk/above-me-the-wide-blue-sky.

 

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky pop-up

Sky 1

Drawing upon the 2013 The State of Nature report, this Autumn associate artist Luke Pell will be working closely with people across the UK who live in distinctly different natural habitats, to explore changes in these environments and how people’s relationships to place affect their feelings about who they are and where they call home.  Curating a series of collaborative encounters between people and the places where they live, we will create a new participatory artwork for 2014.

This pop-up project follows on from Above Me The Wide Blue Sky, Fevered Sleep’s installation/performance project that explored the myriad ways in which people are connected to nature.

For more information or to participate in this project, please email luke@feveredsleep.co.uk

On performing Above Me The Wide Blue Sky

As more people come to join us for the night it is beginning to feel like the doing it is what it’s about.  There’s a definite element of spreading the word, to a group of witnesses who have gathered together to spend the time observing, simply listening and thinking; creating the space to do that, committing to that time spent with yourself.

The act of telling and listening, of a group coming together for that short time has the flip side that I deliver it alone.

I have been reading a book about ultra marathons as the project has been evolving and have taken to going for long runs, originally to counter act sitting on a stool every day, but the more I have run the more I have realized I have begun to thrive on the time it allows me to spend with nature, an hour of the day by a canal, on a muddy marsh, in a wood, feeling the ground reverberate up my shin bones.  And to appreciate the commitment, the meditative act of performing one task. Doing it fully and completely.

They have come to exist hand in hand the running and the telling; the primal nature of both.  Sitting on the stool at the beginning of the piece, I look up at the ceiling, the starter pistol goes off, the first image comes out and from that moment we are all running together.

Laura Cubitt, performer, Above Me The Wide Blue Sky.

In discussion with the creators

On Wednesday 27th March we are hosting a free discussion event involving the creative team and guests from the arts and science.  Join us to find out more about the themes and the research process that informed the making of the piece.

The event will take place at the Young Vic from 5-6pm contact admin@feveredsleep.co.uk to book your place.

 

On the Pain Of Homecoming

We’re well into the run of Above Me The Wide Blue Sky at The Young Vic, and really happy how it’s going.  We’ve been talking a lot about whether or not the piece is nostalgic, which some people have criticised it for being.

What is nostalgia?  Accurately speaking, it’s the pain of homecoming.  The pain of returning to a place that has changed.  In that sense, it’s exactly the right way to describe Above Me…, which is a meditation on change and loss.  Last year I moved back to Yorkshire, the landscape of my childhood, to find a decimated, profoundly altered, diminished place, and the experience of the pain of this homecoming has been a big part of the making of the project.  Often when people use “nostalgic” they mean “looking at the past through rose tinted spectacles”, and it’s a criticism, as well as an inaccurate use of the word.  For us, nostalgia is a symptom of a deep wound that is being inflicted on the places where we live out our lives, right in front of us, in our name.  We wanted to say something about that.  Nostalgic?  Absolutely.

That’s what Above Me The Wide Blue Sky is:  a cry against the devastation of what we feel as home, and of all the deep and dark and beautiful and brutal threads of the natural, non-human world that run through our idea of what “home” is.

Don’t come to it wearing those tinted spectacles.  Just come to it with an open mind.

Insider’s Insight

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky comes home this week and you can find out more about the journey to the Young Vic in this special message from David in Lancaster

play button

 

On Storytelling

We all live in one kind of ecosystem or another, and as we spend time in them we can start to understand their stories.  In the process of gathering the stories that run through the piece, we simply asked people to pay attention to the world around them, to notice how completely they were embedded in nature, and to tell us about this experience.  At the centre of Above Me The Wide Blue Sky is an act of storytelling that repeats this process: the ancient art of bearing witness to the world and bringing it to life through words.  The stories we tell here concern love, home, loss and belonging.  They report back from a rapidly changing world.  As technology slips deeper into our daily lives, there are many distractions to turn us away from nature.  Storytelling asks us to turn back towards it, towards something deeper, more communal, more complex.  It asks us to step out of time, to sit together around a fire, sparks spiralling into the dark, starlit sky.  To listen to the sounds deep in the undergrowth, to feel the textures of things with our animal skin.  To taste the weather, to hear, to look, to really see; as someone starts to speak, to weave a story, to remember…

