The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)

  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)

    Single screen 4K video with sound
    10 mins 28 seconds

    Commissioned by Meadow Arts for All Alone at Croft Castle, Herefordshire, UK.

    The Valley Unfurls its Song, low res on Vimeo.

    Adam Chodzko’s The Valley Unfurls its Song shows three women immersed within the trees, plants and earth in different sites within a wooded valley.  Each wears a different runner’s number (696, 936 and 993). Although they appear connected through participation in some form of event that took place (or is currently taking place) in the valley, their relation to each other is mysterious. Do they know each other? Are they present in the same time frame? Are they perhaps the same person?
    Sometimes they call to each other across the sides of the valley’s bowl producing echoes that bounce between them, filtered by distance and the vegetation. Are they stuck, lost, or trapped and hoping to find a way out of the valley?  Or are they intentionally disappearing into this garden? Or banished from it?  Each of the three seem to be feeling different levels of ease about existing in such a place.
    At intervals a strange floating movement speeds between the trees, through the foliage and low to the ground. Part human, part animal and part spirit, it offers a perception of the valley that seems to connect the three women.  Are the three women (as one?) creating this flow or is their fluid consciousnesses generating its particular energy and vision?
    The Valley Unfurls its Song emerged through the experience and speculations about the spectrum of pleasures and discomforts that we discover in ourselves from spending time alone with our thoughts, dreams, and worries. But it particularly focusses on our real and imaginary experiences of  being alone in the woods (waldeinsamkeit) and the various emotions and states of mind it evokes in us.  For many the Covid-19 pandemic produced or made unreachable the experience of alone-ness (even with, or because of, the presence of others) and catalysed reflections on solitude.  Isolation inevitably creates an awareness of what might be beyond us and Chodzko’s work also plays with notions of organic growth in relation to thoughts, memories, perceptions and both theoretical and geographical positions multiplying and entangling. Interbeing; things only exist in relation to other things.  Echoing, mirroring, vibrating and bifurcating are all generative processes apparent in this work along with mis-hearings, misunderstandings and different levels of desire in terms of the potential dissolution of self into place, of the human into the more-than-human.  The Valley Unfurls its Song also explores the perception that repeatedly returning to the same place in the landscape causes our memories of previous walks to haunt our present experience, our recurring presence at a point in space melding with each other across time as the environment evolves over the years and changes with the seasons.
    Chodzko’s video suggests that our view of place cannot just be found from an official bench at a prescribed vantage point along a trail, Instead it is influenced by multiple layers of our conscious and unconscious senses; our mood, memories, smells, touch, taste etc.  We can’t necessarily see the birds but we hear their song around us. We can’t see the valley’s complex root systems networking everything from beneath the earth, but we can begin to sense and imagine it. This layering of encounters that make folds from the literal and linear understandings of space and time is suggested through sound and image relationships; for example, the close sounds recorded of the cows munching grass in the field next to the valley become the sound associated with the ‘spirit’ flight through the forest. The subtle sounds of breath whilst walking are here made as audible as the birdsong and appear to produce vision.
    Although Chodzko intends the location in The Valley Unfurls its Song to be read as ‘any valley’ the work developed partly as a response to the current mediation of the Picturesque landscaping of the Fishpool Valley, at Croft Castle, Herefordshire.  Dotted all along the paths  within it, a number of low-lying stone slabs bear the carved words “To the View”, with a delicate arrow pointing the visitor in this, or that direction. This is a constructed ‘official’ (and therefore ‘good’) view.  What historical evidence is this viewpoint based on?  What transformation in ourselves might occur once this view is glimpsed?  Does defining ‘the view’ – giving the visitor a goal, a destination, a purpose (avoiding a state of wandering aimlessly or ‘being present’) – make everything else within the landscape not worth seeing? What if the visitor prefers close-ups of undergrowth to clichéd vistas?  The view implies a consensus, a ‘correct way’. Does this direction emerge from the same fragility that is fearful that acknowledging the destructive role of colonialism or slavery in the production of these spaces will somehow make their edifices of purity collapse?  To deepen understanding and incorporate historical truths (whose complex connectivities and global relations mirrors the entanglements within the ecology of this woodland)  will feel uncomfortable. It might spoil the nice view, constructed from a mythology of timeless genteel Englishness, the ‘natural’ way, a vantage point which erects a boundary indicating who made this space and who belongs here.
    The three women in The Valley Unfurls its Song are performed by the Japanese actress You-Ri Yamanaka, highly skilled in movement and voice work as well as being trained in Butoh.  Butoh is often created in relation to the ‘earthbound’, eschews conventional notions of beauty, is frequently performed in unusual remote spaces and uses transformation into other states of being, channelling place into the body in order to create a body’s movement.
    On an early site visit to the Fishpool Valley, Chodzko encountered numerous people dispersed along its matrix of paths all collectively searching for a lost dachsund dog.  “The idea haunted me of something or someone becoming lost in that densely vegetated but quite finite space of jungle/garden.  And others being worried about the ‘lost’, endlessly searching for the ‘missing’ which had actually just somehow happily merged with the ‘everything’ of that place.”
    Maybe we only fully see ‘the view’ when, later, we dream its landscape when asleep; a memory of the steady earth-bound progress of walking a path now transformed into a surreal, uncanny dream-state of floating, without gravity, through that place?

