Caves, Dwellings & Vibration: The Shape of Emptiness by Flora Parrott and Frank Pearson
This is an edited recording of The Shape of Emptiness by Flora Parrott and Frank Pearson. This discussion took place during day 1 of Caves, Dwellings & Vibration, a two-day programme deepening and complexifying our relationship with caves through talks, music, film and performances.
The Shape of Emptiness borrows its title from speleologist and poet Frank Pearson’s recent two-part article for caving magazine Descent. The article describes the extraordinary discoveries in Fing Hopeless Pot in Lancashire by Pearson and the group of ‘space miners’ with whom Pearson explores the cave networks around Leck Fell every week.
In this conversation, Pearson and Parrott describe their ongoing collaboration and correspondences of and around caving, which informs both Parrott’s sculptures and textiles, and Pearson’s poetry. They give further insights into how underground openings, vertical caves, and waterfalls in Lancashire allowed further exploration of remembered caves in Mulu, Malaysia, and how this corresponds to Pearson’s imaginative work on translation of Laozi’s Prose Poetry (with Lian Xiaomin and Yu Feixia).
Flora Parrott is an artist working in sculpture and textiles, she trained in Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art and The Royal College of Art. Her work explores subterranean spaces, deep darkness and everyday geologies. Recent projects include ‘Rates of Decay’, Quench Gallery in Margate, ‘I’m In The Bath On All Fours’, a project made in collaboration with South African writer, Lindiwe Matshikiza, recently shown at Eastside Projects in Birmingham as part of Sonia Boyce’s ‘In The Castle Of My Skin’, and MIMA Middlesbrough in 2021. Flora has exhibited nationally and internationally at spaces including: Legion Projects, Well Projects, Oi Futuro, Brazil, Projecto Fidalga, Brazil, Museum of GeoScience University of Sao Paulo, Oriel Myrddin, The Bluecoat, Tintype London and Wysing Arts Centre. Flora is a post-doctoral researcher on the European Research Council funded project Think Deep based in the Geography Department at Royal Holloway University London.
Frank Pearson has climbed mountains and descended caves in various parts of the world for nearly 50 years. He is a member of the Mulu Caves Project which aims to explore and survey the caves of Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo. He searches for and explores caves in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is the Northern Correspondent for Descent, the magazine of underground exploration, and for the British Cave Research Association annual conference, Hidden Earth.
His PhD was research into the development of cave exploration and subterranean consciousness through travel writing, poetry, prose fiction, philosophy, and geology and chemistry between 1680 and 1830. He studies Chinese language, literature and philosophy and collaborated with Lian Xiaomin and Yu Feixia in translating the Classical Chinese philosophical text, Laozi’s Dao De Jing, published in China this year.
He is interested in comparing Classical Chinese landscape and spatial aesthetics with those of Western thought. Though retired from teaching, he still gives lectures and writes on cave exploration, the history of science, Romantic literature, Classical Chinese landscape poetry and painting. He also works part-time as a research assistant and editor, and he writes poetry. He is currently collaborating with the artist, Flora Parrott, on the Deep Thinking Project at Royal Holloway University.