Snakes and Ladders:
An evening of Art, Science and Religion at the Bunyan Meeting 27/7 2013

Supported by Arts Council England

Art, science and religion cover a huge quantity and range of issues which help to construct vast aspects of humanity; these arts events are the first responses to the the 'archetypal interviews' developed for and supported by the
'snakes and ladders' project. ‘Snakes and Ladders’ shows a new body of collaborative artworks and presents the first findings from the project using multi-media in the fabulous and historic timbered Large Hall at the Bunyan Meeting, Bedford.

Collaboration is an integral part of Annett’s working practice and for the Bunyan Meeting event she has worked with regional and national groups and individuals focussing on cultural differences surrounding women and sexuality in different cultures. The outcomes are varied and flexible; identify key areas of potential action and use intervention, cinematic experimentation, disruption, physical action [the human body] connectivity, provocation, reflection and play. It showcases the meditative text ‘Pilgrimage’ in a spoken word performance by Rowena Willard Wright, senior curator, English Heritage S.E. and ‘Response’ a piece of expanded cinema produced by the sixth form students and the film and media department of Wootton Academy, Bedford.

Six key foci have emerged;

·       Consciousness

·       The environment and climate change

·       Women’s rights across all disciplines/globally

·       The specificity of language

·       The aesthetics of scientific process

·       The problematic dialogue surrounding religion and gender/sexual politics

Emerging artistic themes relate to;



Ritual and play

Artistic outputs:

8 short lectures and animations, as well as visual artworks along side the participatory and collaborative elements. The lectures and performances/participatory events; ‘Response’, ‘Pilgrimage’ and several short discussions.
The evening ends with a small feast and a large discussion.
The Doors to the Large Hall shut at 7.00pm sharp with no admittance or exit until the intervals.

The ‘Response’ audience will be asked to participate in both the cinematic and technological elements, and are requested to download candle applications for mobile phones before arrival.
These can be found at:
iPhone: Virtual Candle Free
Nokia Lumia: Candle
Blackberry: Candle Live Motion Wallpaper
Samsung Galaxy: free My Candle app.
Windows Phone: Flickering Candle Light.
We will request that phones are kept on during the performance.

Rowena Willard-Wright, historian and author has created ‘Pilgrimage’ a performance piece of poetry and meditation for the evening. Expanding the theme of journeying, in both real and imaginary worlds has been one of the on going subjects of ‘snakes and ladders’. In this piece it engages directly in the specific, religious and literary, local history of the region. Bedford and Bunyan, followed by religious sects such as 'The Panacea Society', located within 100 Yards of the Bunyan, have been at the heart of British religious non-conformism since the 1600’s. There are very real scientific and environmental themes which, will also be addressed and the idea of ‘the pilgrim within a landscape’ serves to stress this. This ‘landscape’ is, at all times a critical backdrop and highlights our human relationship with environment, ecology and our place, religious or secular within it. Another key theme is that of ritual, whether the ritual of cleaning your teeth, playing football, the weekly shop, blowing out candles on a birthday cake, a visit to the hair salon, presenting a scientific paper or performing a wedding ceremony. This work examines and immerses the audience in the processes and thinking around the history and function of ritual and of the languages we speak and use.

'Response' is a piece of expanded cinema by Avneet Chauhan, Alex Deeley and Kelly Garner of Wootton Academy, Bedford developed with and in response to the presentation and questionnaires constructed by Annett to highlight the connectivity’s and problems around contemporary science and religion. It uses an established and familiar narrative (the Nativity) as the starting point and detours through time and history in brave and unsettling ways. The content shows an awareness and maturity, which is often unexpected and illustrates the impact of international digital media upon young people in the UK. ‘Response’ is much more than a single screen film show, and the audience will become part of the process of editing and making. Please see the sections ‘Pilgrimage’ and ‘Response’ on the main website for more information and images. Trigger warnings for sexual and emotional violence, strong language.

"There is, culturally, an established relationship between arts and science practice, and historically between religion and science. This second relationship has been largely removed from public consciousness and a perception created that the two disciplines are at odds. In reality this is not the case and the rivalism would appear to be driven by various political ambitions. One of the aims of this project is the sharing of ideas and ideals across the disciplines of contemporary artistic, scientific, religious and cultural bodies. Ethically and morally, there is a strong need for parameters within the living sciences, as so much of their funding is provided by military and governmental sources, this applies as much to health and medicine as to weaponry. Religion provides a strong and ethical counter point to some of these issues. Yet at the same time can also be the bastion of some of the worst historical and entrenched violations against human rights for women and the LGBT minorities. These two groups in fact comprise a global majority. It is a morally, muddy world, full of grey areas. This seems to be an aspect of human nature with its own evolutionary ties, prompts and neurological patterning. So where do these factions agree? Science and religion are agreed on environment; on the hyper real concept of climate change and poverty. Two clear factors are driving this; in the so-called 'Western world' it is over consumption, in the developing world it is over population. The two things are out of control. We must consider what kind of a future we are leaving for our children. In conversation with Alice Sharp of Invisible Dust, I half jokingly say that I wish to change the name of this project ‘the sins of the fathers’. I am also not alone in the realisation that we may have past the ‘tipping point’ as far as climate change is concerned, and that it is ostensibly already too late. Nearly everybody (I know) over consumes, drastically and has no intention of altering their lifestyle, so how do we address this? What kind of a world are we leaving to our children. How do we prepare for it? Do we build an ‘Ark’? 
Above all else, this project has allowed me to examine the formidable output of the human mind. What it is capable of, attached to a human will (ego/DNM) individually and collectively is quite incomprehensible, we are indeed unlike any other species on the planet. Yet we are connected, more than this, we are interconnected inescapably.
I ask others for answers too, this is not a solo project, only collaboration and communication move it forward. I rely heavily on information provided by other people. The work asks simple questions, which can provide complex and varied answers. It questions where the public goes to find their answers to the bigger, or existential questions in life; a priest, a scientist, a teacher, a doctor or the Internet?  It addresses the function and experience of consciousness and its expression as ritualized, habitual and often unquestioned practices, which in 21C Britain can range from football to shopping. At this point the project has worked more closely with Christian and Jewish traditions but is not linked to a specific orthodox tradition and respects an individual’s personal experience of divinity or the sacred and the places it can be found. Historically people were forced to rely up reflection, memory and day-dreaming alongside story telling. These are linked as well to notions of prayer and meditation. But reflection, comparison and memory are key to the practice of science as well, and the transmission of information through writing and symbol is key to both. Imagination is also fundamental to both science and art. The evolution of consciousness is a theme identified in the ‘snakes and ladders’ project, there is a metaphorical journey implied here too. If ‘reflection’ is the first, the second artistic concept is ‘pilgrimage’ and the second event of the two is specially hosted in the large hall at the Bunyan Meeting, and references Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrims Progress’ on many levels. ‘Pilgrimage’; implies a journey, possibly one with religious significance or importance. Destinations for such pilgrims can include places of national or cultural importance. It can also describe an internal journey. There is sometimes a perceived intellectual split and a rivalism between secular atheism and those with sincere religious beliefs. The Sciences and Religions of the world are in a process of reformation and the gulf between secular and religious communities ever widening. Our technology is still evolving, and the artworks produced in conjunction with developing technologies, may in ten years time, seem simplistic and naive; this does not make them invalid. Remaining key to these developments are the moral, ethical, environmental and economic issues that science raises. The systems and dialogues used to regulate this, in turn, are based on critical techniques developed in the worlds of art history and religion." Annett 2013