t s Beall is a socially-engaged artist and researcher based in Glasgow and Dumfries. She works with communities on long-term or durational projects to recover and highlight marginalised histories. Her work spans a variety of media including performative events and guided artwalks. For this episode of the Memory of Water project, she describes her approach to engaging with local customs and honouring women’s histories through participatory events during the international residency programme in Greece, Poland and Scotland.
Glass Water / Szklana Woda was a series of actions designed to highlight the intangible aspects of the former Lenin/Imperial Shipyard, inspired by former workers, particularly women pipe insulators. I collaborated with local people and organisations over the week (13-19 October) to enact or activate different aspects of the shipyard’s histories. Glass Water had three distinct strands, comprised of different actions and events: Greening the Shipyard, Embroidering the Shipyard, and Mourning the Shipyard (Zazielenianie Stoczni, Wyszywanie Stoczni, Opłakiwanie Stoczni).
I was both nervous and delighted to welcome the Memory of Water artists to Govan. I first moved my studio there in 2009, after looking around Glasgow for reasonably priced studio space. Someone recommended Unit 7 on Clydebrae Street in front of the Dry Docks (also called the Govan Graving Docks), now derelict. I instantly fell in love with the place, and took the studio literally because of its proximity to the dockyard. I was amazed by the majesty of the Dry Docks, and took many long walks on site; I thought of them as Glasgow’s Parthenon.
Να το πάρει το ποτάμι / Let the River Take It was designed as a collective catharsis, an invitation both to remember and to release memories into the River Erkyna. It aimed to weave together references from Levadia's past and present, including the tradition of washing clothes and rugs in the river, the historical industry of textile mills and the many women who worked in them, and the ancient myth of the Oracle of Trophonius – where the dual springs of remembrance and forgetting combined to form the river itself. The event was also a purposeful re-staging of domestic activity in the public realm, making visible 'women's work' which is often either hidden or ignored.
I was incredibly inspired by the stories of the River Erkyna when I came to Levadia for the first time during the research residency in January 2019. I came away thinking that the river was a kind of spine for the town, historically providing everything from laundry facilities and rubbish takeaway, to an important place for ritual. The river was a place to remember and a place to let go – echoing the myth of the Oracle of Trophonius (see image above), which like many ancient Greek oracles was built at the nexus of two springs. I began asking about stories or rituals involving the river, from everyday encounters to symbolic and important lifetime events like baptism.