My trip underground with Adam Chodzko in Ghost
In the dark confined space I took comfort from the deep resonating sounds of the voice.
It was an intimate space, deeply secretive and gave light to ones innermost fears and thoughts.
“This is where my father died”. It was a statement. Not one that invited comment or exploration- private moment spoken aloud in this private intimate space of which I was privy to hear.
The descriptions of the rock and what we could see were forced and unnatural. They prevented true reflection and obstructed listening to the secluded sounds deep below the earth in this man made tunnel. We hungered for the clandestine secret sounds of dripping water, the paddle gliding through the water and air whispering as it travelled through.
A distant crackle akin to radio static intrigued us, as it grew louder and nearer it’s pitch heightened and the sound was an expected trickling and splashing of fast falling water- a flash rainstorm rippling down rocks and spattering into the water below. The echoes off the carved rock walls increasing the sound tenfold. Drips pooled out and one could imagine rings of sound flowing out like ripples on a pond.
The air changed from dense wet and heavy to cold crisp and clear. The smell was refreshingly damp. Not quite like fresh dew or the moment before rain on a stifling hot summers day but that of a wet rocky cave.
Adam Chodzko descriptions of sound were clear, practiced and bespoke. They were full of experience and he opened my mind to reflect on sound and to truly listen. I felt frustrated at my lack of expression. As I always look for colour and light I could easily respond to the rich russets, deep blue-blacks, golden sparkling droplets that clung to the rough-cut ceiling above me.
As we continued deeper I felt more entrapped in my canoe cocoon. I was overwhelmed and afraid, glad to see the falsely bright torch headlights, men’s’ voices and laughter. But the ceiling closed down towards me and became increasingly overbearing.
I found myself revealing innermost thoughts, personal dreams and fears as if the years of history hidden within the walls of rock had stripped me of my amour and privacy. I voiced the joy I felt of human contact through sound for I was so isolated and vulnerable. Lying horizontal, forced to see the overpowering rock face above me as if in a coffin. We agreed that the human voice had protected us from falling pray to private thoughts and feelings.
When we stopped to listen the drips and airflow create a gentle whispering song. It was not comforting and the rocks closed in around me as if the lid was closing and I would be overcome with fear and distraught with panic had I not controlled my breathing and forced myself to be strong, confident and assured. Filming and photographing gave me a purpose, as did describing the experience to others. I listened with awe at the historical knowledge being imparted and took comfort in knowing my time here was brief.
When at last they spoke of seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel” I dare not risk straining to lift and look for fear of being bitterly disappointed at what might still be a long way yet to travel. As we exited from the tunnel I was too glad of the dazzling light, change of temperature on my skin and fresh clear air to film. I had conquered my fear of claustrophobia and had the experience of a lifetime.
Filled with relief and delight at being alive and out of the “coffin”-Ghost I spoke of my thoughts of admiration for the 40 men who had taken 14 years to cut their way through the mile and a half tunnel that was now over 200 years old. It is humbling to know what we are determined to achieve in order to make progress. My own thoughts fears and expectations had been turned inside out as I travelled through time.
I am thoroughly enjoying exploring these emotions and memories in my artwork which, will be on display at The Tamar valley Centre, Gunnislake during Cornwall Open Studios. It seems very befitting that right beside us are old tin mining works and that this eco building which houses the Area od Outstanding Natural Beauty ANOB should be the first place for this 200 year old story to be shown. I’m delighted that my work, which shows glimpses of our industrial heritage here in the Valley, be exhibited high on the hillside where we look out into vast and beautiful views of the Tamar Valley. I am excited about running heat fusion and weaving demos and more information about me can be seen at www.tessajane.co.uk.