On Making an Ecosystem

One of the guiding principles in making Above Me The Wide Blue Sky has been the idea of an ecosystem.  A key characteristic of ecosystems is that they’re layered and intertwined, not categorised:  individual elements co-existing and interacting, in a dynamic and constant flux.  The piece is structured as a series of cycles of evolution and growth followed by disintegration and unravelling; a blossoming which is followed by decay.  These cycles unfold through the pre-performance installation, and the performance text itself has a structure in which more and more complex images are built up and then taken apart.  Making a project like this, in which the structure is organic, cyclical, repetitive and dynamic, we have tried to create a strong sense of time passing, of beautiful complexity, of constant change.  We want this experience to be rich, sensual, and evocative: a space for experience rather than rational understanding.  Think of it as the weather:  full of unexpected events and new rhythms, somehow familiar and frequently strange.

Ecosystems are alive.  We hope you’ll come and live with us, with our new work, for a while…

An Unexpected Journey… the Thames to Chekhov to the Wide Blue Sky

About eighteen months ago, we found ourselves in conversation with David Lan, artistic director of the Young Vic, about the work of Anton Chekhov.  The conversation had begun with talk of the Thames, and how the river rolls out a wide ribbon of nature through London, and through the lives of the people who live there.  We talked about stories of place and belonging, how the idea of home is deeply embedded in wider landcapes in which we build our houses, and raise our families, and live out our lives, finding connections between our own experience of this and the experiences of the characters who populate Chekhov’s stories.  David asked if all this was a starting point for a new project.  It was, and the result is Above Me The Wide Blue Sky.

Eighteen months later and we’re back at the Young Vic, preparing for the opening of the project (I’m not saying “the show”… because it isn’t a show… it’s an installation, it’s a performance, it’s a prose poem, it’s an elegy, it’s a song without tune, without music, singing life, singing home; it’s memory; it’s loss; it’s a thing.  It’s the thing that revealed itself during research and during devising, and the thing that came out of that conversation, all those months ago…)

The art of Fevered Sleep

Here is an article written by Ellen Carr from A Younger Theatre:

Fevered Sleep is not a theatre company. They are not performance makers. They are artists and they also keep bees – a fact which demonstrates their connection to, and concern for, the world around them. They approach their work in a way more akin to a visual artist than a theatre maker, but they do make work for theatre buildings and for theatre audiences. Contradictory? Perhaps, but it’s these contradictions that have helped Fevered Sleep to chisel out their creative niche. As their new work Above Me the Wide Blue Sky approaches performance at the Young Vic. Laura Turner chats to Artistic Director David Harradine about the show, the role of the artist and Fevered Sleep’s interdisciplinary aesthetic.

The company was established in 1996 by Harradine and fellow Artistic Director Sam Butler. The two met studying at Middlesex University and realised that “there wasn’t really anybody making work that we were that interested in… so it seemed like the obvious thing to do to start our own company”. Upon hearing their plans a tutor frustratingly offered this advice: “don’t expect anything good to happen for ten years”. Harradine tells me he was right, almost to the year. That time, however, has been extremely useful for the company to experiment doing “weird stuff” and figure out “what our process was”.

Read more on A Younger Theatre website

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky Production Shots

Our first set of production images…

by photographer Matthew Andrews

Pictures of our sky

Before dashing off on tour we managed to capture some images of the installation.  There was sky, and glimmering lights, and sound – if you listen carefully…

A sneak preview…

Click on the link below to see our brand new trailer:

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky Trailer

Your Stories

In all of Fevered Sleep’s projects, we’re interested in bringing together diverse points of view on the material we’re exploring:  combining our thoughts and instinct as artists with scientific research and other areas of academic study, and layering these perspectives with the personal experiences of the general public.  For the last year, we’ve been travelling across the UK, meeting all sorts of people in all sorts of places, and talking; trying to understand people’s relationships with the places in which they live.  The focus of these conversations has been on nature, our connectedness to the non-human world that surrounds us, and how this connection informs our sense of “home”.  Asking people to think about their relationship to the wider world, we have gathered hundreds of stories and images, which form the text that runs through the centre of Above Me The Wide Blue Sky.

