mobile navigation
Blog - Deborah Caulfield

Odyssey: A dream-like journey where nothing might have happened, except it did.


In November 2018 I answered an open call to disabled artists by ArtShape for artwork on the theme of Odyssey, for their Art Bridge Evolve Project.

I submitted a 3 minute video entitled Passing Through. Imagine my joy when I opened the email from the organisers saying my video had been accepted. It would be displayed on a screen of some sort.

The starting point for making the video was my interpretation of Odyssey as epic voyage, a long and adventurous journey.

Like all art, Passing Through is open to interpretation. For me, it speaks to my work-in-progress approach to both my arts practice and life as a whole. It also references the push/pull drama that is so much a part of living with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), the legacy of an abusive and institutionalised childhood.

The main images were already on my hard drive. I’d captured them a few months before, with my tablet’s camera, one breezy, sunny day made for day-dreaming and doodling while listening to Woman’s Hour.

My living room net curtains were billowing inwards, looking like the sails of a ship. The window-frame cast strong vertical and horizontal shadows, like a ships’ masts. It sounds cheesy perhaps, but it was a fantastic sight, quite exhilarating.

Window, sheer curtains and shadows.

Still from Passing Through. 2018

The aerial photo in the video is of Black Notley Hospital, a sanatorium in Essex where I spent two years recovering (almost) from TB spine. The cobbled-together soundtrack includes free library music and soundeffects (eg. wind, broken crockery, cracking fire).

Old mono photo of Deborah as a child in hospital bed flanked by three nurses.

The artist as a sick child, smiles all round. Circa 1953.

I’m not really a film-maker, but I love playing with the basic movie-making software on my PC. I enjoyed making Passing Through so much that I haven’t made another video since. It felt fortuitous, a random, unrepeatable coming together of elements. And oh, the sense of unbelievable success when I sent it off.

Pens in a pot

Pens in a pot. 2017

I was invited to the exhibition‘s opening event in Gloucester Cathedral on January 29th 2019. It ran from 1:30 to 8:30 pm, starting with an artists’ meet-and-greet, which is arguably the most important part for artists. Why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to talk about my work?

Access. Too far, too long, too painful. Too much. I didn’t go. I couldn’t, I really couldn’t.

I received no feedback on the video, and my name isn’t on the list of contributing artists. So what happened? Maybe it wasn’t actually shown for technical or other reasons. It’s taken a year for me to pluck up the courage to contact ArtShape to ask. I emailed yesterday. Nothing back yet. I’ll keep you posted.

I sometimes wonder if it’s all just a fantasy, this art thing. But no, I checked. I do exist and the video can be viewed on Vimeo and on my website, along with other examples of my work. I’m still day-dreaming, still doodling, and still (but less often) listening to Woman’s Hour.


Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stephen Wallis
Stephen Wallis
5 months ago

I was struck by that still, before reading anything about it. I thought it was a painting or print, and I had an instant impression or suggestion of some stage work, gauzes in front of dancers maybe, and then a sense of massed bodies on a nautical journey, so hats off, well done and bravo for spotting all that in your curtains 🙂
I hope you find out what happened to the film.

Deborah Caulfield
Deborah Caulfield
5 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Wallis

Cheers, Steve. Lovely of you to leave feedback. Much appreciated. No word yet from Arts Shape … x

Kate R
Kate R
5 months ago

I definitely remember now when you mentioned it had been accepted and was due to be played at Gloucester Cathedral. I think it’s amazing. I have various stills of shadows on net curtains and the fluttering transience speaks to me. I can also very much relate to the meet and speaking bit with other artists being the scariest thing. I can’t do it any more, and could hardly do it in the past. It’s probably hardest of all with writing because people expect you to read from your work but also they expect artists to be ‘physically present’ rather than… Read more »

Deborah Caulfield
Deborah Caulfield
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate R

I was overjoyed to have my video accepted. I remember there was a last minute panic (mine) with the audio, which meant I was late getting the final cut to them. So this may have caused them to pull it. That said, there are few problems that can’t be sorted out with goodwill and good communication. I’m pretty sure the video never saw the cathedral’s light of day, but it would be nice to know, nice to have been told. In the end though, it’s OK. The video got made and I’m proud of it. And I’m having this conversation… Read more »

Richard Downes
5 months ago

Magical Mystery Tour
Will never seem so Magical
So Mystical
As it did
The day
Way back when
The breeze
Blew the curtains in
Just as the piano solo
Started and ended
Just as I cooled
In the heat of summer
Just my tour begins
Magical and Mystical

Like a Deborah Caulfield film

Deborah Caulfield
Deborah Caulfield
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard Downes

What a lovely poem, Rich. And so perceptive. Thank you. xx

Richard Downes
5 months ago

you’re film and blog reminded me of a precious moment Deborah so many thanks for that too. XX

Ann Young
4 months ago

I read this blog and watched the film some weeks ago but didn’t have the time to respond then; yet this film has stayed with me, haunting me in the wee hours when my mind wants to roam. Something primordial in me responded to the movement and I was transported to old Viking ships and the flight of birds. As if some buried memory surfaced and merged with my personal experiences of mobility. I was reminded of days spent at boarding school looking out of huge windows dreaming of freedom. I can’t believe that people were not moved by this… Read more »

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x