The Fringe festival may have had to curb its output owing to pandemic related restrictions, but this hasn’t stopped its flights of imagination. We look at a number of shows which brave and embrace the new normal.
“It was like the humans stopped but then there were all these other cycles that kept on going. It was our turn to look at them”
Lockdown may have been the land of the unknown for us human folk, but it was business as usual for nature. Shanna May Breen and Luke Casserly ask us to tap into the green spaces which were hitherto unbeknownst to many urban dwellers, but have been going through their own relentless, transformative, journey.
Self-isolation and a return to nature served as inspiration for Breen and Casserly’s 1000 Miniature Meadows. Dropping tools and holing up at home allowed time for reflection as well as anxiety, but a silver lining for them both was seeing nature’s reclamation of space – urban foxes pottering down shopping district streets, flowers growing through the cracks of construction sites, the sea becoming clearer, brighter. For Luke,“it was a really intense time and there was an impulse to capture that within the project as well.”
“Through Covid, it was like the humans stopped but then there were all these other cycles that kept on going. It was our turn to look at them. It gave us a chance to look at their world because it continued on when we were asked to stop. That’s a big interest of ours, noticing what these worlds are that aren’t human. Within the soundscape, we use words like ‘the human’, ‘the listener’ so we’re trying to position the human as the exotic species. We are the ones looking in at this world rather than them dealing with us all the time. We’re asking people to deal with them.” says Shanna.
Co-commissioned with the Science Gallery, the 1000 Miniature Meadows project sees the Fringe Festival go beyond the city and become an event with a nationwide reach. Sending out a letter to the participant’s home with a packet of seeds, this immersive audio experience asks the listener to sit in a local green space. Composed by sound designer Brendan Farrell, the soundscape consists of interviews with specialists in biodiversity, botany and biology conducted in outdoor settings, field recordings and pieces of creative writing read aloud.
“Everyone’s experience and interpretation will be different depending on the landscape or the plot they pick. Their backdrop will make it very different. We ask for people to really listen because it’s almost like a meditation on nature. It’s a very subtle sounding project and if people really truly connect, the interviews will be quite special.”
Shanna and Luke worked on Moulded into Shape for last year’s Dublin Fringe, another environmental soundscape highlighting our relationship with plastic. Guiding their audience from the Science Gallery to Killiney Beach, each person was left with the responsibility of a piece of found plastic for the next 5000 years, the time it takes for it to disintegrate. Shanna and Luke’s Fringe endeavour for this year also (literally) leads the listener down the garden path, capturing “the intercontextualisation of art and science and how those two meet. The collision of those two things is where the work happens.”
“There’s a really nice quote from Robert Wilson, the American director, who has a really nice way of describing his work. His pieces are ‘like shooting stars’. They can’t be recreated. Our work is similar to that. It’s very much of the moment in a particular space, a particular place with a particular mindset and a focused energy.”
For many, having a garden or a local park to spend time in was a blessing during lockdown. By participating in 1000 Miniature Meadows, listeners can give back to these outdoor places, establish an intimate relationship with these special spaces and take time to learn about the trees, animals and their habitats that kept them company. Planting the seeds of biodiversity makes a stage of the environment, players of the insects and active audience members of the listeners. Leaving a legacy is important to Shanna and Luke; as well as the wildflower meadows, 1000 indigenous Irish trees will be planted with the profits of the project.
“There will be a network of a thousand miniature meadows planted and, in a year, the audience member or the listener can look out into their back garden or walk the part of the river where they experienced it and see that meadow grow. There’s live documentation happening; in a year’s time, there’ll be a gift where you’re giving back to nature, you’re saying thank you for being there for me as well.”
Words: Sophia McDonald
September 5-20, €5
Location: In nature near your home.
Fringe Festival runs from September Saturday 5 to Sunday September 20