Ruth Barker

Of Gilgamesh, and Others

Cartel Gallery, London
Cartel Cartel Cartel

Of Gilgamesh, and Others


Text and audio installation, with live reading, 5.5 hours approximately.

A 30 000 word text was written by the artist, and an audio recording was made of her reading the text in its entirety. This audio recording was played in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. On the final day of the show a live reading was given in the gallery, in a performance which lasted approximately 5.5 hours in total.


Extract from press release:

Of Gilgamesh, And Others is a new voice-work for Cartel Gallery, London. The piece takes the form of a comfortable listening room in which we are invited to immerse ourselves in an audio recording of a story, which is written and read by the artist as a pre-recorded ‘performance to microphone’.

The story itself is structured around an attempt to retell the epic of Gilgamesh, and begins and ends with a description of the fragile clay tablets on which the poem was inscribed 4000 years ago in Sumer, in ancient Mesopotamia. Through the artist’s attempts to retell this ancient epic however, it becomes apparent that the story is in some ways ungraspable – an amorphous, ever changing narrative that has been re-imagined and re-shaped by every storyteller who has ever adopted it. By re-voicing the Gilgamesh narrative in her own semi-autobiographical, semi-poetic, semi-vernacular vocabulary, Barker re-voices the myth itself: as an artist, as a woman, and as an individual. By doing so she repositions its imagery through an inescapably contemporary lens. The re-making of the mythic space becomes a gesture towards the understanding of self, gender, and mortality.

The story of Gilgamesh, as it appears in Of Gilgamesh, And Others, is too long to take in during one gallery sitting. A 30 000 word text, the reading of which takes several hours, as visitors we dip in and out of its narrative, as the artist’s voice guides us through one carefully recounted episode after the next. The effect is dreamlike, absorbing, and yet fragmentary. We cannot stay and listen to the end, and so we hear only a part, determined by the chance moment of our entry and exit into the gallery.

Sitting at our small tables in the semi-dark, listening and leaving, we can wonder what may have come before, and how it may all end, but the part we have heard will remain with us as memory, perhaps to be told again.

Live Reading.

On Saturday 17th March, starting at 12 o'clock, Ruth Barker will give a live reading of the complete text of Of Gilgamesh, And Others, at Cartel Gallery, London. Visitors are welcome to enter and leave the work at any point.


Of Gilgamesh, And Others, was developed for the programme 'Word of Mouth' curated by Rose Lejeune for Cartel Gallery, London.


Word of Mouth brings together five artists who use the voice as a medium to produce and deliver their work.   

Featuring live and recorded performance, song, poetry, text, sound and noise, video, and installation, Word of Mouth will use the small space of Cartel gallery to explore the voice as an instrument and organ - an intimate and bodily medium, a tool for transmission or a material with sculptural and physical manifestations.

Word of Mouth is an exhibition about speaking, communicating and the possibility of meaning, through the presentation of speech acts.    It is also an investigation into vocal potentiality beyond language.    The artists in Word of Mouth utilise their voice (or the voice of others) to engender agency, conjure memories or create tension between proximity and distance.   For them the voice as a medium can question authorial authority, force a blur between speakers and auditors and operate both as a negotiator of meaning and a primordial raw material that can provoke and lull with alternate force.

Word of Mouth is a group exhibition delivered as a linear progression. The artist's projects will be delivered as a series of solo presentations over the time period of the exhibition. For their project each artist has been invited to inhabit the space as they wish - through installation and performance - specifically to think about the mode of presentation and how best to address their audience.