Uncovering, and re-discovering, Nantucket

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With Head, Hand and HeartDakota LaCroix and Cinema Wood, as part of Curious Lightning, created a playful, time-traveling audio walk which invites you to rediscover your true nature, re-connecting head, hand, and heart to the unheard voices of land and culture.

This sound walk is one of the shortlisted pieces in the Sound Walk September Awards 2023. Here, Dakota discusses Head, Hand and Heart.

Nantucket Island, USA, approximately 41 degrees North and 70 degrees West.
As the fog heads out to sea, the island known as “The Grey Lady” reveals her stories, some older than human history. In the year 2022/2023, Nantucket told Curious Lightning a beautiful story; of the United States’ first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell, and her celestial discovery, looking into the wild sky on a clear night in 1847, of the islands time as one of the wealthiest places in the western hemisphere at the height of the whaling industry, and of its innocence as the summer home of young girls becoming women, embracing life on dry land, while never far apart from their mother, the sea.   

Head, Hand and Heart is a story beyond the historical, metaphorical, temporal, and autobiographical. Curious Lightning endeavors to expand on the elemental in this immersive sound journey, animated with the wonder of the natural world and Nantucket’s unique cosmology, and brought to life in the whimsical voice of our narrator, AWMI-4170-The indigenous-animistic-automatronic-futuristic-Wayfinder.  

Originally conceived by Dakota Clearwater LaCroix during an artist-in-residency with Oika and the Maria Mitchell Association, Head, Heart and Hand was fully realized in collaboration with writer and expressive artist, Cinema Wood. Along the way, we highlight the voices of Nantucket’s ecology, some of our friends in the sciences and arts, and give focus to the original caretakers of the land, the Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. Curious Lightning crafted and installed the final audio walk for a collaborative launch event in June 2023 as the culmination of a nine-month project and is available to this day as a locative or remote experience. 

Reverence, curiosity, and love for Nantucket Island and all its inhabitants – animal, plant, ancestral, and elemental, as well as the island’s historic, scientific, and cultural influences, imbues this project with vitality and depth. Our aim is to touch the heart beyond the senses. Our story was created with a dynamic interplay of witnessing and listening, and through extensive immersive-multi-sensory walking as well as visual and auditory observation and documentation (during a companion gallery installation in the summer of 2023), and over four decades of intimate and collective stories and descriptive vignettes by poet Cinema Wood. Cinema was a summer island resident for many of her childhood years, and her recent explorations, re-evaluations, and sensorial and spiritual returning to her heart home, reveal much of the narrative’s imaginative recountings of real-life run-ins with ocean friends, like the featured Silkie.  

Curious Lightning has re-imagined history, questioned the current island culture, and reshuffled time and narrative. We weave present-moment sonic storytelling with current topics like climate anxiety, consumerism, and indigenous land rights, and we encourage the audience to directly witness and engage with these themes.

Our Narrator AWMI-The playful Wayfinder invites the listeners to join (her/them) on a journey home through the head and the hand to the heart, too full humanness – as the heart character Tashima, wampanoag for The One Who Rises Up.

The historical research on Maria Mitchell involved multiple visits to the Maria Mitchell Association and Home, and many generous and in-depth conversations with resident historian Jascin Leanardo Finger. Jascin provided a behind-the-scenes look at Maria Mitchell’s world and granted us entry to Mitchell’s home and effects on Nantucket.  

Research of the Wampanoag Indians and their history on Nantucket involved researching online documents and viewing videos created by tribal historian Darius Coombs, as well as working in partnership with Wampanoag artist, Robert Peters. The Wampanoag are still thriving on the Massachusetts mainland, but have not returned home to Nantucket. 

Dakota and Cinema took many island walkabouts in preparing the script. We had great conversations with several island residents whose ancestors had major roles in the history of Nantucket, and while less apparent in our final narrative, their influences add a depth and richness to Head, Hand and Heart. Their voices are in the art and language of the piece.

Along the journey from Hand to Head to Heart, our listeners walk by well-known cultural and historical Island landmarks, like the Athenaeum and The Mitchell’s Book Store and with the rhythm of island time, the audience is invited to pause, unplug, awaken to their senses, and participate in the unfolding reality beyond the curated narrative. 

Head, Hand and Heart is further enriched by the behind-the-scenes interviews with Oika founder and ecologist, Dr. Rich Blundell, who provides ecological, scientific, and place-based context for the Island’s and “Earth’s Story”and Oika Artists Rita Leduc, Dena Hayden, and Robert Peters, who informed the physical, scientific, and emotional tone of the piece. Witnessing their art in the island’s natural landscape and during the (summer months of) sound walk, added a profoundly somatic dimension to Head, Hand and Heart that can now be only alluded to in the listening.  

Head, Hand, Heart Nantucket was presented on the island, as a place-based sound workshop in the summer of 2023.  Curious Lightning wishes for this project to live on with future creative dialogues beyond latitude and longitude, space, and time.   

We are currently building storytelling workshops, a comic book for young audiences, and future live artistic offshoots of Head, Hand and Heart.

Curious Lightning aims always to move our audiences into coherence with the timeless beauty and living history beyond the story; so that they themselves may co-create the trails, culture, nature, and ever-unfolding narratives for the future landscapes of soundwalk sites like The Grey Lady, Nantucket.

The winners and honourable mentions of the SWS Awards 2023 will be announced in January 2024.

Dakota LaCroix

Dakota LaCroix

Online Jury 2022 Online Jury 2023 Online Jury 2024 SWS23 shortlisted

Dakota La Croix’s creations are sparked by a radical curiosity for discovering beyond the senses and the power of story to explore a deeper meaning. His creative adventures have lead him to walk and document people for ten months in America and Canada...

Curious Lightning

Curious Lightning

SWS23 shortlisted

Curious Lightning Nantucket is Cinema Wood and Dakota Clearwater LaCroix. Their cinematic audio creations are sparked by a radical curiosity that seeks to explore storytelling and story listening as an invitation beyond the traditional narrative story stru...


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