The year is 2020

The year is 2020.
It has been a time to pause.
A time to reflect.
Time has been a strange concept this year.
Time to focus.
On what matters.
On matter.
Of us.
Of the planet. 
Connections, digitally not physically.
Isolation full of insecurity.
But a knowing.
Play my part.
My role is to isolate.
From my loved ones.
Drawn out days.
Shortening now.
I am here.
With you.
Without you.
Full of hope and energy.
Coolness in my blood flows for the future. 
Days of darkness.
We will get through this.
An object created. 
For you.
To consume.
To fill your belly.
To be satisfied.
I hope.
To satisfy your appetite.
For hope.
For restoration.
I hope.

‘Upon Reflection 2020 – Sarah Misselbrook’ – Artist Book Now Available.

Return to the forest

to this body
a vessel
In which I swim through the world
With childlike wonder
But not at all lonely
Rest assured
I care deeply from afar
The distance allows me to breathe

the single tree,
driven to a frenzy in the winter wind
Wild in the Forest
I belong
Moving in unison
Communicating beneath the soil

Stand fast
Against the odds
I can,
This rock,
toes curled
Clinging to everything I feel beneath me
I am precious, my fellow animals too
platform feet hold firm
Tensely gripping
talons pierce the ground
Drowning in the rarest of rainfall
Which feeds the forest
But prevents access
To this valley of mine

Persistent is the water
falling from the sky
Life giving
Holding on
for future drought
The cold
Bites at my bones
This body
Muscle clad
it droops and sags,
Awkward and asymmetrical
I strive,
to dissent

reflecting and reacting
a disciplined quest for perfection,
Futile in its unattainability

Your words
like the wind
cut through
Flooring me
I bruise like lichen
With unwanted growths
I pluck and try again

From this space
I connect with you
A new form of speech
A new way to reach you
With stretching arms to grasp hold of
I stand tall
I, the forest

have patience with me
For I know not what I do
Only that it is something other…


As part of Chapel Arts Studios ‘Inside: Outside Laboratory of Dissent 2′ at Winchester School of Art, artist Maija Liepins invited me ‘in’ to connect, digitally, through text. A poetic ‘conversational baton’ was passed each morning for one week for more or less one hour between myself and Maija.

This invitation to collaborate over Whatsapp has explored themes such as self, belonging, migration, femininity, research as practice, performer, audience and exhibition. For me personally, it has felt like a dissenting action to be using my words primarily, but also as research from outside the constructs of the gallery space and in a way ‘butting in’ to an already framed project.

Excerpt from conversational poetry.

Sarah says:

It is as if
By the mere act of typing
These words
I am defying
Those who always said
Could do better
A gifted draftsman
But not a natural writer
And yet,
Responding to you
Is becoming
A new form of expression
In which
I, for now, belong
So thank you.

Maija would begin with an opening statement or phrase, then I was invited to respond. As, up until now, a practitioner who works predominantly within visual based media, albeit muli-disciplinary, I have only recently begun to explore the written word and its unlimited potential for creative action and reaction.

The ‘non face-to-face connection’ has resulted in a series of free-flowing words ebbing and flowing as if chatting and challenging across the Channel, awaiting a new tide each morning bringing with it another verse.

Excerpt from conversational poetry.

Sarah says:

the ebb and flow
of belonging
or not,
the administration of a normal life
as a dead weight
pulling at my ankles
I long to float
Like your lily pad
Skimming the surface but deeply knowing
What is not the way forward
With strong capillary action
or not,
depending on the day
I am precious, as all animals are
I, a lone tree, within this forest,
In the November wind
For now,
but perhaps
not forever more
This valley with its trees,
abnormally large toads
Wondering the valley looking for their someone to save
And when I am on the rock
The soapbox
With nothing to say
I can merely respond
To your beautifully descriptive prose
Which seems
Conflicted, yes
Rightly demanding space
Not the physical jutting for the clinical
No, not the institutional
But the metaphorical
A harmonious co-existence
A balanced
Death and life
Do not search for resolution
Only the next question
In this series
Of existing
Ask the trees
Feel that wind
On your skin
Build the structure
Stand alone
They will listen
As will I.

The full conversation can be found here.

Featuring the resulting conversational poetry between Maija Liepins and Sarah Misselbrook, the full video/ installation entitled ‘Zeitgeist Non-Grata’ is on show at Winchester Gallery until Friday 6th December. Get along to see the works and talk to the artists, be part of it!

