The Far Paradise

From Planet 219

Ben Lloyd gives the back-story to his new exhibition which includes the persecution of Welsh Quakers, beach detritus and why there is a road to New York on the Pembrokeshire coast...

My installation ‘The Road to New York’ opened at g39, Cardiff on 10 April and will reopen at Oriel y Parc, St Davids on 12 August. The installation features a flying kayak, five metres in length, constructed from sheets of clear casting resin embedded with translucent cigarette lighters combed from Pembrokeshire beaches, which has then been suspended on wires and spotlit. The project was supported by the Arts Council of Wales.

Here follows a small part of the back-story of how this project came about and for the most part covers my investigation into local Quaker history, but also touches upon other narratives that were equally important to the project.

‘The Road to New York’ is a cart track that leads up and around Carn Llidi on the St Davids coast. The track’s broken down walls draw your eye towards the horizon, and then looking down you can make out the remains of a very small village of four or five terraced houses. This is the abandoned Quaker village known locally today as Maes y Mynydd, formerly known as Pennsylvania by its aspiring inhabitants. There are still many tales in the area of the persecution of its Quakers and of their culture and principles, but by the early 20th century the village lay empty.

My initial notes flowed as I remembered the accounts of local Quakers who had set sail for the New World and soon my focus was broadening to include other narratives of escapism to and from my hometown of St Davids. For example, my own escape from St Davids when I was a teenager, or the way in which tourists escape their busy city lives for a piece of wild Pembrokeshire. With plastic kayaks strapped onto their cars, they set up camp and cook on disposable BBQs like consumer hunter-gatherers. I made plans to photograph their activities.

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