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  • Huw Meredydd Owen

Ectoplasm

1. (from the Greek ektos, meaning "outside", and plasma, meaning "something formed or moulded") is a term coined by Charles Richet to denote a substance or spiritual energy "exteriorised" by physical mediums. (Wikipedia)

2. performance at the Tinopolis TV Studios, Llanelli, during the National Eisteddfod, August 2014, by Eddie Ladd and Jon Gower

Like the tired folds of an old blazer, with gold-threaded badge and shiny elbows, draped over an awkward bony skeleton, the ghostly sunken eye sockets of the unseeing shopfronts of Llanelli town centre recall the stillness of a cooling corpse. This spiritless place was fingered for signs of life by this powerful performance, and all the more effective for being set in the placeless, timeless incongruity of a high street television studio.

The occasion was a collaborative presentation by two very precise and articulate creators of language - Eddie Ladd in the language of movement, and Jon Gower in the language of words - combining to extract from the collective experience of the dozen or so of us punters the richness of a full life drawn to its moribund close - its hinterland, its landscape, its magic places, its trajectory and its estate.

Ostensibly a diaphanous memory of the death, life and significance of Jon Gower’s grandfather, the experience was interwoven with a litany of place names and poetry, evoking ritual and exploring the understanding of 'place' though its narrative; the ebb and flow of life. The combined performance of movement and words balanced each other - and the projected and perceived meanings . It implied the ‘place' as a microcosm.

The un-place of the studio was a central character, with its indeterminate domestic scaled set - surreally reminiscent of shelves and sofas - and the outlandish colours of global consumerism. It acted as a generic foil to the unfolding of these specific events. The studio has windows that tantalisingly look out onto the street beyond, paradoxically open to the world but soundproof and very sealed from it. About halfway through the performance the external shutters of these windows closed; the mechanical smoothness of their motorised operation giving the impression of tired eyes finally closing to the world; giving up the ghost. Death. Surrender. Passing away.

Jon Gower made a representation of his grandfather from an old blazer, rope and broomsticks, and carried him, at the end of the performance, to lay him to rest in a small room nearby. The gesture was one of interment but also of the condition of the sterile place seen through the windows, whose sorry soul has been carried out of town, and whose denizen’s remaining ties with the hills on the horizon from where their families came, snipped and unknotted one Welsh word at a time.

The balance of movement and meaning was made memorable by these two intelligent interpreters. The reading of this 'place' was multilayered and rich; there are no simple truths. We were made aware that from our depths come our interpretation of the world(s) we inhabit and we continually manifest the spiritual energy in our very own ‘ectoplasm’.

Such is the art of placemaking.

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