top of page

Annie Goliath: Embodied Engagement and Listening with the More-than-Human World

For this first artist conversation of the year, multidisciplinary artist-filmmaker Annie Goliath shares her work and practice.

 

Annie grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved to London, UK, when she was 21. She currently lives and works between Hastings and London. Annie describes herself as an artist-researcher, and has worked in primary education for many years, as well as being a singer-songwriter and musician. In 2019, she received an MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is now studying a Creative and Critical Practice PhD at the University of Sussex. She continues to work part-time as an intervention coordinator working with SEN children and an artist facilitator.

Annie's practice has seen her take part in extensive exhibitions, events, and conferences in the UK and internationally. In 2017 and 2020, she was awarded ACE funding to deliver two socially engaged art projects, during which she was the project manager and workshop leader. Her artist film Attempts to Devour Time won the 1st Place Award and the PENCO Award at the II International Video Performance Competition LPG 2021 and was featured in the WomenCinemakers Biennial publication. More recently, she published in the Imagining Multispecies Belonging 2023 zine and received the CHASE Climate Justice Network 2022/23 award for her sound walk and accompanying sharing event. She has also received funding to produce an artist’s film, and to host the symposium New Beginnings Explored through Speculative Fiction at the upcoming Sussex Festival of Ideas 2024.

 

Here, Annie shares her fascinating unique practice that combines embodied filmmaking with other art forms, including movement and painting. She also gives an insight into an upcoming project where reconnection, reciprocity and resilience are important themes. Read on to find out more.

 

Annie Goliath Reconfigured Remembrances

Where do you work? What makes this place important for your creative process?

I work both in my home studio in Hastings and immersed in the landscape. What makes my home studio important is the view of the undulating town and the expansive sea. Having grown up in the city of Johannesburg, and then living in London, since moving to Hastings three years ago, I have found that the sense of space here has influenced my creative practice by helping me to slow down, pause, remember and to be more present in the moment. However, the creative process is one of constant development through researching, thinking, creating, reflecting, editing and in this sense, I'm also able to work when travelling on trains as I pass through different landscapes, towns, and cities. This enjoyment of travelling on trains began when I caught the 18-hour train journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town at the age of 15, experiencing the kindness of strangers from different cultures and the incredible beauty of the constantly changing landscape. I often find a change of scenery and movement assists the creative process as it mirrors the natural state of being alive which is to exist in a state of constant flux. I have travelled to different parts of Europe and Africa, and have always found it fascinating to learn about different animals, plants, and human histories in these diverse places. I plan to travel more in the future and I’m currently researching possible future residencies. These travels combine with my research, to influence my use of speculative fiction within my creative process.

 

"I often find a change of scenery and movement assists the creative process as it mirrors the natural state of being alive which is to exist in a state of constant flux."

How would you describe your creative process? Do you use certain mediums/techniques to develop your creative ideas?

My creative process always begins with research that develops the theoretical underpinnings of the project, driven by specific questions. I spend a lot of time at this stage drawing inspiration from reading, looking, thinking, writing, and drawing using journals, sketchbooks, and digital recording methods. If relevant, I begin mining archival footage from creative commons sources and organising research trips. My art practice works across an array of expanded mediums including moving image, sound, installation, performance, collage/painting, writing and socially engaged art.

Another important aspect of my work is collaboration, so at this stage I start to pinpoint collaborators and then discuss initial ideas with them. During this research phase, I also begin to decide on the mediums that resonate most with the project and if an application for funding is required. This then leads to the creative process such as beginning to write or compose, building the materials to produce the collages/paintings, or organising the filming. The editing stage is the last part, which consists of bringing the different elements together and applying techniques such as animation or mastering effects, to complete the project.

Two methods that I have developed through living in closer proximity to nature are ‘entangled listening’ and embodied filmmaking.  The method of ‘entangled listening’ is a practice for ‘listening with’ the more-than-human world, vital in the context of the current environmental crisis. In resonance with the well-known composer of “Deep Listening”, Pauline Oliveros, this cultivation of listening addresses a need for a patient, sensory attentiveness to the more-than-human world. The embodied filmmaking techniques I use is a process-driven approach of slowing down, listening, breathing, feeling and improvising movement while filming to co-create with the human performers and plants and animals in the landscape. I have also always used the method of improvisation when performing, singing, composing, and producing collages/paintings, as well as when collaborating with others.