    The calls across the valley between participants ‘696’ and ‘936’:


    Who is there?
    Is that you?

    Are you part…
    …of the event?

    Can you see…
    …where I am?

    I’m in the shadows…
    …on the edges of…
    …where you’re looking.
    Yes, but you
    …don’t see me!
    I am…
    …beyond the Ash.
    North of…
    …the supermarket.
    …the stream.
    …behind the screen?
    …the moss gathers,
    …the office.

    I ran into you.
    Now we’re divided…
    …across this space…
    …between us.
    There is no path…
    Just plants!
    There should be another one of us…
    …down deep below us somewhere?

    I didn’t know…
    …it would be as…
    …‘everything’…as this!
    I know!
    Ok, so let’s stay…
    …exactly here.
    In time…
    …we’ll be shown…
    …the way in.

    Camera, sound, editing, script:  artist – Adam Chodzko
    Performance: actress – You-Ri Yamanaka
    Final audio mix; sound designer – Tim Barker
    Assistant director; actress – Gretchen Egolf.

    Recalling Ghost, O, you happy roots, branch and mediatrix, and The Return of the Fleet Spring Heads as a flow of bodily movement guiding sensory perceptions of place and time The Valley Unfurls its Song speaks of reorienting the viewer’s consciousness (see also Deep Above and  Thru hole I blind/O/Thru hole oui see ).  The work is also partly created from a series of echoing or vibrating navigational instructions (cf: Better Scenery and Plan for a Parade with Two Masks etc ) about our perceptions of where we are in relation to others. The Valley Unfurls its Song speculation as to what it might be that we really hope will happen to us through a visual encounter with a place or situation and what we might need to do (in exchange) in order to fully embrace that change also occurs in earlier works (eg: M-path) which explore art’s own visionary potential.  In relation to land, identity and belonging; The Valley Unfurls its Song evolves from A Hostile Environment   (2019) is closely related to a series of other works by Chodzko that are based around a small, finite piece of land and the complex psychologies that connect with it eg;  Settlement (2004), cell-a (2006), Involva (1995) . Some of these works (particularly Settlement (2004)) also incorporate or allude to legal contracts and, or are intended as ‘evidence’ in order to redress an imbalance of power or facilitate a new vantage point eg; The Gorgies Centre (2002), Garden (2007), Corner (2007), etc

  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)
  • Adam Chodzko / The Valley Unfurls its Song    (2021)