Gwales (2021)

Lloyd’s immersive installation Gwales presents a fictional narrative of a group of people who, after years of being priced out of their family homes, have tunnelled into a stack of big bales to create the new home of Gwales. From what’s at hand they try to re-create their culture. They arrange images of their cultural icons and their last possessions, some significant, some banal. From the silage bales they brew beer and cut records in an attempt to re-create the good times, but they begin to forget and drift into oblivion.

Lloyd drew on his own experience of growing up in the St Davids peninsula, from sources such as Welsh ’70s pop culture, adventures in derelict buildings, and the wild sea. Osi Rhys Osmond’s aphorism ‘Cultural Alzheimer’s’, used to explain the forgetting of Welsh identity, influenced his decision to work as Bricoleur to combine humble materials and objects of farm buildings, which seemed so easy to abandon but speak of families, communities, and spirit.

The title of the installation, Gwales, is taken from the Mabinogion and features in the passage ‘The Assembly of the Wondrous Head’. On this island otherworld, a group of companions, led by the speaking severed head of Bendigeidfran, the giant and king of Britain, live a carefree and fulfilled eighty years in a marble palace. Here they remain oblivious to the outside world, until the opening of a forbidden door is opened as a matter of course and harsh realities return.

Meredydd Barker was commissioned by Lloyd to retell the myth of Gwales. This work has been published into a booklet, illustrated by Lily Zee Hughes, which you are invited to take for free.

In a contemporary context, Gwales can be read as an exploration of the housing crisis, where the local population have been priced out of their own homes by unregulated expansion of second homes, Airbnb, and holiday cottages. In this sense the opening of the forbidden door of Gwales is the realisation that, as Mererid Hopwood put it, ’we cannot live in oblivion and pretend that all is well but must look and see and act’.

Seamus Fogarty was commissioned to create the soundtrack around the idea of oblivion, of it he says, ‘it’s a simple piece that uses repetition to evoke a sense of looking back and remembering’. Ceramicist Jonathan Hughes was commissioned to create beer bottles for the shelves of artefacts. Special thanks to Dai Hamilton, Gareth Clark, Laura Phillips, and Steffan Jones-Hughes.

Gwales has been supported by the Arts Council of Wales.