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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

What happens if the touring of human artwork can take inspiration and learning from the way that nature travels?

We speak to Artist Tom Bailey ahead of his two month walking tour between Scotland and Denmark, covering why he’s travelling by foot and ferry, his new show Crap At Animals and the highlights and challenges that could arise from the tour. Created as an experiment in environmentally friendly theatre touring, the journey will be more than 1,600km overall, including 800km on foot. 

Tom Bailey

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming walking journey?

The walk has 3 purposes. First, to deliver Crap at Animals at Passage Festival, Denmark. I am carrying a large piece of fabric which I will lay out in the landscape at various places. It contains a list of 44,000 extinct and endangered species on the IUCN Red List. It’s a kind of pilgrimage for these species.  

Second, to walk an imaginary ‘treeline’. I’ll unpack: In finding new ways to explore the touring of performance work, I felt that I wanted to  explore the way that nature travels, rather than just travel as humans do. What can we learn from natural migration, in the way that we tour art? I looked closely at the landscapes and ecologies of Scotland and the Nordic countries, and felt that a strong theme uniting the two areas were forests. Norway in particular is famous for its vast boreal forests, and Scotland is on the southern tip of the boreal forest biome. However, the experience of the natural environment between Scotland and Norway is quite starkly different. Scotland is a sad story of vast deforestation and land mismanagement, whereas Norway is heavily forested. Nonetheless, historically Scotland was once heavily wooded, and living/ archaeological remains of once great boreal forests (following the retreat of the glaciers at the last ice age). The boreal treeline is fast moving with climate change. As the Arctic melts, the forest moves globally north. Its southern border moves northwards too. In this sense I am walking along the southern tip of a fast-vanishing treeline. On the journey I have identified points of specific tree interest (from the deep past to the present to the possible future), which will be the way-points of my walk. As I move I will also be moving with the forest and being part of its migration, picking up and moving seeds methodically and rhythmically as I go, as part of the art work.

Lastly, the walk will be raising money for charity - Flynne’s Barn retreat centre for young people with cancer (in the Lake District). I will be raising money for Flynne’s Barn, where I help and run workshops for other young people experiencing cancer.  

What inspired you to tour your new show Crap At Animals in this way?

I feel that we need to find new ways of touring theatre in the Anthropocene world. This walk came out of conversations with Helsingor Teater in Denmark, exploring touring futures. In this journey, the journey is also an artwork. It’s also a chance to step away from a crazy production schedule and slow down with life. 

Can you sum up your show Crap At Animals in 3 words?

Clowning, VR, Animals

What are you most looking forward to about the journey? 

Sunsets and camping on the shore, sea swimming, Norwegian mountains around Bergen

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

Midges, clean underwear and not missing the boat to Norway! 

What's next for Mechanimal?

Potentially a sound installation exploring patterns of tree communication via new AI technologies with a Brazilian researcher, and a new theatre show (co-production with a Baltic theatre company MMLab) exploring the relationship between cancer and climate change, via Hamlet and clowning.

You can catch Tom Bailey's Crap At Animals 1 – 3 Aug at Passage Festival in Denmark and 31 Aug & 1 Sep at Greenwich + Docklands International Festival.


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