The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads (2021)
Audio-walk (via headphones and digital audio-player) with props and performers, along a route through Northfleet, Kent.
1 hour 7 mins duration
Commissioned by Cement Fields for Estuary 2021
Audio: The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads
Video adaptation* of The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads
Adam Chodzko’s The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads is a science fiction audio walk (via headphones), in and around the rapidly and radically changing environment of Northfleet, Kent; A journey of strange inward and outward transformations.
As its audience moves along a specific route within this landscape the accompanying ‘virtual reality’ soundtrack guided perceptions of newly emerging relationships between place, mind and body through its composition of vocal narration, instructions, music, sound effects, props and performers. Moving backwards and forwards through time The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads suggests that our collective experiences of the Covid 19 pandemic has shifted our sense of reality;
We have become more highly tuned! We now perceive our networks of relationships with greater clarity! This is a rare moment ( sadly, it might pass ) that we have been given (as a gift!) to explore. Let’s create this exercise, this meditation, in a unique place. The only place where it can evolve: Here!
As we try to head out into the world again The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads attempts to re-calibrate us for this exploration. Exploring in the collective imaginary a ‘cement-ality’ evolved through shared experiences of the pandemic and channelled through the earth beneath this landscape, The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads attempts to create a utopian garden-city of new consciousness.
The work evolved over the first half of 2021, during Northfleet’s final phase of limbo, until the property developers’ diggers moved in to erase the last traces of its cement industry, mutating the identity of its community.
Each experience of the walk is different as the radical transformations of landscape escalate hour by hour. Many of the narrative’s visual references to features of the site, that existed only a week beforehand, suddenly became buried under piles of rubble, as though the bulldozers are somehow demolishing the audio’s truths, turning them to fiction. The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads is a method of preserving the disappearing within the collective memory of its audience, who become the custodians of the soul of the Northfleet landscape. Through attempting to weave a mythology that reveals the inherent beauty, wonder and mystery of a place – its ‘character’ – rooted in its strange and fluid realities it creates a form of resistance to the massive property development project surrounding it; Ebbsfleet Garden City, new-build ‘communities’ currently sorely devoid of character.
Through attempting to combine multiple empathic attentions into a single guide for very different bodies and minds The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads is itself made up of the appearance of a single (female) voice that is constantly changing its place and time:
“…But before my brief silence, let me clarify something for you; what sounds to you like a ‘voice’ – my voice – (and all these tones and harmonies that surround it) is in fact an auditory ‘effect’ from the collective emissions from chalk – sounds derived from the hovering ‘souls’ or ‘ghosts’ of…..us…..the more-than-human beings that made this chalk.
We are 80 million year old coccolithophores, a phytoplankton transformed into nanno-fossils, …a long time ago!
What you hear is us ‘speaking’ to you. An ‘us’ transformed into what appears to be …me! The illusion of a singular presence that floats high above, within and also deep below you, in the earth under your feet…”
*The video form of The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads is an alternative and remote method of experiencing the audio-walk, through Northfleet, Kent, for those who were unable to perform the actual walk during ‘Estuary 2021′. This edit presents in parallel a series of passages along the entire route revealing transformations within its landscape; trees in and out of blossom, new graffiti, wind and rain to sun, litter dumped then removed, barriers suddenly erected on the edges of building sites and the bulldozers’ sudden erasing of many of the original visual references mentioned in the narration. The video offers an empathic involvement with serial experiences of place; the erratic flow of bodies through a site over time, perceptions shaped through auditory guidance, scripted events and chance encounters.
“…[the narrator] asked at one point after we had recrossed our path, ‘Can you feel the difference from the you passed in the other direction a few minutes ago?’ As that indicates, Chodzko played with the form: the narrator also speculates on what the birds are singing about, claiming in broad daylight that ‘This part of our walk is at night’ and even asks ‘Do you need a hug?’ The result was so unlike any other guided tour that it must have been art – an art meditated entertainingly on how the absent past of a place feeds into its present, and how the outer world affects the inner…”
Paul Carey-Kent, Estuary, Art Monthly, 449, September 2021, p.29
Similar to Ghost, and O, you happy roots, branch and mediatrix, and The Valley Unfurls its Song as a flow of bodily movement guiding sensory perceptions of place and time The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads, ( like Deep Above and Thru hole I blind/O/Thru hole oui see ) speaks of reorienting the viewer’s consciousness. The script is also partly created from a series of navigational instructions (cf: Better Scenery and Plan for a Parade with Two Masks etc ) and advice about potential appearance of place (eg: Nightvision ) and encourages methods of preparation* prior to the event’s apparent beginning, in order to enhance perception (see also M-path) and residual activities and challenges ‘post encounter’ (such as “..we won’t do it now but…maybe, when you get home, search online for ‘Python found dead under a fallen tree, Wallis park’ ” ).
*(eg: instructions handed to the audience by a steward, prior to the walk beginning, upon their arrival in Northfleet.)
Voice: Leanne Henlon
Sound editing: Tim Barker, (Radio Obscura)
Music: Steph Horak SheIsRevolting. https://soundcloud.com/sheisrevolting
Thanks to: Northfleet Big Local (Mandi Knight and Julie Collins). Rylie Goodchild for additional filming and performing. Poppy French, Ruby Lewis and Eleanor Gustard for performing. Andrea Jackova: Romani Slovak Czech Community, and BA Fine Art students from Central Saint Martins (UAL): Tzu-Chin Chen, Jasmine Condon, Poppy French, Eleanor Gustard, Melisa Kaplanbasoglu, Ruby Lewis, Nikita Snegirjov, Lunan Song, and Nadia West.
Essay, by writer Ellen Mara De Wachter responding to the above work: ‘A Wild Seen’
The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads evolved from a residency in North Kent with Cement Fields.
A Place for ‘The End’ (1999)
Better Scenery (2000 – )
Deep Above (2016)
Ghost (2010 – ongoing)
Guide for a Parade with Two Masks (2004)
O, you happy roots, branch and mediatrix [live] (2020)
Spare Room (2014)
Thru hole I blind/O/Thru hole oui see (2020)