Ruth Barker

Mouth Open In An Open O (performance)

The Agency Gallery, London
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Mouth Open In An Open O

2012

Performance, 20 minutes approximately. The script was memorised, and recited as a spoken word performance by the artist. Photography by Anna Wilson. Garment design and production by Carmel O'Brien.

This performance was commissioned as part of the Between programme for Manchester Cornerhouse, and was reperformed at The Agency. The live performance was also recontextualised as an installation, which was present in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition.

 

More information: http://www.theagencygallery.co.uk/

 

See also interview for ArtVehicle here.

SCRIPT

 

 

Early Autumn

We are here in the late September,

Watching the weight of the year

Blow the lilac blooms to the low gutters, and dampen

Them with rain.

There is fat black earth under the paving

And the worms draw pink through black in the dark.

 

We are here in the late September,

Watching the elongation of the night

Light the compact fluorescents in high-rise kitchens, and dampen

The dreams in a thousand absent minds, with thoughts of Autumn.

And the TV news is on. And it whispers to us,

Low words of other’s worlds, condensed.

 

We are here in the late September,

Feeling that nothing has happened to us, yet, turning

Our Selves away from each other.

And the TV news is on. And today we are the multitude,

In Syria, Egypt, Uruk, Oman.

We are asking the Sand King Why?

And the Sand King says Why Not?

 

We turn our heads away from each other,

Mouth open in an open O.

Mouth Open.

 

And elsewhere: GILGAMESH.

On a beach at the edge of the world

The sand we stand upon is hollow. Shifting under our feet

Like quicksand, like something alive in the birth of a story.

(On the beach, you said, don’t step there. Or did you?

And did I remember? And have I never seen the sinking

Sand again there? And how did you know?

 

A black dog running on the white sand, with sand in her nails,

She runs in one breath out, out along the sand. Come, back.)

Manchester. The pale purple petals peel back into the black September sod

And the crown in the hand of a man with his hand outstretched and

Full of sinking sand, and the loved black barguest, running.

The axis of the year, turning, in a sacred sound shaped like September.

 


October, (and looking towards the Spring)

When I first kissed you

We tested our strength against one another.

I felt your teeth behind your lips.

We were tired and the sun had come up.

Your face was dry.

Your mouth was wet.

 

Lip met lip met lip met lip.

 

What do you say when the king takes a lover?

A mirror?

A brother?

A part of him self put out, put in?

What do you say when the Sand King?

What do you say to the Sand King?

What?

What do you say?

What?

What did you say?

 

‘In Greece we are in danger from the dawn.’

 

Hallowe’en, and we imagine springtime. Impossible.

We cannot remember a time both behind us, and still to come.

But we are both wearing masks. And in our forward recollection

A painted egg rests at the top of the hill, neither falling

Backward nor forward.

Backward nor forward.

Backward nor forward.

Begin again:

I  I   .Pause.   I  I

A hand outstretched, forefinger out,

Yours or mine,

Caught in time,

Not touching the egg, neither falling backward,

Nor forward.

Lip met lip met lip met lip.

 

The egg rolls. Has rolled. Will roll. Inexorable. Down.

We were both wearing masks. And it was Hallowe’en

When we first kissed, will kiss, the King.

 

 

Midwinter / January

 

In the darkness that is black as the soil underground,

We dream, together. I dream alone in the dreamhouse you made,

And you dream alone, outside.

 

Winter: sawn lilacs, and the king my father’s neck.

Feet like stumps. A black dog on the white frosted sand.

The lizard in the reptile glitter, blue and soft like the breast

It was, soft and blue under glass.

 

Dreaming and knowing / not knowing.

The dream of teeth, splinters, broken bone.

The dream of gold, and the shadows of cedar trees.

You sang me a song once, coming up as the sun goes down,

And I could not sing it with you and I’m sorry.

 

Winter. In the night-time bedroom

You hold up a match,

You say see, it’s all right.

You switch on the torch and trace boggarts in the darkness.

I turn on the light, see your coat on the chair.

Outside there are cats cutting sirens on the dark grass

Full of passion they pin out their throats

On the chlorophyll ice, where the daisies will grow.

 

Through our uncurtained window comes the scent of wet cedar,

Yesterday’s sleet, and the perfume of lilacs.