Outside, inside the Forest

As part of the Chapel Art Studios Inside/Outside Symposium for the Laboratory of Dissent 2019 in Winchester Art School, I was given the opportunity to ‘rant’ for 5 minutes.

The platform of a large, flat rock that juts into the valley provided (as it has done for previous performance works) the perfect ‘soapbox’ to climb up on to. It’s as if once my body is there, I adopt the role of performer, audience and valley. With the echoes of my voice shouting across the chasm bouncing back to me, I ask myself ‘is anyone there, are you listening, are we connecting?

Can you hear me? I was asking, shouting across the valley and across the channel to the UK symposium event. Yes, they were there, listening and connecting with me via twitter.

The audio was clear, as if amplified by the theatrical stage of the rock within the valley. The visual aesthetic was an unknown. A barely visible body dressed in black could be made out among the tall pine trees, gesticulating in a plea for connection and understanding.

My words were attempting to understand where I am, inside or outside, or was I both? In reality, I am off the grid, outside the system but with these connections are you every really outside? I rely on these connections, personally and professionally. It is again posing the question ‘is this a performance if there is no audience?’ which is fueling further investigation into social isolation, professional isolation and how to work outside the system. The Critical Moss publication will further explore this in early 2020.

My words were from the forest, with the origin of the word ‘forest’ being ‘foreign’ and ‘out-of-doors’ or ‘exterior’, a play on my status as immigrant, a political and personal cry to those listening on the inside. A fantastically strong connection to the outside then materialises, as if no other can compete with the realisation that I AM the forest and the forest is me. And once this is known or felt then everything is made sense of.

‘I am man, woman, animal… I am all and other.’

Continued thanks to Chapel Arts Studios for the connection.

What we lose in the fire

A violent stab of loneliness,
swimming between spaces,
fuelling an insatiable hunger,
then out of the darkness
I return to the forest

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Responding to your whispers

Intrigued by the imposed audio limitations placed upon your artist group, I can assure you that your whispers are coming through ‘loud and clear’.

Observing you on your ‘island’, your cell, I can connect with you from my ‘natural soapbox’ (a large protruding rock within the valley). I will respond with a ‘rant’ with a self-imposed limitation that it should come from this place. However, the quest for clarity of thought, of word, of action risks going unseen.

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Inside the Forest

June 2019 saw the worst forest fire in 25 years in the Ribera d’Ebre region of Catalunya burning over 6000 hectares of pine, olive and almond trees. As part of a creative initiative entitled ‘Cendrart’ – ‘cendra’ meaning ash in Catalan – I was invited to create a site-specific work for temporary exhibition within the cremated forest.

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Forest fire

The weekend of the 5th and 6th of October 2019 was an intense period spent moving between the burnt trees of the Maials area of the Ribera d’Ebre region of Catalunya, one of the affected areas of the forest fire in June of this year.

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Purge II

‘Purge II’ is an isolated, secretive performance behind closed doors but to camera presenting the artist purging communion wafers in a silent attempt to communicate with the viewer. Requesting or demanding a ‘following’ of sorts, as if a move towards the environment the artist inhabits is an inviting prospect.

The wafers are continuously regurgitated and what once was ‘inside’ the artist’s body is now presented ‘outside’ upon a wooden surface forming words for the viewer to follow and read. Living within an alternative existence ‘outside’ a prescribed societal norm, isolated and disconnected from the grid, the artist attempts to persuade and to recruit by means of throwing up her once consumed communion wafers. As if rejecting one form of following and suggesting another, an ‘other’, other…

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Critical Moss

I am enveloped within a private olive grove valley, surrounded by the Catalan mountains with the nearest populated village of Riba-roja d’Ebre over 3km away. I visit the village at least once a week to absorb the rituals. The Catalan language still mystifies me, only having Spanish as my second language. Catalan has been protected within the home by women across generations. A strong cultural identity pervades this rural, underpopulated place. My studio, in the olive grove, is isolated, I have no neighbours, no ‘passers-by’. My family are in the UK, where I am originally from. My practice and daily life on this wild, off-grid finca merges into one. I chop wood, build, restore, prune trees, landscape, harvest, moving around this place like some kind of performative act. Survival is a daily concern, collecting rain water for washing, ash from wood burners to compost waste, improving dry clay soil for cultivation. My movements and energies are specific to this place. A sense of closeness to the wildlife and the weather here in the valley creates at times a sensorial overload which can only be made sense of by presenting this connection within my art practice.

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