In a disused chalk quarry in the summer of 2021, Webb-Ellis collaborated with young people from Gravesend to co-create an imaginary world and alternative environment for learning. Using methods of philosophical enquiry, radical listening, dance, drawing and singing, the artists and young people worked together to weave a fractured narrative which became the basis for This place is a message.
In our age of accelerating technological development, environmental crisis, and sociopolitical complexity, This place is a message blends documentary and fiction to imagine a future that has evolved beyond the limits of our current iteration of homo sapiens. It positions children and young people as seers and prophets, and in questioning how we might communicate the danger of buried nuclear waste to future beings 24,000 years into the future, the young people become our guides, reflecting on humanity’s current state and envisioning possible posthuman futures.
As part of the process of making This place is a message, young people worked with choreographer Lucy Suggate and vocalist Phil Minton, to test the limits of human expression and communication, making space for the body to speak, protest, and disobey.
Webb-Ellis also exchanged handwritten letters with posthuman philosopher Francesca Ferrando; artist Jade Montserrat; writer Péjú Oshin; and biologist Rupert Sheldrake, around the themes of language, the body, our present moment and possible futures. The letters, drawings, transcripts and paintings from these exchanges, along with a collaboration with philosopher Grace Lockrobin, who led a group of 9-12 year olds to inquire into the possibilities of deep time communication, are collected together in Markers, a publication designed by Rose Nordin, which accompanies the film.
This place is a message is 27 minutes long on a loop. Visit at any point during the opening times.
Commissioned by Cement Fields for This Must Be the Place and supported by Arts Council England and Ebbsfleet Development Corporation. Developed as part of a Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded residency with Northfleet Technology College and Northfleet School for Girls.