In The Pattern artists Helen Billinghurst and Phil Smith, in their multi-layered personae of Crab & Bee and Smoke & Mirrors, offer a handbook for exploration, embodiment and art making in strange times. Uncovering a tattoo in the landscape, they describe the secrets of ‘web-walking’ and a journey of remarkable encounters.
Setting out to walk the margins of Plymouth (UK), using a labyrinth as a mental map, they found themselves exposed to a weird and ailing world of buried rivers, needle-strewn woodlands and heritage sites repurposed as smack dens. In response, as both survival-strategy and poiesis, the authors reinvented themselves and their journey as a ‘fictioning’, generating multiple identities and joining in with numerous long-running stories. Rather than just walking the path, in their new personae they could become entangled with it and found themselves spun out in an ever widening series of quests that took in the Scilly Isles, South Wales, Yorkshire and East Anglia.
In the face of looming division and climate catastrophe, the terrain itself seemed to be knitting together its own responses and Crab, Bee, Smoke & Mirrors followed the threads. On dragon hills and in white springs, along red paths and at the ‘edge of the known world’, they intuited signposts in the landscape to a way of making art and being in the world; this is the route map they left behind.