Blood Stones by morning light

I wanted to do something for me. To reconnect with myself and the Earth, to feel alive. A simple thing without much preparation, that happened spontaneously. I had thought about this happening, in various scenarios for quite a while now, and yesterday evening walking home with my partner Steve, my plan formed more fully. Less bold than my original intention, but safer, easier, and perhaps more beautiful. In any case, like many things in life, practise may improve it, so better surely to begin gently. Build up to the bold, if that ever wants to manifest.

I put a lot into the Girl in Suitcase shows, and together with creating the safe Spirited Bodies space for the benefit of others, it can at times be exhausting. Yet sometimes, I just want to do something simple. Life is complicated enough, and simple is good. So I ask Steve when sunrise is because he is an early riser, and I set my alarm for a tad before. I won’t have to travel far to make my art in the morning, as I have decided to keep this local. I am going to get a bit messy and being within 10 minutes of my shower will be appreciated. I am continuing a theme developed through several Girl in Suitcase shows of working with the idea of menstrual blood. And like the last show, not just the idea but also the very thing. I am currently bleeding, but the flow isn’t strong yet. Luckily I have several old batches stored in my fridge, and this is the day they have been waiting for!

We go up to Hilly Fields where there is a stone circle. It is not ancient in the usual sense as was created for the millenium by local people, however, “the twelve 400-million-year-old granite boulders were brought from Mount Struie, near Inverness and the two taller stones are known as St Norbert’s Gate are cut from Caithness flagstone, quarried close to Wick in Scotland’s far north, as is the circle’s central horizontal flagstone.” I have really enjoyed celebrating Solstices and Equinoxes at more traditional ancient sites, but it is not surprising that this circle too lends the weight of older realms.

The sun is just out on one side of the hill, and the sky is bright and clear. There is frost on the grass and at this point I am well wrapped up. We see a couple of people in the distance, but not near the stones which are deserted. On the edge of the circle and down the hill a bit by some trees, I put down my bags and take off my thick coat, placing it down as a base for the rest of my garments. They each come off – a chunky cardigan, boots, socks, a dress, loose trousers and pants.

The container of blood is removed from my rucksack and the lid unscrewed. I know this will smell so it is good to be outside, as making paintings with it in my flat has on occasion induced wretching. Strong stuff kept tight for a few months because some time last year I realised there is potential with this substance I monthly shed. I’ve read about its power and have several pictures made with it on my walls, as well as one by artist Eloise O’Hare, mixed with her embroidery. She gave it to me when I performed in Norwich last year at Dandifest, in appreciation of the performance and since I had complimented her menstrual art. She makes so many other types of pictures and sculptures mind, and is an extremely talented artist.

I pour it on my front and legs from a few places, and Steve does my back. There is no smearing, just pouring. It’s not so thick and he wonders if it will be visible in the early morning light with just his phone-camera. We will find out. I clamber on the first stone.

I had wanted to start on the most difficult stone to mount which I had achieved a week or so before when dressed, with Steve’s help. Covered in blood, naked and barefoot however, it seemed less scalable. The ground was freezing so I wanted to keep moving, and decided to start instead with the easiest. Another intention had been to pose on each stone as there are twelve, representing directions and star signs… but in the moment, again I went for simple. With the frost permeating my soles fast I was grateful for each stone that would easily accommodate me! It was enough, and so I went round, and with his lens so did Steve, sometimes nearer other times further.

I come to this hill a lot and have brought friends here. There is a cafe close to the stones that I regularly frequent, and the circle of stones has its own gravity. I have come here in troubled times, and many happy ones also, to share my state of being with the hill, often alone. I have written pieces of script or blog here, and called old friends whilst leaning on a stone. I have been stoned here.

One time last year, I was walking across the hill grieving an old friend who had recently died. I had been in a black hole a while, and then out of the blue I bumped into my friend Vix. She was partying on the hill with friends, and invited me to join them. At first I carried on my journey to buy milk or whatever, saying I would see how I felt on returning. I had explained my loss. Walking slowly back in my daze twenty minutes later, I saw that the group were beginning to dance as the sun went down, under the sky and some trees. I decided to put my groceries down, and felt called to dance too. It was funny because all I had been listening to since Mike’s death, was goth music which he loved so much and reminds me of the times we were close. Here on the hill I was getting down to disco! I had a truly magical time with Vix, healing through dance and laughter. After that evening I started to feel much lighter about the intensity of prematurely losing an old friend.

Why the old blood? Well, it feels ritualistic, and I like that. It heightens the occasion. I am so used to being nude, that to enable me to be released from my comfort zone, there needs to be another layer. Just as people come to Spirited Bodies to have a new experience, I also need that, in my own way. My friend Calu ran a menstrual art workshop last year in my living room, and that was powerful too to share in drawing with our blood. I think it appealed to my desire to recycle as well, as I observed in the recent Girl in Suitcase performance last month.

My old blood is part of me, from me. I may never breed – though I’m not ruling it out, it just doesn’t call. But I will always create, and indeed sometimes with my own blood. To take it outside allows some of it to fall and blend into the ground. My feet are on the ground, feeling the frosty flakes, the icy blades of grass. Lines of blood soon dry on me. I feel exhilarated, padding across the earth quickly to avoid becoming frozen. My toes grip the stones and my arms find my balance.

Sometimes I just want to be, simply myself, but too I think to make shapes. And while just being is comforting; stretching and arching find a new relationship to my arena. The Earth, sky, stones, sun, hill, trees and shadows encompass the scenery for me to move and exist in. I am alive – a dancer, a mover, a performer and an artist. I find such pleasure in my body; with it and through it, and I wanted to feel that now, and to share that with the camera.

