We Are Seven: Artist Commune Project

The We Are Seven Commune Project was a month long artist residency for Seven New York based artists. A collaboration between Grizedale Arts and The Wordsworth Trust, the artists were based in the scenic tourist hub of The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, Lake District, UK. Artists were Ian Cooper, Daphne Fitzpatrick, Rachel Foullon, K8 Hardy, Adam Putnam, Dana Sherwood, Allison Smith.

Location: Edinburgh

The Embassy is a non-profit making artist-run gallery. The gallery holds a yearly programme of exhibitions and events, hosts video and performance nights at Edinburgh College of Art, and exhibits at off site projects including Zoo Art Fair.
Current Embassy Committee:
Angela Beck
John A. Harrington
Norman James Hogg
Daniella Watson

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We Are seven

The poem 'We are seven' by William Wordsworth provided a canny link between the seven artists and The Wordsworth Trust. Although indirectly linked, the magical number seven became a significant feature during the commune project. Wordsworth resided in Dove Cottage from 1799 until 1808, the cottage and surrounding landscape is a major hub for poetry enthusiasts and tourists alike. In 1890, Stopford Brooke argued that Dove Cottage should be opened up to the wider public. He stated to the board of trustees that this was an important thing because,

"There is no place,...which has so many thoughts and memories as to this belonging to our poetry; none at least in which they are so closely bound up with the poet and the poems... in every part of this little place [Wordsworth] has walked with his sister and wife or talked with Coleridge. And it is almost untouched. Why should we not try and secure it, ...for eternal possession of those who love English poetry all over the world"

This almost untouched landscape has changed, through the influx of tourists, and conflicting interests of locals, second home interlopers and other types. The commune members did not appear to engage with these problematics directly, as I imagine Grizedale Arts would wish they would and The Wordsworth Trust would hope they wouldn't. However the level of environmental consumption in The Lakes may have seemed different to these artists coming from New York. In any case this level of tourism and fetishising of the landscape keeps growing as does the amount of traffic, particularly in the peak summer season. I guess these problems shouldn't be ignored and the area should be looked at critically. However why did this residency need to be the place for this discussion to happen? Each artist came overseas with particular agendas so there was no reason for the assumption that they would prioritize these issues. They were directed by their particular interests.

William Wordsworth

We Are Seven

—A simple Child,

That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:

Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”

“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;

And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,

My sister and my brother;

And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,

Yet ye are seven!—I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,

“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,

Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,

Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,

And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;

And there upon the ground I sit,

And sing a song to them.

“And often after sunset, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,

Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,

My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,

And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!

Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still

The little Maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!


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