Annie Goliath Pandora's Box

Do you have any rituals that help with this process of creating work?

When working in my home studio, my biggest ritual is having coffee breaks! When developing the sound walk as part of my Reworlding project, I was reading the book The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence. In one chapter, the anthropologist Joseph Dumit discusses the coffee plant which, based on his research, has been found to act as an intensifier of the human brain, and large studies have demonstrated its immense health benefits. Dumit also traces the relationship between humans and coffee throughout history, including its first documented historical use that can be traced to Ethiopia (800 AD); its uneasy links with capitalism and slavery as evidenced in the coffee plantations; and its development in the twentieth century when coffee first became a popular beverage. This chapter made me think of how I was using this ancient plant to aid my physical brain to think through notions of plant intelligence and our entangled relationship with plants, as a direct tool in my creative process. This spring and summer, I plan to use different types of ancient plant medicines to further investigate our entangled relationship with plants, as an embodied research tool to assist in the further development of my Reworlding project.

The other ritual I often use, whether in my home studio, the landscape or travelling on trains, is meditation. I use various breathing techniques along with different forms of meditation, either focusing on calm abiding or reflection. I find that this ritual helps me to break from the over-analytical thinking processes and an inner spaciousness opens from which creative ideas, new directions and the method of improvisation arises more spontaneously.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently developing two related projects simultaneously. As part of funding that I recently secured, I formulated research questions that will be explored through producing an artwork and hosting a symposium: how can diverse new beginnings be imagined through speculative fiction? What would a new worldview built on the principles of inclusivity, care, activism or belonging with more-than-human beings look like? In what way can film be a language of new beginnings based on reconnection, reciprocity, and resilience in the face of adversity? The artwork will be a five minute artist’s film that will explore these questions using the method of speculative fiction by imagining a form of utopia through an embodied exchange between the human and more-than-human world. I will work in collaboration with the performance artist Sophie Page Hall and the composer Black Astronaut. The film, called The Internal Shell of the Cuttlefish, will combine found footage of the fascinating, otherworldly cuttlefish juxtaposed against original animated collages and footage of the performer, dressed in coloured fabrics and a mask, captured using the method of embodied filmmaking on Rock-a-Nore beach. The mask will be created using natural materials collected on Hasting’s beach, namely the internal shells of the cuttlefish. This exchange will be further conveyed through an improvised soundtrack and a speculative, poetic voice-over. To aid the development of this film I have been reading Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith, and I have started to develop the fictional narrative and accompanying collages.

The second is my interdisciplinary, practice-based PhD Reworlding project that aims to explore two related theoretical fields of enquiry. The first field is philosophy of mind with a focus on plant consciousness, which has revealed plants to be far more complex and intelligent than previously understood. The second field is ecopsychology which combines psychology and ecology to explore humanity’s relationship with nature and the urgent need to restore this. This project will produce a body of artwork that will reference the enormously influential author Ursula K Le Guin, specifically her utopian science fiction novel Always Coming Home that blended story and fable, poetry, artwork, and song to describe the life of the Kesh people, who live in the future after modern society has collapsed. This project’s body of artwork will be used to build a critical utopia that will include the fictional Wood people, who live in the future after modern capitalist society has collapsed due to climate change. This project aims to synthesise the two fields through developing a critical utopia consisting of a sound walk and an artist’s film, including the accompanying artefacts of poetry, symbols, collages, masks, and song. I have completed the sound walk and its accompanying sharing events and group exhibitions. I'm currently carrying out further research and beginning to produce some of the accompanying artefacts that will develop into the artist’s film.


Annie Goliath Reconfigured Remembrances

What does “sense of place” mean to you? Is this concept present in your work?

