The Wild Patience Scrolls
A Mile of Writing at Pells Pool
by TANYA SHADRICK
Ink on paper; 100,000 words across 5 scrolls (each 150ft long)
Supported by the Jan Michalski Foundation, Switzerland
Project photographer Steve Creffield
For two summers, Shadrick knelt beside the country’s oldest lido – Pells Pool in Lewes – to write a mile on scrolls of paper that, at 150ft, were as long as the pool.
The artist, a former hospice lifestory scribe, offered herself as a genius loci: a spirit of place, quietly inviting pool-goers to think more deeply about freedom and the importance of routines, creative as well as physical. The words of poet Adrienne Rich underpinned her endeavour:
freedom is daily, prosebound, routine
remembering. Putting together, inch by inch
the starry worlds. From all the lost collections.
–– ‘For Memory’
A wild patience has carried me this far
as if I had to bring to shore
a boat with a spasmodic outboard motor
Shadrick describes the extraordinary form of the Wild Patience scrolls as an attempt to “play with the private in public….to combine the male energy of the ancient Japanese poets like Bashō, who travelled the countryside writing from nature, with the more intimate art of pillow books as kept by their female contemporaries. I wanted also to find out what would happen if I brought these older, Eastern rhythms, forms and practices to what is a difficult, distracted time in Western society. To have readers take in a story slowly, sideways, instead of through our easy screen-based scrollings down through text.”
The writing –– which had a meditative quality both for the artist and those who watched her at work –– moves between memory and desire, the here and now, commonplace passages collected for motivation or courage, and things seen and told.
Although Shadrick worked in silence on the edges of the day, visitors to Pells Pool were welcome to keep her company in her labour. Some chose to sit or read alongside in silence; others talked while the artist listened. Others wished to answer the project’s central question: When did you feel most wild and free? In body? Your mind?
BBC Radio 4: Pursuit of Beauty: Slow Art (June 2018):‘ Twenty-two ash trees, shaped and sculpted as they grow quietly for 40 years, in a secret location; an extinct volcano filled with subterranean light passages; music to play for a 1000 years; a mile of writing, and a 5 hour composition for a string quartet…’ The Wild Patience Scrolls are featured alongside James Turrell’s Roden Crater, David Nash’s Ash Dome and Jem Finer’s Longplayer in this study of slow art.
University of Sussex: REFRAME/Life Writing Projects (Nov 2017): While the complete text of the Wild Patience Scrolls are not for publication, this site features some short extracts.
Outdoor Swimming Society (April 2017): “I look at the people in the pool and get a feeling akin to the bends: The pressure of so many lives in a patch of blue just 150ft by 75. Their loves and losses.” Tanya Shadrick on her poolside performance piece – and the depths it has sounded in the lives of others.
Oh Comely Feature: Laps in Longhand (August 2016): Text from the ‘Strong Women Speaking Freely’ issue of Oh Comely magazine, which gave a 5-page photo feature to the Wild Patience project.