Produced with and for Verity Birt
Part of Deformation Attends Her
Exhibition at Black Tower Projects
Other project collaborators include:
SHE Choir Newcastle upon Tyne, Hannah Ashman & Alys North.
Verity Birt draws upon archaeological digs, feminine mythology and ritual practices to create a speculative interpretation of prehistoric sites. In response and as support to these artistic works, the floor of Black Tower Projects was altered to trace the topographic contour lines of the Neolithic and Bronze Age sites. Embedded in moss and lichen-filled pits, ceramic bones, teeth and horns suggest the ritual offerings buried in prehistoric landmasses.
‘Deformation Attends Her’ is an enquiry into the prehistoric sites and rock art features embedded in Northumberland’s landscape. Verity Birt seeks to summon their potential as places of ritual culture that predate a patriarchal and exploitative relationship with nature. By drawing upon practices that have been historically suppressed and encouraging reciprocal and non-hierarchical relations between bodies and landscape, the artist speculates on what knowledge these sites might transfer if addressed with more intuitive, playful and collective actions.
The floor was designed to create a platform, within which ceramic works could be displayed in recesses which would echo the channels within the neolithic archaeological site. Traversing this floor was envisaged as provoking a feeling of uncertainty, a heightened awareness of the landscape underfoot as something shifting and powerful.
Drawing from artworks
Existing works by Birt which had been developed from this site were closely read, and the lines drawn in these pieces were scaled up and reoriented to establish a language of lines and voids. This rescaling of distinct elements from drawn works meant that the floor reflected the stylistic and graphical quality of the works displayed, establishing a visual resonance.
Once the quality of the cut edges had been determined, topographic contour lines from the Northumbrian neolithic sites were redrawn, scaled and reoriented to guide the relationship between layers of the floor. This allows visitors to approach the works by symbolically traversing the landscape which the artist crossed in the journey to the sites, while the works themselves reoccupy the landscape they were inspired by.
Deformation Attends Her
The video work centres on the site-specific dance of artist and choreographer Alys North, guided by the marks and patterns carved into the prehistoric stone which stages her. North’s movements form the foundation for a mapping of the site and are engraved onto the surface of acrylic discs that hang in the space. The discs suggest a visual score - they trace North’s movements and their relationship to the landscape alongside archaeological illustrations of earthworks, cartographic mappings and astrological signs.
The sound piece has been developed in collaboration with SHE, a women’s community choir in Newcastle upon Tyne. Through a series of workshops taking place on a carved prehistoric channel, Birt worked with the collective to draw upon the energy of the site using vocal improvisation techniques. The work recalls the oral dissemination of women’s history, resonating acoustically and communally through oral traditions. The ceramics in the exhibition embody a tactile recollection of the channel where the sound was recorded. Birt worked at the clay to create fragments of the experience from memory, providing a sculptural counterpart to the acoustic space conjured by the women’s voices.