Earlier this year I won a GM Covid Commission to create a piece of work exploring life during the coronavirus pandemic. The work now forms part of a digital archive of artistic responses from creatives living and working in Greater Manchester. I created The Pengguling Egg – an invented, poetic origin myth where the narrative elements are derived and abstracted from news stories, social media shares and questionnaire responses (thank you SO much to everyone who sent a reply and shared their stories).
The Pengguling Egg story is in part our own complex journey – one in which many of us have experienced fear, anxiety and loss, while others have found a new kind of contentment in slowness and domesticity. It's also a story of our precarious relationship to nature in which our customs and behaviours pose a potentially fatal threat to ourselves and the species we share the earth with. Think about the pangolin, for example, who takes the lead in this invented myth. The pangolin is the world's most trafficked and highly endangered animal, and was initially suspected to be at the heart of the coronavirus scientific origin story. Like the civet (or 'Toddy cat') during the SARS outbreak, the pangolin found itself facing threat of mass culling and potential extinction.
Finally, the work is a kind of clumsy collective narrative in which ancient mythologies from different cultures across the world become tangled and entwined... as are our fates. To accompany the written story, I hand carved and pressed a detailed linoleum print in the style of Azoth woodcuts from the 1600s. I chose this aesthetic since Azoth is the "essential agent of transformation" in alchemy. It felt apt for a story of change and renewal.
At some point I'll share a few more details about where the narrative elements came from (the pangolin, the toddy cat, the hoodwink bird, the terrapin, and so on...), but for now I hope you enjoy the work.