This project is an ongoing investigation into the ephemeralities and permanences of suburbia, exploring how spaces are performed and produced through acts of care.
Frenchay Hospital closed in May 2014.
The NHS trust sold the land to a housing developer.
470 houses are currently being built.
I have been photographing the hospital site since it closed, on regular walks with my daughter. Both have changed quickly yet imperceptibly. When the new houses are finished it will be hard to remember this in-between time, where diggers and rubble have formed the background to our daily lives.
Using images and material from the site, I created an installation and exhibition of my own responses to this fleeting era at Frenchay museum. Local residents and visitors to the museum were invited to contribute their own memories of this transitional phase to the collection.
Global Positioning Systems were invented in the service of imperialism.
So was the confinement of the mother to the home.
Residues of 18th-century colonialism still cling to our ideas of mother, of landscape, and of nation. They are emotive and highly political (mother country, home office, domestic policy). Romantic literature frequently frames the landscape as mother, but doesn’t leave much room for her as individual within it.
This project has had several iterations. In 2016, in response to Brexit, I decided to hijack these tools, to talk back to big power. I ‘embroidered’ quotations about nationhood by forgotten Romantic artist-mothers in picture postcard places, finding new meanings in the relationship between their words and my location.
In 2017, I invited other people who mother to enjoy the conviviality of embroidery, to broaden ideas about who-gets-to-write-what-where in and about the British landscape and to draw attention to silences it still contains. We also hijacked another tool of war – the drone- to record the act of writing.
Recently, I was commissioned by the AHRC-funded research project Outside the Box: Outdoor Performance as Pandemic Response (https://openairperformance.com/) to create “Acts of (In)visible Repair” in Exeter. We used GPS Embroidery to address climate change and protection of biodiversity through visible mending stitches.
Philps, E (2022) GPS Embroidery: walking as re-articulation of the written maternalised landscape, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, DOI: 10.1080/13569783.2022.2116975
I know the stories about straying too far from the path, about deportment lessons, and good or naughty toes. I know about road safety and stranger danger, about how few children learn plant names these days, and to get her feet measured properly. I just think there might be something more to talk about.
This project is inspired by the conduct books of the Romantic era*, through which mothers were supposed to cultivate their daughters; often by taking them on walks. Laughably prim as they are, somehow we still teach girls to walk appropriately. In the 21st century, could we teach them something new?
I’m in the process of “embroidering” some Romantic thoughts, but these are not done quietly by the fireside. Instead they are stitched on the landscape, using GPS tracking as my needle. Soon I will be collecting contemporary thoughts to embroider, too. Eventually I’ll share them here, and in a new performance.
You can send any thoughts you have to:firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you want to remain anonymous.
*Here’s an example:
To repress discontent, to inculcate the necessity of submitting cheerfully to such situations as Fortune may throw them into; to check that flippancy of remark, so frequently disgusting in girls of 12 or 13; as well as to give them a taste for (…) the sublime beauties of Nature; has been my intention.