Preview: Simon Whitehead – Afield & Louphole

Pings, Simon Whitehead, 2008. Photo courtesy the artist

Exhibition: Afield & Louphole by Simon Whitehead, Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Powys, February 6 – April 7 2010.

With a background in both geography and dance, Simon Whitehead has an unusual CV. But it does mean he is well placed to stage physical encounters with landscape.

Whitehead has been using ‘pedestrian practices’ to investigate the meaning of various locations for over a decade. These include dance, improvised movement and, one imagines, walking.

Video is used to document his geo-choreographic explorations and much of the artist’s work is collaborative. Sound art and artefacts also feature in the new show, entitled Afield.

When not responding to landscapes, Whitehead is responding to wolves. During a 2005 residency in Canada he became fascinated by their fearsome call.

“The wolf howls called up a physical sensation I had not experienced before, an excitement probably rendered by the folk tales of this legendary outlaw as well as some primal response to the proximity of another predator,” he has said.

“We never saw the wolves, they are rarely seen by humans, which made their evanescence even more compelling.”

Having returned to Wales, his artistic base, Whitehead began to consider the fate of local wolves, which were hunted to extinction in the 16th century. Now he has devised a long-overdue tribute, a participatory event called Louphole.

So visitors to Newtown should not be surprised by freak sightings or hearings of wolves. And on March 4 the Newtown Silver Band will play a wolf-inspired composition by sound artist Barnaby Oliver.

Louphole will culminate in the first ever public howl to be held in Wales and possibly the UK. It must be a far cry from geography lectures and dance lessons.

Written for Culture24.

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