'To inhabit is to make traces'. Walter Benjamin
We leave our mark on the places where we tread; we can easily follow in the footsteps of others, following the path they have forged. St Luke tells us
‘When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.’ (Luke 9.51)
It was a path that would lead to the cross and his disciples were following in his footsteps, they were being led in the same direction. In Lent we set our face towards Jerusalem, towards Calvary and towards the garden with the empty tomb. The path will take us over hard ground until we step on the dew-covered grass with Mary and leave our mark.
Over the centuries Southwark Cathedral has welcomed millions of people and they have left their mark. We can find the evidence of their footprints in worn stone, in steps sculpted by use, in memorial inscriptions wearing smooth as though our dead are disappearing from memory.
Alison Clark in her Lent installation for this year has captured the evidence in the prints of the prints she has made. They cascade from the High Altar screen, a footpath for our footsteps.
The Apache people of North America have a traditional blessing which includes these words
‘May you walk gently through the world‘
We invite you to walk with us, to walk with Jesus, to tread gently but realising that even a gentle step leaves an indelible mark.
may I follow in your footsteps,
walk the path you trod,
tread with care, but with courage,
step lightly, but firmly,
with my heart set on heaven
and my vision fixed on you.
Take me to Jerusalem.
The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark
Buildings bear traces of the lives of the people who have inhabited those spaces. A Cathedral bears traces of lives lived over the centuries, worn into the stonework and trodden into the paved floors. It can become like a slow sculpture. This footfall includes those of pilgrims and priests, visitors and regular worshippers.
‘Footfall’, this year’s Lent art installation sets out to make these traces visible. Working with fine printmaker’s scrim and printer’s ink, Alison Clark has made prints of places in the Cathedral that have been worn by the footfall. She has worked with ‘ledger stones’ – the memorial stones set in the floor of the Retrochoir.
The prints include those taken from the oldest known ledger stone in the building, thought to be dating from the 1340s. These largescale prints on cloth, stretching to over 15 metres, have been handstitched together and embroidered with linen thread.
Alison Clark is a British artist whose work includes drawing, painting, printmaking and installation. Her work revolves around a sense of place, whether documenting a shoreline and sky or printmaking from the interior of a church building. Her arts practice involves close attention to materials, both in her choice of subject and in her interest in the process of making. She has exhibited across the UK including in Orkney where she is a member of Soulisquoy Printmakers.
The artwork is supported by Westhill Endowment (www.westhillendowment.org) and a private donor.
For further information about Alison, please visit her website here
Footfall is on display at the High Altar from Wednesday 6 March to Friday 19 April.