Life had gotten in the way of me taking part in some of the great outdoor nude photoshoots of recent years in London and beyond. Being with Steve and hearing of his excitement and passion for them, reminded me that I share such an instinct, in the right conditions.

With Loving Bodies coming up on Saturday, there is plenty to organise and I feel this pressure to deliver. I committed to it, it has my name on it, and I want people to be happy with it. I want it to be a success. I believe it will be – it has its own buzz, since the concept is so powerful, and crucially it is not all down to me. But to remind myself where I am now, who I am behind all the sense of responsibility (and the fear of failure), I dedicate the action of this blood happening on the stones, to my inner self, my truest nature. I let go of the other layers present in my life, and simply add on some of my old blood. A brilliant sunrise and a very loving, indulging partner complete the scenario. For a brief moment this morning, I was making art in nature, and spirited into a wildly organic zone. One I hope to return to time and time again. With thanks to Steve for documenting in pictures my action, and for hearing me so intently, always positively. So much love.

My Naked bike ride

On Saturday 8th June, I didn’t want to go in the morning, I wanted to stay in bed. It looked cloudy, and I am not generally great with the cold. Still my boyfriend rang to encourage me which always helps, and I did not try to rush myself. Too much time in a crowded place if you are not in the mood would backfire. By the time I left, sun was shining and I felt glorious for what would happen that day. It’s all about the attitude – doesn’t matter if I miss the body painting bit, or even my friends; if I am on form I will have the best time ever no matter.

I had noted directions to the secret spot for painting our bodies, and after alighting the train at Victoria, cycled over there, not far from Marble Arch. Pretty quiet when I arrived, Natasha was painting Will, Susan was at the ready and a few others were about. The photographers had not yet sussed us and descended! I messed about with my watery bottles of silver and pink which did not nearly cover me thickly enough, much to my sunburnt grief later, but at least I had a sort of glittery golden sheen about me! A kind woman painted Spirited Bodies in big letters across my back, and I helped with painting others where I could. Generally I was getting all excited by this time, if only internally and my painting skills which normally might be more reasonable, were pretty basic.

A friend made a stencil, so I had small letting on my front, big on my back

A friend made a stencil, so I had small lettering on my front, big on my back


More friends and others arrived, and so too the camera’d masses… well you have to expect that, ideally revel in it, but it is testing even for the hardiest exhibitionist at times. Being a female, they tend to crowd especially if you are nude. Oh for a world where naked humans are more normal.

It seemed to take an age to get the ride going, but at this point Richard who has come to draw at Spirited Bodies before caught me as he was making his WNBR documentary.

The World Naked Bike Ride, London (2013). from Richard Agnew on Vimeo.

When the ride finally got going, and we were at the end almost (of the long trail of 100s of cyclists), I felt heroic! Crowds cheer lining the streets and the freedom of being nude on your bike as you streak down Park Lane is awesome!

Landmark occasion!

Landmark occasion!

Highlights of the ride? Having friends to share it with mainly, that meant a lot. Seeing all the extraordinary cyclists in their stunning attire and some works of art on skin. Chatting with strangers as we rode, recognising friends too, sharing in blissful moments like when people who were not on the ride suddenly decided to join in, you know, random cyclists, and especially people in rickshaws in the West End where we were. We saw them strip off, stand up and pose to applause! Just getting into the spirit of it. The overwhelming joy that kept me high for some time after, is of course still with me. The luck of the mainly warm, sometimes hot weather that day, especially considering the following greyness of subsequent days. The sunburn was worth it, and kept ‘Spirited’ on my back till now even!

Oh and I remember singing ‘Just can’t get enough’! (Depeche Mode) whilst riding down famous streets of the capital. It’s a number from the East London choir I am part of, Hackney Secular Singers. Felt most apt to sing in such high spirits. My original intention to bring more women to the ride did not exactly transpire, but it is in the intention that matters. My presence was there, and Natasha remarked that there were more women than the last year, we just want to keep growing that number.

When we stopped at the lights, Steve caught me and Julian

When we stopped at the lights, Steve caught me and Julian

celebration, and lovely painted women

celebration, and lovely painted women

with Natasha, who managed to raise money whilst riding (and being photographed) for Help for Heroes

with Natasha, who managed to raise money whilst riding (and being photographed) for Help for Heroes

gorgeous group shot - other friends were scattered about, but this unit emerged to keep reconvening!

gorgeous group shot – other friends were scattered about, but this unit emerged to keep reconvening!

best painted rider - took 2 days to prepare apparently! He had a tail too. Photo by Camila Gelber

best painted rider – took 2 days to prepare apparently! He had a tail too. Photo by Camila

Camila caught us at the beginning of the ride

Camila caught us at the beginning of the ride

One more thing. At the end when we were dressed again at Hyde Park Corner, and people were disbanding, I did not know what to do. I was not ready to go home. Just like that and it confused me, so when friends had gone, I stayed a while and cycled back towards Marble Arch uncertain where to or why. Then I saw a couple who had clearly been on the ride (he was still almost nude except literally a loin cloth), and I recognised the woman who had been riding near us. Older couple, very sweet, in fact are good friends not partners. They said hello and invited me to have tea with them in the dusk of the park. Turned out to be the perfect way to unwind, chatting with fellow riders, from Wales in this case, quietly after the chaos. Making friends and sharing stories of naked escapades (these two travel far and wide for it), and having friends to be nude with when your partner isn’t that bothered about that scene. Made lots of sense, I’m sure I’ll see them again.

With thanks to all who shared in this, and Steve, Camila and Matthew for sharing photos and Richard for the film. Here is a link to more pictures discovered on Flickr by Darren –

Till next time!