Scythic by Pete Kirby & Anna Parker

Anna Parker,  Artist
Pete Kirby, Writer


Arranged marriages.
Don’t work…then do.
Swap people to swap letters to swap words.

Scythic becomes us.
Sew thoughts between us…some silly, some serious, some both…somehow.

We talk, we laugh, we mull.

We go away to research a people we’ve never even heard of.
We ransack libraries, Google and the head of a friend who teaches history.

Gather, splice, aggregate, subvert and beat disparate nonsense into purposeful words.


Salute the first people to tame the horse:

A recipe for a Scythian cocktail:
Ten parts meat
Five parts horse milk
Serve in skull goblet
Dab mouth with scalp napkin

Dabble in a dozen other dark arts: confessional tattoos, alcoholic tombstones, bong dens, horse blood guzzlers, sinister milking methods, brotherly hate, palindromic dyslexia, eavesdropping Cicero, proverbs on the hoof, law-making spiders, cuneiform alphabets and pointy hats.

We warm to this nomadic tribe of mounted conquering archers. We imagine Scythic life ruling the steppes north of the Black Sea from 800-300BC, beheading enemies one minute, and making ornate golden earrings the next. We shudder at their burial mounds, 60ft high, with 400 horses slain as ‘decoration’ for one noble man, and smile at their too-tall caps with quilted earmuffs.

We talk, we laugh, we mull.

We mine three seams: nomadcy, simplicity and bacchanalia.

Pete mauls simplicity into a mess-ifesto.
Anna edits words like she sculpts stone, taking away the fat to leave the beauty.

Narrow it down to two sets of words.

It turns out the Scythians lay claim to inventing the cuneiform method of writing. Wow! We find their few founding words and write a proverb based on how, as nomads, they stay one step ahead of the weather:


We also discover Anacharsis, a wandering Scythian philosopher, who allegedly created the anchor and the potter’s wheel. But it’s his words we want. We find ten extant letters ascribed to him, one of which is quoted by Cicero and abridged by us:


We talk, we laugh, we mull.

We plunder Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger, John Baldessari, Russian criminal tattoos and words made of wax.
But formal letterforms just ain’t Scythian.
We go for stick ‘n’ mud.

Anna scribes the CLOAK motto into a slab of pummeled clay, soaks it with water, re-scribes and leaves.
The result is both coarse and sophisticated.
Maybe it’s the angularity of the letterform, or the immediacy of the technique?
Or is it just the sensation of experimentation?

Would lime be grittier?

The clay dries in Anna’s garden.
The Great British heat dries out the clay leaving the cracks and scars of drought.

It’s so hot, we pray for snow…ho-ho-ho.

Moths make night work hell.
Daddy Longlegs Lindy Hop on computer screen, trying to mate with Pete’s cursor.
A month of otherness plays an interval in our togetherness.

We confuse each other by trying to figure out how to manufacture our sculpture into limited editions.

Pete wants to cast the letterforms in arrowhead metal as a nod to Scythian archery skills.
Pete wants to pour in a pot of tattooists ink and hope that it hardens.
Anna wants to ‘keep on experimenting’ with mud and blind positivity.

We talk, we unravel the cross-wires, we laugh, we mull.

Before it cracks into crumbs, Anna makes a rubber mold of CLOAK.
But, a mathematic disaster!
1% (not 10%) of catalyst means it’s unlikely to harden before Christmas.
She grabs a stick and scribes another version of CLOAK into another slab of clay.

The Indian summer colludes with the gods to pummel a patina into the slab using gravity and heavy rain, before the heat returns once more to parch and crack.

Anna unearths a super soggy bag of clay in her garden.
Lungworms and earwigs wriggle and wiggle inside the clay.
She slings it onto a board and writes the NOMAD proverb with a twig.
We fall in mucky, filthy, dirty love with it.
It’s utterly gloopiful.

She quickly makes a plaster mold to keep the gorgeous gloopiness.
Cast in concrete?
Cast in lime?
What will best suit the muddiness?

The inverted letterforms of the NOMAD plaster mold protrude like the bones of a Scythic gymnast, as if revealed in an act of accidental paleontology.

It takes an eternity to wheedle out the clay from the plaster.
Cement Fondue!
It takes a double eternity to extract the plaster from cement.
Anna likens this to an archaeological excavation.

The outcome is delicious, pure mineral manna, molten treacle from 900BC.

Textures and colours erupt to play tricks on the hand and the eye.

Space is blagged in the kiln of a friend, and the fragments of rapidly crumbling CLOAK have the last living dregs of life fired out of them at about 1000°.

In the meantime Anna wax polishes the NOMAD to a wet mud look.


Man-made frozen ground.

The fired pieces of cloak are now hard enough to handle, so Anna reunites the tile-like fragments in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle.

So, we have two pieces of work, and we are fond of them both.
Which to kill and which to save?

We vote.

This story is published without an ending.

© October 2013

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