While at Beachy Head, I predominantly spent my time traversing the cliffs, weaving around the chalk and investigating the area. Though I am no rock climber, I was not out of danger – a large chunk of chalk fell from the cliffside, narrowly missing me and forcing my retreat toward the water. The area is rich with macabre folklore: ghost sightings, ships lured into the rock by avaricious locals, and the presence of mountain climber and magician Aleister Crowley. There seems to be almost infinite stories of strange or sad goings on around the area; all of them lead back to the white cliffs.

 

My work around Beachy Head is focused on the idea of search and document. Chiselling is a form of digging, perhaps the most atavistic form of search, an attempt to dredge up and uncover what went before. The physical and repetitive nature of the act give it a somewhat ritualistic feel. It is an action with no defined goal and no defined end; its an action out of time – much like walking. I’m interested in alternative histories, research and, to a degree, the role of the museum. I find museums give an impression that the ‘past’ is a distinct and separate thing from the here and now, which isn’t true. The past and present are constantly re-informing each other – we are always discovering new pasts, presents, and futures.

 

 

James Sirrell