Ruth Barker

New Song for Three Mothers

2011
Your Leaning Neck: Song As Portrait, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
New Songs for Three Mothers New Songs for Three Mothers New Songs for Three Mothers New Songs for Three Mothers New Songs for Three Mothers New Songs for Three Mothers New Songs for Three Mothers New Songs for Three Mothers

New Song for Three Mothers
2011
Photography by Clyde Jones,
Garment by Lesley Hepburn

 

 

Press Release:

Your Leaning Neck - Song as Portrait

Friday 2nd of December at 6.00pm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Queen Street
Edinburgh

Your Leaning Neck - Song as Portrait offers an expansive way of considering portraiture. Featuring unaccompanied vocal performances by performers from Scots oral tradition and contemporary visual art backgrounds, an objective of the performance is to challenge preconceptions relating to who or what is represented in a portrait.

Created as a site-specific response to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery's collection of portraits from the Scottish Enlightenment the event will ‘reframe’ the performance work of: Sheila Stewart, Hanna Tuulikki (with Nerea Bello and Lucy Duncombe), Arthur Watson, Elizabeth Stewart, Ruth Barker.

While presented as a singular performance the placement together of Scots Folk song, contemporary art performance and traditional portraits, also aims to open up new perceptions of each element.

The event is organised by Steven Anderson as an extension of his performance practice, which has often involved other performers. As in previous work, an intention with this event is to create common ground between paintings and performance as: object and interaction, relic and ritualistic act, documentation and emotional experience.

www.nationalgalleries.org/your-leaning-neck-song-as-portrait

Following the event at the Portrait Gallery a second part of the project will take place at Peacock Arts and The Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Andrew in Aberdeen in February 2012.

Silent film screening (Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen): 18th February – 10th March 2012

Performance date (The Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Andrew, Aberdeen): 7pm - 9pm, Friday 24th February 2012.

http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/archive/340/your-leaning-neck-steven-anderson

 

From the publication:

Glasgow-based visual artist Ruth Barker creates artworks that involve writing and performing poetic monologues that remake ancient myths as resonant, current, events. She uses literary techniques of poetic writing and composition to question how and why ancient myths might still be important and relevant to us.

In New Songs For Three Mothers, produced for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Barker reminds us of the figure of a Mother Goddess who was once worshipped in
Northern Britain, but who is now largely forgotten. This new performance has grown from research into Romano-British sculpture that Barker undertook during a year-long residency at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies, Newcastle, during 2010. The performance sketches out a complex and contradictory portrait of this Mother figure, speaking from the imagined point of view of the forgotten Goddess herself. In the text, Barker refers to the attributes with which the Goddess was associated (water, corn, human health and fertility, and the number three),
and reflects Roman beliefs about dream interpretation (dreams were seen as one way in which gods and goddesses would communicate with people, and make their wishes known).

By presenting this work to us in the context of Your Leaning Neck: Song As Portrait, Barker reminds us of all the portraits that have gone before, whose sitters have been forgotten. Two thousand years ago, someone cut a portrait of a Goddess out of stone. Today, a woman in a red dress steps into the outline of that portrait to re-tell it, asking us to recall an image that has been lost. Who is this Mother that we are asked to recognise? We do not know. We have never seen her face before, but she says that she knows us.

The garment used in this performance was designed and produced by Lesley Hepburn.

 

(From the exhibition information for Your Leaning Neck - Song as Portrait. Compiled and presented by Steven Anderson.)

 

Script

 

Position 1

 

I know you.

I know all of you.

I believe I’ve met you all before – don’t you know me?

 

O, a song of greeting,

Song of almost recognition,

Song of comfort and combustion and

Some half remembered things

That I can give to you,

These things I gift to you – don’t you know me?

 

O You were forewarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

In the Holiday Inn

The time you overslept.

I was there.

Don’t you know me?

 

O You were forewarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

The night your son left home

It was October

I was there.

Don’t you know me?

 

O You were forewarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

When your eyes closed on the Metro.

It was only for a moment

I was there.

Don’t you know me?

 

O You were forewarned in a dream

O, the dream you had

In the hospital

When the lights stayed on all night.

I was there.

Don’t you know me?

 

O don’t you know me?

No No No No No,

You don’t know me

Do you?

 

I’m running water

I’m falling water

I’m touching water

I’m touching ripe fruit

I’m touching cut grass

I’m touching new corn

I’m touching baked bread

I’m touching nursing

I’m touching low like a fish

I’m touching soft like a belly

Touching round like sanctuary

Touching upright, on a wicker chair

I’m holding something in my hand. Right now.

 

I am your mother. I am braided and strong.

I am your mother’s mother. I am braided and strong.

I am the always, ever mother. I am braided and strong.

I am the mother of your children. I am braided and strong.

I am only a song, and I am braided. I am braided, and I am strong

 

So cut the crusts off your Hovis today.

Put your feet into the water today.

Pour the milk onto your cereal today.

Eat your little pre-rolled sushi today.

And lie down in your bath

With your Radox

Reading your new magazine

It is good, and the pages are glossy...

 

So now you know.

You were forewarned.

 

I think you owe me.

Don’t you think you know me, now?

 

 

Position 2

 

I know you

I know you

I know you

I know you

 

I show through

I show through

I show through

I show through

I show through

I show through

 

I grow too

I grow too

I grow too

I grow too

I grow too

I grow too

 

I owe you

I owe you

I owe you

I owe you

I owe you

I owe you

I owe you

 

 

I’m asking

I’m asking

I’m asking

I’m asking you

 

 

In among the signing

I am braided and strong,

In among the signing

I am braided and strong,

 

In among the singing

Making ugly sounds

In among the signing

Opening the words

In among the signing

Getting it all wrong

In among the signing

Perhaps I shouldn’t be here

In among the signing

This is who I must be

In among the signing

Only ever talking

 

In among the signing

I am braided and strong,

In among the signing

I am braided and strong,

In among the signing

I am braided and strong,

In among the signing

I am braided and strong,

In among the signing

I am braided and strong,

 

Strong strong strong

Don’t you think you know me, now?

 

Position 2


I know you,

I want to give you something lost and something beautiful.

 

I know you,

I want to give you a face, a portrait of someone I have never seen.

 

I know you,

I want to tell you that when we are lost, it is a gift.

 

I know you,

Like I know the ache when something we once recognised has gone away.

 

I know you,

And I can look out on a landscape that has gone away.

 

I know you,

And I don’t want you to go away.

 

I know you,

I want to know you, and I want to go away.

 

I know you,

And I wish that I could tell you every story that you ever knew. And you might tell those stories back to me. Someday. Someday

Someday these little words, will be read again.

 

 

I know you.

I know you.

 

I know you.

I know you.

 

I know you.

I know you.

 

I know you.

I know you.

 

 

I recognise your little face

I recognise your little face.

 

Thankyou.

Thankyou.