In London last week we made a series of 7 mile walks (pilgrimages) from the Nunnery Gallery in Bow to an ancient well in Valentines Park, Illford. We were researching a route, planning to lead a group of other pilgrims to the well in order to collect the sacred water that springs from its depths.

A Brahmin in India told me many years ago, “All water is Ganges water”, and therefore sacred. With this in mind I would like to suggest trying the experience of being a pilgrim, instead of a tourist, by journeying somewhere to collect a special water sample. – Susan Hiller

Vessels found along the way

Vessels found along the way

It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be continuing a project started by Susan Hiller for Culture 24 Museums at Night, drawing inspiration from her ‘Homage to Joseph Beuys’ series, in which Susan collects water from sacred or once-sacred sites around the world.

To help decide on a route, we put out a call for people to contribute memories about the areas the pilgrimage will travel through. After getting little response, we turned to the method we know best and use always in our work. We moved our bodies… out into the landscape, walking a different route each day, finding vessels to fill with water along the way and returning on public transport (transformed?).

7.7 miles feels a long way in the city and thoughts had time to surface in unusual ways, without pressure or intention, our only goal being to arrive at the well with a vessel and fill it with water. We walked mostly in silence.

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Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, 2002

We are working on a new audio-visual installation which will draw inspiration from these experiences, Susan Hiller’s wonderful project, and the group pilgrimage on September 24th. This is the nearest Saturday to the autumnal equinox – when the surface of the earth is in perfect balance between light and dark and day and night are of approximately equal duration all over the planet. It is an ancient time of celebration and reflection.

The project is exciting and nerve-wracking! Susan Hiller is one of our great heroes and it is a real honor to be responding to her deep artistic investigations to create a new piece of work.

We would love for you to join us on the pilgrimage. You can find more information here: Community Pilgrimage event page

An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness, and I can still get this any afternoon. Two or three hours’ walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the dominions of the King of Dahomey. There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of ten miles’ radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you. – Henry David Thoreau

We would like to thank Sophie at the Nunnery Gallery, and Nick and Rosie at Culture 24, for the great support they are giving us to realise this project.

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Collecting water from Jacob’s Well, Valentines Park, Illford, 2016

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Left: Susan Hiller, Emergency Case: Homage to Joseph Beuys, 2012 Right: Image taken from ‘Susan Hiller’ Edited by Ann Gallagher, Tate Publishing, 2011

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Webb-Ellis, page from notebook, 2016

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