project image
Hellen Burrough

first performed on June 21, 2019
River Thames, Docklands East London and Raw Labs Gallery, London, UK
performed once in 2019


London, UK


On June 21, 2019 at 4:43am, the sun rose on the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year, a point of reflection for this durational work; a boundary of time on an intersection of elemental, geographic, and our psychogenic landscape / s. Since performing our last major piece, we (TJB) began identifying in 2019 as non-binary, taking time to reconsider our catalogue of previous actions: re-examining each artwork following a Mental Health (MH) diagnosis in 2016.

“Chthonic” commenced at 51.5050185, 0.0777211 on the edge of the River Thames, beginning in a forgotten wasteland, where modernisation met the fading industrial, the pressures of regeneration and a dwindling natural land. As the sun broke on the horizon, we ignited a pyre of 500 bones, a material resonating with our MH concerns; each held a corrupted energy imbued with purgatory as discarded objects from an industry we loath, yet beautiful in their isolation. Reborn through fire, we cleansed the bones and carefully transported them one at a time—repeating the journey over 22 km in total—to a new beginning. Purified through smoke and flame, these destroyed joints and fragile Self (s) had their avulsions held, then in a gallery they were slowly bound in jute and installed in sculpture; never fully healed but somehow surviving.

“Chthonic” created an artwork that was imbued with a fresh understanding of who we are in our 39th year. Ritualistically it commenced a de/constructive process; sculpting the corporeal Being, intangible Self/s, and a space that held a monochromatic cross of bones. This installation was not a crucifix but rather mapped path/s of psychogenesis; an intersection held somewhere between purgatory and peacefulness. Surveying boundaries, we moved through “Chthonic” external / internal environments, acknowledging the reciprocal intervention that occurs between both.

Material: 500 cow knuckle bones, 3 km jute twine, 50 l liquid latex, 8 l paraffin, hessian sackcloth, sage smudge sticks, Ikaros signal flare, Enola Gaye red smoke cover device.

Action: Durational performance from 4:43am to 9:21pm (16 hours 38 minutes). At sunrise, a pyre of 500 knuckle bones is ignited. The fired bones and ash are walked individually to a new location. A 22 km journey between two set points. By sunset, the bones are bound and sealed; processed into a sculpture of healing using jute twine and liquid latex. Visitors to the sculpture were then invited to provide a new home to the bound knuckles.