Living Word



Living Word was a research project developed whilst in residence at Rupert, Lithuania, in May-June 2017. The residency culminated in a collective journey to the Devil’s Pit in the Aukstadvaris Regional Park in Vilnius, with the participants of Rupert’s Alternative Education Programme.


In view of urban, sensorial pollution, an inhabitant of a heavily industrial landscape may soon exhibit symptoms of emotional up-rootedness and alienation. Equally, the planetary ecological collapse may well be generated by an interruption in speech: between the individual and what we’ve come to call ‘nature’, as well as disruption in private conversation of the individual to oneself, one’s inner nature.

The Finno-Ugric peoples (my heritage) were forest and water tribes, engaging in a sort of green language, dense in material forged by a practice of loneliness and the ability for dialogue between oneself and one’s surrounding. A living word is an animistic word, often mimetic, and embodies both emotional content and a certain perception of form. It is a spontaneous product within the private, personal domain of language – primarily a function of cognition and inner perception, rather than public-facing communication.

The forest proposes a symmetry of senses, engaging us in practices of listening, smelling and touching, through which we activate the archaic, pre-linguistic parts of our brain – sense of smell, taste and touch are very old on the evolutionary trail.  This collective research trip employed a multisensory approach to the production of knowledge, beginning from the primeval nervous system and in the refuge of a location without sensorial contamination. 

We undertook a collective journey to the Devil’s Pit Velnio duobė in the Aukstadvaris Regional Park in Vilnius, Lithuania: a negative space of unknown origin, a missing body unearthed from a childhood memory. Together we practiced ritual listening and rumination of smell, developing an inner dialogue with the site and gathering spontaneous words emerging from this multisensory perception. In the tradition of oral lore, we passed on our private language to the group by way of spoken word. Following this we collectively composed a new myth of the Devil’s Pit, generating a spoken tapestry in many languages and sounds.