A sense of place was present in the development of the site-specific sound walk which I began during the summer and autumn months of 2021–2022, by first exploring the landscape as I moved my body along the path of the Tree Walk in Alexandra Park, Hastings, using my different senses, such as breathing in the atmosphere and observing the trees. This part of my Reworlding project aimed to synthesise the related theoretical fields of philosophy of mind, focused on plant consciousness, and ecopsychology, focused on the emotional bond between humans and nature, through the creative intervention of the sound walk. Recent developments in our understanding of plant consciousness offers a re-engagement with nature where plants are seen as possessing agency, memory, kin recognition, intelligence, and perhaps the ability to possess consciousness. I focussed on the “third” wave of radical ecopsychology that seeks to understand the reasons behind our alienation from nature, through taking a critical approach toward systems of colonialism and capitalism that exploit nature and Indigenous peoples.

The sound walk responded to seven trees along this route through Alexandra Park. Working with a composer, I applied a form of ‘entangled listening’ to co-create with plants through recording the inner sounds of these trees using specialist microphones. Next, musical elements were added, improvised to these field recordings. I developed the poetic lines of Anna Wood by synthesising these aspects of the two fields including the histories of each tree and associated Indigenous knowledge, excluded in colonial botany's categorisation of these plants in Victorian times. The voice-over resurrected these forgotten histories, by using my sung interactive segments juxtaposed against a spoken narrative arc, layered over the field recordings to locate a renewed sense of place. This sound walk forms the blueprint for the fictional Wood people within the critical utopia.

During the two accompanying sound walk events that worked in partnership with the local arts organisation Arts on Prescription, I developed the interactive elements of the sound walk, to enable the participants to have a more reflective and embodied engagement with the more-than-human world. After interactive exercises with trees in pairs, the participants listened to the sound walk while being led past the seven trees. They were then invited to produce mixed media Tree of Life collages, reflecting on these resurrected histories and their embodied engagement with the seven trees that related to a sense of place.

 

"My practice explores the troubled relationship between the human and more-than-human world by placing the past, present and imaginary futures in dialogue with each other."

Do you have a message that you hope to give to the world through your work/practice?

I think and question continually within the creative process of my practice, especially in the initial stages of research and when forming connections to build speculative worlds. But sometimes the process of creating elements of the artworks, such as when singing and performing, requires a certain letting go of analytical thinking to be guided more by tacit intuition and improvisation. If I had to pin down the main aspect that my practice explores it would be the troubled relationship between the human and more-than-human world by placing the past, present and imaginary futures in dialogue with each other using speculative fiction. Overall, my practice aims to examine the complex interconnections between gender, ecology, memory, and consciousness.

I have been drawn more recently to critical utopia as a method of critical resistance and transformative action. Utopian science fiction has become a methodology utilised by many contemporary artists and theorists, to engage with futures that move beyond Eurocentric projections and help to shape notions of ecology. Each project that I develop is then driven by more specific questions. Wrapped within the exploration of these questions are layers of messages that I hope to share with the world. But I also think that art should provide a reflective space to illuminate ideas and questions, for the audience to then explore further. The element of socially engaged practice in my work is aimed at assisting the participants to think through questions and find their own potential solutions. This aspect is realised through events such as the workshop I will deliver as part of the upcoming symposium at the Sussex Festival of Ideas, facilitated by the same performer and composer that will be involved in the artist’s film. This workshop aims to work with groups of participants to create speculative forms of utopia, realised through a series of group activities incorporating the co-creation of writing, masks, and movement. In these multiple ways, my practice aims to think through the complexity of multifaceted ideas together with the audience.


Annie Goliath Pandora's Box

Annie's Book List:

I am passionate about reading, which I use as a reflective tool in my creative process. I see it as a collaborative process with worldwide thinkers from diverse disciplines and genres.

 

1. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation by Katherine E. Bishop, David Higgins, and Jerry Määttä.

 

2. Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life by Andy Fisher

 

3. Thus Spoke the Plant: A Remarkable Journey of Groundbreaking Scientific Discoveries and Personal Encounters with Plants by Monica Galiano.


Annie Goliath Reworlding

To learn more about Annie's work, see her website www.anniegoliath.com and Instagram @annie_goliath




Images 1 and 3: Reconfigured Remembrances, 2017

Images 2 and 4: Pandora's Box, 2020 

Image 5: Photograph of the sound walk event from Reworlding, 2023

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page