Joesph Morgan Schofiled
Vaida Tamoševičiūtė

This text is one of various commissioned responses to SALVAGE Festival; a day of performance art on and around the coastline of Folkstone during the summer of 2019.

︎︎︎ about SALVAGE

Vaida Tamoševičiūtė, SALVAGE, 2019. Photo credit pending.

We gather on the beach, below the arches and under the midday sun.

In soft dusk above the beach, I join a line on the promenade.

Bearing the weight of the cliffs and the walkway and the people, this unyielding body sinks its limbs deep into the chalk and sand

and waits

and weights

You hold space below, anticipating our bodies, one after the other and I as I wait I wonder about the weight of expectation placed upon artists and mothers.

There is guilt in me, and guilt in you, I think. The archetype of Mother rests in this cell, iron and unyielding, soaked by the waves and battered by the winds. My association is easy and conditioned. It’s not of mothers but of Mother, that static idol, shorn of desire and dreams, wrapped in the bounds of the Family. Representation is heavy here, I imagine it chafes. How your skin must split and tar, rusting as water gets between your cracks.

The arches frame Vaida’s approach, and under their low reach, she grows in scale.

In time, it is my turn.  I try and hold your gaze. I am small.

At Vaida’s breast is a beating flame, a smoking heart held in a shattered pot. Possessed by quiet urgency and still rage, she keeps watch of the tides, as if waiting a thousand years. Frozen, touched by the wind, it is as though, unmoving, she hoped to miss Medusa’s eye.

You fill the concrete shade with a lullaby, a phrase sung over and over and over, echoing and reverberating around our small cell. I don’t know its meaning, but I understand that it may be an invitation.

She is garlanded with berries and branches, holding tight around her neck and they press as phantoms, constricting my neck and pushing into our larynx.

You hold me or I hold you or we hold each other and sit staring into the sea.

Smoke rises up Vaida’s skirt and she breaks her garland chain, offering it to the flames. It does not take, this precious hea(r)t holding as much as it can bear.

Terra. Vaida. Mary Magdalene. Vaida. Venus. Vaida. Gaia. Vaida. Your action frustrates the shrine in process. With fury and grief, you resist the beatification of another Mother-Nature. We are all stuck with this natural, this tired aesthetic religion which will not catch light even as everything burns around it. The Natural is a failed promise. Nature is not an emancipatory force. Upon this broken concept, our culture has built vast monuments of lies and falsehoods which cast a long shadow over the imagination. What possibilities might we find in the ash?

I lay my head in your lap and your song is soothing. You stroke my hair and I recognise this as maternal and I am sorry for laying this burden on you.  

Marking time in this damp cell, she chalks lines onto the wall.

There is uncertainty and embarrassment and anxiety – the difficulties of touch, the fear of intimacy, the suspicion of feeling. Yet your gift reminds me that there are many ways to do family, that the family need not be consigned to the same fire as the Natural, or that we might re-orientate both the natural and the familial. Heart to heart, you extend to me the gift of kinship and presence. I don’t know how long I may stay here, but here on your lap and later, borrowing that rich phrase from The Argonauts, I summon the many gendered mothers of my heart, reminded of what they have taught me about the weight of care and the ways of caretaking.

Berries, hidden and held until now in Vaida’s mouth, rain into an empty nest.

This is grief, or loss, or memory, or hope, or love.