Within the Wheatfield
Madaleine Trigg

Within the Wheatfield is from a series of performances that explore the relationship between human bodies and materials.

This project started when I began to work with flour; a simple but significant substance that is a staple food for many cultures. As I kneaded dough, I wondered how much land is required for one loaf of bread. Rather than speculate, this work revealed how much labour and land is necessary to make bread from the beginning.

Starting in November 2020, I spent six months digging, planting, harvesting and burning a 3 x 8m wheatfield in a suburban backyard, beside a railway line in Lower Hutt. My performance art practice shifted from contact improvisations with materials to private agricultural rituals within the wheatfield.

I laid on the earth, grounded, skin to soil. Taking the dibber I had hand-made out of Jarrah wood, I pushed it into the earth. Carefully two wheat seeds were placed in each hole and covered with soil. These heritage wheat varieties; Velvet New Zealand, Turvey, White Lammas and Australian Talavera are grains from the 1800s. Would our taste buds travel back in time when we bite into this bread? What does flour that isn’t genetically modified or chemically contaminated taste like?

The repetitive rhythm of working in the wheatfield made me meditative. It also nearly broke me. After visiting the field I would have sores on my skin, sunburn, itchy bites and a bad back. I would return though and instantly forget about the pain; instead enchanted by the growing grains. The wheat constantly surprised me.

Working with the wheat over this six-month performance, I became intimately involved and invested in them. I realised that wheat is not a material but a living being, a companion. Taking time to attend to these grains; my awareness became heightened to the creatures that inhabited this field and the changes within the weather and wheat. Growing is not a fixed state. Life is constantly evolving and affecting us all.

Every time I visited the wheatfield, I would weed. Although these plants were unwanted, I began to realise their importance nevertheless. The wheat was part of a delicate ecosystem and every living being has a role to play within this. Those weeds were most probably more important than me in the life of the wheatfield.

This video invites us to dwell in this grounded perspective, taking the time to notice the elements and species that surround us.

Many hands were involved in this fieldwork.
Special thanks to Neill and Nala for sharing their land with me. I am grateful to Mark Christensen and David Hughes (from the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust) for their expertise, enthusiasm and the precious wheat seeds. Kedron Parker, Mike Heynes and Johanna Mechen were vital companions in documenting the rituals in the wheatfield. I deeply appreciate Julieanna Preston and Martin Partick’s provocations and pastoral support.
This project wouldn’t have happened without these ancient grains of wheat; Velvet New Zealand, Turvey, Australian Talavera and White Lammas. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the soil, sun, bugs, birds, bees, bacteria, dogs, worms, water, weeds and other companion species that have inhabited this work and the world.

Artist Biography
Madaleine Trigg is a performance artist and photographer. Curious about the properties and performativity of materials, Madaleine’s work focuses on the evolution of these entities by moving with them.
Originally from the UK, Madaleine moved to Wellington in 2018 to pursue a practice-led PhD at the College of Creative Arts, Massey University. As Madaleine’s physical investigations into costume and movement have developed; she has been led to the origins of material production and expanded her performance practice into baking and farming.

Madaleine has performed and produced her own work at the Institute of Contemporary Art (2007/2008), National Theatre Studios (2009), SHUNT lounge (2009), Kinetica Art Fair (2011), Prague Quadrennial (2007/2011), Southbank Centre (2018) and Performance Arcade (2019). She has presented her work at Extreme Costume Exhibition (2011), Critical Costume (2013/2011/2018), The End of Fashion (2016) and collaborated with fashion designer Rui Xu to choreograph performances for the Royal College of Art (2016) and Saatchi Gallery (2016). Madaleine’s work has toured internationally to Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, Freising, Helsinki, Naples, Nelson, Prague, Porto, Wellington, Verona, Vitoria and Zagreb.