 

I never remember my dreams.

 

 

Springtime. April.

In the whiteness that is loud as noise

We dream of separation.  A cedar tree falls in the forest,

Let me live,

And do I know what it means to lose somebody? When

I am standing alone up here

Sometimes we are not in control

But there is no-one on the other side of me,

No-one walking there on the long road.

I carry my own drum

And I beat it,

Plant it under the sod and it will grow,

Pollarded and blooming like the lilac tree that grew

Outside my mother’s window.

In the summer the scent was fat and coloured,

Bee-filled and honey tinted.

We sat below the syringa: Syrinx, dreaming of panpipes.

 

Green grow the lilacs, sparkling with dew.

I'm lonely now, my darling, since I parted from you.

 

I never remember my dreams,

But I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

I am standing alone out here

And some times we are not in control.

 

 

June

Midsummer,

And we are children again,

And today, at the Great Yorkshire Show

She saw her first penis.

A great white bull, his balls hanging down

Like bagged planets,

Stood square, blotting out the light and air

In his sweet-smelling rosetted stall.

 

She stood and pointed, joyous,

Look at that! And I wanted to pull her away,

Out of the sight of the king’s cabled white backside,

Out into the open, away from the tent.

 

But the bulls of the mind are huge.

Heavenly slabs of muscle, hair, and horn,

Standing in mud, holding the world

Still, clamping the sod to their hooves,

Teaching gravity its edges, and their definition.

>

 In Uruk, the bull of heaven wears his wings

Not lightly, looking as unlikely

As a winged penis, or a butterfly hammer.

Garlanded with asphodel,

His holy bovine head is raised,

His holy bovine throat exposed,

And the bull is slain. Later, his hide dries flat

On a bloody wall. Flies creep in, under the iron white sun.

The dusty blood is washed away by working women.

The goddess shouts, her voice is hoarse and

Broken in the desert.

She shreds her eggs-and-bacon plant in rage.

>

And at the Great Yorkshire Show,

We squeeze tomato sauce

Onto our burgers,

And wash the sweet meat down with fizzy pop, and childish, titillated, laughter.

 

 

August

 

When Enkidu died they packed his body with lilac

At your instruction. You could not stand to see him rot.

Sand King, you filled his arms with silver,

And his mouth was filled with gold.

He could not speak, and you wept oceans across his salty skin.

 

Green grow the lilacs, sparkling with dew.

I'm lonely now, my darling, since I parted from you.

 

Tear off your head with your hands.

Tear off your arms with your fists.

Tear out your heart with your fingers.

How can you bury someone you love?

 

Sand King,

I’ll love you and leave you.

I’ll love you and leave you.

I’ll love you and leave you.

I’ll love you and leave you.

 

Love me. Lost you. Live.

 

 

September. The end-of it (and also the beginning)

 

The world has turned, and we are here

Together in a rush of congregation.

Rushes

Acanthus

Agrimony

Almond.

 

Mayflower

Oats

And Olive, always olive,

And the lilac and the cedar growing limb to limb

Cut them down and they will flourish, or else make way for something new.

A snake with its tail in its mouth still sloughs its skin.

 

You slept on the beach for seven days and six nights,

And on the seventh day you woke,

And saw the pastries I had left there.

You were the Sand King once, and tomorrow, and today

Broken and lonely,

Alone on the sand,

You are ready to go home.

 

 We are here in the late September, feeling

That something has happened to us now, turning

Our faces towards one another other. And today we are the mutlitude

And we have asked the Sand King why? And the Sand King has said why not?

 

We turn our heads towards each other.

Mouths open in an open O.

And Right Here: Gilgamesh,

 

On a beach at the edge of the world.

The sand we stand upon is hollow. Shifting under our feet

Like quicksand, and something alive in the blood of a story.

On the beach, you said, don’t step there.

And I have seen the sinking

Sand again there. How did you know?

 

A black dog running on the sand, with sand in her nails,

She runs in one breath out. Come, back.


The pale purple petals peel back into the black September sod

And the crown in the hand of a man with his hand outstretched and

Full of sinking sand, and the loved black barguest, running.

The axis of the year, turning, in a sacred sound shaped like September.