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J a n e t  M c E w a n

Stone Circle

Installation/performance/film inspired by surrealist painter Ithell Colqhoune's life and work - especially "The Living Stones", a travel book , about Cornwall.

An edit of footage produced wads presented at  Loop the Loop, St Ives 2-14 June 2014.


Dance Stone Dance. 1.30mins. 2014.    


Select a small stone from the garden.

Crush with a mortar and pestle.

Fix the pounded matter onto 16mm clear leader.

Loop the film to form a circle of stone.


This experimental film was produced while researching the Merry Maidens Stone Circle, a well known ancient monument situated near St Buryan’s in Cornwall for a collaborative project “We Are Petrified”. This stone circle is known in Cornish language as the Dans Maen, which translates as Dancing Stones. The myth is that a group of young women and two pipers were turned to stone for dancing past midnight on a Saturday.

Despite having spent many years working as a sculptor with stone I had never witnessed a stone dance. I had also never produced a 16mm film before. However inspired by the work of Stan Brakhage, I decided to explore how film might convey the qualities of stone. It was a pretty messy business, almost a battle between the stone and the projector who were rather reluctant dance partners.

The glitchy footage of my first attempt, recorded with a DSLR camera, reminds me of other more durational environmental cycles, which surrealist painter and author Ithell Colquhoun (1906 – 1988) refers to in her book about Cornwall, ‘The Living Stones’. ‘The life of a region depends ultimately on its geologic substratum, for this sets up a chain-reaction which passes, determining their character, in turn through its streams and wells, its vegetation and the animal-life that feeds on this, and finally through the type of human being attracted to live there.’

There are several copies of this out of print book held within the quiet, but perhaps not still, stone walls of Cornwall Library Service buildings. I was grateful to be able to borrow one for this small project that considers the distinctions between animate & inanimate and materiality of media.

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