This video performance work combines the shared experience of lockdown gardening with figures in isolation: Homer’s Penelope; anchoress Julian of Norwich; abbess Hildegard von Bingen; and the Virgin Mary as hortus conclusus – an enclosed garden. The work asserts these women’s relevance as emblems of solitary contemplation. Shot in several horticultural spaces, the piece irreverently evokes monastic herb gardens and medieval hortus conclusus paintings. Compost heaps are included as reminders of the possibility of patiently generating something new from discarded remnants of the past. Many of the actions performed are reversed or undone, echoing Penelope unpicking her weaving each night. This doing, undoing and re-doing reflects our uncertain present moment. But by being situated in cultivated sanctuaries for healing and transformation, the actions suggest an affinity with Julian’s description of salvation as an ‘again-making’. The garden is a space in which to be regrown.

Commissioned by Margate NOW 2021: Sunken Ecologies which is guest curated by Anna Colin and is only made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Kent County Council, and support from the Sunken Garden Society, Interreg Experience and Visit Kent.