We’re looking for more people to share their stories of how nature has played a part in their lives.    Is there a place in the natural world that is particularly significant to you? A place that makes you feel at home? Perhaps it has changed, or is now just a memory?  We’d love to contact you later this spring to hear your story.  If you’d be happy for us to do that, please send us an email with your contact details, to admin@feveredsleep.co.uk

On Being in Love with The World

The idea that humans possess a deep affinity for other living things, and the landscapes in which we live, is explored in the theory of biophilia, which was first proposed by the biologist Edward O. Wilson.  Wilson writes as a scientist, and as a conservationist, addressing the devastating loss of biodiversity that is one of the chief characteristics of the modern world.  Exploring the consequences of this loss on us humans from an evolutionary perspective, Wilson suggests that in becoming disconnected from nature, we disconnect ourselves from the very thing that enabled us to become human.  We profoundly damage our sense of humanity.  We forget who and what we are.

Wilson writes as a practicing biologist, but also as a witness, his books full of exquisitely vivid images of the landscapes – often rainforests – in which he works.  Above Me The Wide Blue Sky also bears witness to the world, in the form of a celebration.  The performance text revels in the everyday beauty, brutality, earthiness and wonder of swallows, slugs, walking, gardening, birds in song, childhood holidays on wide open beaches, star-filled skies, hedgehogs, beech trees, rain, fog, rats, bats, rivers in flood, light.  By marking these things we say, “this is important”.  It’s a celebration.  But the project is also an elegy:  we start to think how impoverished the world would be if all such things we lost.

Chalk and Light

Experimenting with chalk and light…

Grey Sky / Silverblue Light

Here we are again.  Devising.  Searching around in the dark for the thing.  You know, the thing.  The thing you think you want to make.  What is it, the thing?  Well, it’s something.  It exists.  But we don’t know what it is yet.  We’re hoping to see it when it appears. It feels like it’s on its way.

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky.  Animated paintings of flat grey, starlings, infinite blue, Turneresque clouds, watery, alive.  The sound of something geological.  Bats singing, like harps, like music.  A forest of light.  A cliff edge indoors.  And weaving words of connectedness, a body in motion, in language, in water, in flight.

This winter light is helping.  This muffling white.  This mouthwatering silvery blue.  The gorgeous grey of a textureless sky, in which everything seems possible.

Everything seems possible, so we just have to keep looking, and listening, for when it arrives…

Heading North

London to York.  York to Perth.  Perth to Inverness.  Inverness to Thurso.  Thurso to Dunnet Head.

Dunnet Head:  the most northerly point on the British mainland.  Further north than John o’Groats.  A high-cliffed headland jutting out into the far reaches of the North Sea.  And we’re here collecting stories, making films, taking photos, archiving memories.  Research for Above Me The Wide Blue Sky, our next show, our meditation on nature.  Also research for An Infinite Line: Dunnet Head, a new project about this far northern light.

On a high-cliffed headland, surrounded by sea and sky, rain above, water below, studded with lochs, washed in history and change, we’re collecting stories.  And archiving light.

We’re collecting stories…

Autumn 2012: we’re collecting stories…

As part of the development of Above Me the Wide Blue Sky, we’re travelling the UK this autumn to meet and talk with all sorts of people, in all sorts of places, to talk about their relationships with natural world.

re. If you have a story, an experience or a memory about nature, about home, or about your relationship with the natural world, we’d love to hear from you. Your words might even make it into the show… Please drop us an email, send us a Tweet, or give us a call. Or if you’re in London and near the Young Vic, you could even call in for a chat…

Creating a new landscape

First day of design R&D for Above Me the Wide Blue Sky, our new show that explores people’s relationships with nature.  A really good day, consisting of…

A few hundred metres of white cord

A large pile of black, black coal

Chalk, powdery, rubbly, rocks

Imagining the sea and the scale of the sea and the sublime of the sea

How the extraordinary history of the universe and the essence of life is contained in a glass of water

Thick, velvety, total, total, total darkness

Birdsong, all around

A small, white, almost invisible lion

A question: “are you happy?”   “yes“.

