Blanc Sceol

[Hannah White + Stephen Shiell]


Hir means ‘long’ in an old language, part of the word ‘menhir’, meaning ‘long stone’. Sounding the word also invites us to hear and be here.

This audio-visual piece feels its way through a long time, a longing and an old listening, and onwards into an uncertain future and the strange hope of a visitation, through field recordings, voice, text and film captured on the coast of Cornwall.

It creeps in at night, caressing our skin, a damp air. And an unfamiliar sound in our dreams. By morning both sound and damp are within us. We are fused. A new landscape has formed within and without. The days become mysterious, the thick fog cloaking each step and word. We resist at first, observing our glistening skin and listening out for each new warning call, counting the seconds to the next. Soon we are drawn closer to the sound, despite a churning in the pit of our stomachs, as if a hand had reached in and tied a knot around the insistent pitch, keeping it there.

In the sound piece giants speak from in the stones and in the earth, all substance and undergrowth, voices pushing through terrain and entangled roots. Through thick fog a warning sounds, calling us to listen, realize and repent.

Sounds were recorded along and between the clifftops of the Cornish coast, from the air, down wires in the wind, under the water in conversation with currents, flows and seals, and from the cosmic static around two ‘listening’ stations: GCHQ Bude, government intelligence outpost, and Goonhilly Earth Space station, commercial cosmic communication center.

Hir, 2021

The film presents an otherworldly encounter we had while visiting the ‘Dry Tree’ menhir, a bronze age standing stone embedded in the gorse and heather of the nature reserve next door to the Goonhilly Earth Space station. Whilst being with, field recording and filming the stone, something was in the air, something we didn’t see or hear in real time. An unidentifiable aerial phenomena, that made no sound and flew too fast for the human eye to see, was revealed later by the camera’s slow motion technology. The audio is the VLF recording made at the time.

The great waste of Goonhilly. A tract of country … sufficiently savage to have been a terror to travelers…. And still a perplexity even to natives when the sea mists envelope it with light wreaths of vapour. The familiar landmarks seem to melt away

from Highways and Byways in Devon and Cornwall, Arthur H. Norway, 1900

Best viewed full screen
Recordings & film footage: Blanc Sceol ~ Stephen Shiell & Hannah White
Person in film: Mia Kingsley

The end of one story is the beginning of another or the middle of another, or any way along the road of yet another. And what if the past is ahead of us, so we can see it clearly, and the future is behind us, a mysterious darkness asking for courage and trust. We are caught by our own definition. If we move ourselves from the center, is all equalized?

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