The Beach House is placed on its own shingle beach on the highest level of our roof. Over the next year artists and a range of other creative practitioners will be invited to spend time in the Beach House to test an idea in relation to its context. The results of these small journeys will be collected in an online archive.
The first of these adventures is Melusine is a new site specific installation by Laura Buckley incorporating sculpture, video projection and sound. The video was originally screened in a live performance with Paul Purgas at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2014 as part of the Jarman Award Film London programme. Now reconstructed and reimagined in the Beach House, Melusine takes the viewer into a physical manifestation of a watery underworld, An accompanying text by Skye Sherwin interprets the character of Melusine, a water spirit from European folklore that appears in a variety of guises, here a two-tailed mermaid.
Melusine, 2016 Laura Buckley
Multichannel video installation, 13:12 mins
Sound by Paul Purgas
Words: Skye Sherwin
On ancient maps depictions of sea serpents are a way of signalling the end of the world, or rather, unchartered territory. The creatures are usually black or crimson and grow up to 200 feet in length, though they can be as small and slight as the legs of a maid. Sighting one portends a rift in the kingdom, be it a ruler’s death, or tumultuous war.
It was noted around the castle how the queen was always in the water. She was spotted swimming in the moat or casually testing the waterfall’s crystal cascade with her toes. Mostly she glided around the infinity pool on a heart-shaped lounger, a sweating mojito dangling from one hand, shades hiding her eyes.
On Saturdays though she swam where no one saw her, down, down, down in the dark lake at the heart of the maze of caves beneath the keep. No one that is, but the king, who, though she had forbidden it, followed her there one hot autumn afternoon.
I don’t know you anymore, he said, gazing at her legs, or whatever it was slithering and glittering in the water that had replaced them.
It was just one thing I asked you not to do, she said.
All these rules you have, he said. You’re so bloody controlling. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I’ll always slip up at some point.
I hate that you can see me like this, she said, as they faced each other, angry words raging in their numb heads and snotty tears staining their faces, he in his hunting jerkin, she in a halter-neck one-piece from which two scaly tails obtruded. I feel so exposed and all I want to do now is disappear. I want to be driven quietly away behind the darkened windows of a limousine, somewhere no one knows me.
In fact, I’d take total erasure, she said. To be as unremarkable as the logo on a Starbucks cup. Floating down the canal, washed up with the leaves and old beer cans.
I’m trying to remember what it was that made us fall in love in the first place, he said.
I’m still that person, she said.
When an angel marries a mortal there is always ‘a terrible price’ to be paid. For instance, the angel might have to give up its voice and feel a knife cut with every new step it takes on land. The mortal will likely have certain injunctions placed against it, as in, it needs to leave the angel alone on Saturdays or never watch it while it eats. They must make like Zen masters and learn how to be close but not close. They must stay kind and remember to say please and thank you, as they do with others, less familiar to them.
If they don’t do this, the angel will become a demon and one or both of them will end up locked inside a mountain.
We’ve been through so much together, she said. We still have the jokes built up over years and now so elaborate and impenetrable none but us can enter them. We have the first holiday on the Lakes when it rained and rained and we never left the boathouse. There’re the books you introduced me to, the music we’ve shared.
I love you, I love you, I love you, he said. What’s your name?