This is the most exciting, bewildering, terrifying time, when everything is possible, boundaries recede, ideas flow and decisions flounder.  When anything is possible.  A whole landscape of possibility, exquisite in its complexity, rolls out before us.  And we’re searching for something, in the thick, inky, velvety darkness, searching for something to see.

On Nature and Books

Next spring we’ll be making a new show in partnership with the Young Vic, called Above Me the Wide Blue Sky.  It’s an exploration of  how our idea of “home” is as much to do with landscape, weather, light and nature as it is to do with people and buildings.  It’s one of those projects which could contain pretty much everything in the world, if we let it, and to add more grist to the mill I’m making the most of the Jubilee by having a reading week.

Yesterday I read Kathleen Jamie’s fabulous collection of essays, “Sightlines”, which contains a wonderful set of pieces on things ranging from whales’ eardrums to counting Storm Petrels.  It’s humble, unromantic, unheroic, funny and razor sharp.  A fine book.

Today I’m onto “The Great Animal Orchestra” by Bernie Krause, and what a cracker this one is too.  Krause makes 3D recordings of ecosystems, and identified how everything in any system makes sounds that fits into the spaces left by all the other things making sounds.  From the insects to the birds to the mammals to the plants to the weather and everything else inbetween and around:  a natural orchestra, which might just be where we evolved all our culture of music…

Grass growing makes sound: who knew?  Viruses detaching from cell walls make a sound: who knew?

Go out, and listen.  Don’t wait to hear things:  listen.

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky is a performance.  It is also an installation.  It is a sonic landscape, rich with music, birdsong, and electronic sound.  It is an archive of skies.  It is a dark room in which light shifts and changes.  It is a collection of stories about our deep-rooted, deeply felt, easily overlooked and profoundly important connection to the land, the sky, the sea, the weather, and the other living things that surround us.

A man whose memories are carried by birds.  A woman whose children have grown with the trees.  A family whose garden is the fathomless ocean.  If who we are and what we call home is inextricably linked with nature, what happens when everything starts to change?

 

Beautifully performed, in artfully naturalistic style….a catalyst for thought and further reading, as well as an experience of poetic melancholy, Above Me (The Wide Blue Sky) is a piece that leaves a troubling echo in the imagination
★★★★☆
The Telegraph
Ethereal tinged with foreboding….(Above Me The Wide Blue Sky) works delicately and by poetic association through its telling musical structure. It's haunting; it stays with you
★★★☆☆
The Independent
...there is something implacably powerful about this show
★★★☆☆
Time Out
For me it’s a memory of childhood and our connection with the outdoors but that’s only scraping the surface. It’s haunting, almost
A Younger Theatre
Poignant yet playful, Above Me The Wide Blue Sky cuts through our urban lives and asks us not only to reassess the role of nature within them, but to confront how impoverished we will become if we continue to distance ourselves from the world around us
The Stage
Ali Beale
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Production Manager & design

Synne Behrndt
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Dramaturg

Samantha Butler
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Direction & design

Laura Cubitt
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Performer

Will Duke
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Projection Design

David Harradine
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Direction & design

Jamie McCarthy
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Music

Hansjorg Schmidt
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Lighting Design

Charles Webber
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Sound Design

Beth Hoare-Barnes
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Company Stage Manager

Sam Evans
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Technical Stage Manager

Dominic Bilkey
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AV Programmer


Scientific Advisors

Robin IM Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, University of Oxford

John Pickering, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Warwick

A Fevered Sleep/ Young Vic co-production
Produced in association with Fuel
Co-commissioned by Live at LICA and Warwick Arts Centre

Supported by

With additional support from:

Ernest Cook Trust, Newcomen Collett Foundation, Robertson Trust
VenueDatesBooking Information
Live at LICA - Lancaster 22nd February - 23rd February 2013 Tickets on sale now

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Warwick Arts Centre - Coventry 27th February - 2nd March 2013 Tickets on sale now

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Young Vic - London 7th March - 28th March 2013 Tickets now on sale

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Young Vic - Discussion event 5-6pm 27th March

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky Map


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