Ruth Barker

A Love Song, For Gilgamesh

Camden Arts Centre, London
Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi Performance documentation, Camden Arts Centre, Photography by Hydar Dewachi

A Love Song, For Gilgamesh

2013

Performance, duration 20 minutes approx. The script was memorised, and recited as a spoken word performance by the artist. Photography by Hydar Dewachi. Garment design and production by Carmel O'Brien.

A Love Song, For Gilgamesh was originally scripted for the striking location of the empty swimming pool on board the SS Rotterdam - an ex cruise-ship moored in Rotterdam Harbour. For The Oral Tradition programme at Camden Arts Centre, I spent one week re-developing the work in the Artist's Studio, for a live public performance.


More information here.

Video Documentation of the performance is available here. Footage starts at 11.00. Please scroll the timebar forward.

 

SCRIPT

 

 

 

I.

I stand here before you today,

I am a young man.

I have eaten clay.

I have swallowed the soil underground.

My lips are ash.

Here in the house of dust,

Here in the house of dust,

We have entered.

And with my arms like dumb wings

I will sing for you.

 

II.

First: A Love Song

Where are you, at the edge of the world?

Who will you see there?

What will he say?

 

Behind my eyes lies an image of you, waiting.

Behind my eyes lies the wash of a great ocean,

Chasing the storm of the waves

With sea spume and pebbles the colour of fingernails:

Dry pink, white tipped, dusky.

 

Behind my eyes the sand is damp with this morning’s rain.

The beach is pitted with hollows.

Behind each air-hole hides a tiny mouth

And bivalve heart, beating.

So there are morsels to eat here then, if you are hungry.

Snatch up the pale razors and the fists of cockles;

You taught me how to scoop them up with spoons,

Hearing the shell clamp shut through the sand grit,

Sighing out as the silver pries them loose.

Then CLACK, into the swung bucket

Where they rattle, like teeth in an old jaw.

CLACK. CLACK. CLACK. They are talking to us.

What kind of myths do molluscs tell?

 

But you have no stomach for seafood today

And the cockles stay unscooped.

Here at the edge of the world you wait to meet a man,

And you did not think to take me with you.

Your purple shadow fades across the evening sand.

The sea is still. It hangs, weightless,

Full of light beneath the darkening sky.

You have your back to me.

You stand, black and dense in your funeral coat,

Your hands in your pockets,

Your weight on your right hip,

Your shoulders up to save your ears from the cold lip of the evening.

 

And where is he? And what if he doesn’t come?

What will you do then?

Where will you go?

Will you come home to me?

I’m waiting right where you left me.

On a bier with a bug in my nose.

I’m covered with silver and gold

And all the breath of my body

Gone out into the wind, and lost.

 

III.

Then: A Soft Song.

What did he say to you then, at the edge of the world?

The sea comes in and out like breathing,

And I am tired of watching you sleep.

 

Tell me.

What did he say?

 

That it was not before him

The day the skies were iron and the seagulls spread themselves beneath the clouds.

 

That it was not before him

The day the sun stripped the skin from his back.

 

That it was not before him

The day the canal closed green and dreaming over his head.

 

That it was not before him

The day his sight began to fail.

 

That it was not before him

The day the dew hung breathless on the lawn.

 

That it was not before him

The day his body flourished with tumours.

 

That it was not before him

The day he drank it from a bottle.

 

That it was not before him

The day he placed the hemp around his neck.

 

That it was not before him

The day the flowers he carried left pollen stains on his shirt.

 

That it was not before him

The day his cigarette tip smouldered into the mattress.

 

That it was not before him

The day he was hungry and homeless, please help.

 

That it was not before him

The day his veins ran out over the dashboard of his Toyota.

 

That it was not before him

The day the gps failed on his luxury yacht.

 

That it was not before him

The day he insulted a man and it was raining.

 

That it was not before him

The day he woke in the bedsit room with the nicotine walls.

 

That it was not before him

On the most perfect day, holding his wife’s hand.

 

That it was not before him

The day he was tired.

 

That it was not before him

The day he was sore.

 

That it was not before him

The day he needed it.

 

That it was not before him

The day he was afraid of it.

 

That it was not before him

The day he was not even thinking about it.

 

That it was not before him

At all.

 

And what did you think, my love?

That you could put it aside as well?

No. No, my love.

I’m sorry.

Come home to me.

I’m waiting. And the gifts you gave me

Are tarnished.

 

IV.

Now: A Last Song.

In the morning, walking home across the grass

You are lost in thought.

Your brogues leave dark stains against the silver dew.

There’s a red crease on your face, where you have slept

With your arm against your cheek again.

 

You are hungry now,

You have a long way to walk.

Come quickly.

Build walls.

Make laws.

Discover alphabets and geometry.

Eat well.

Bury me.

 

I’m waiting right where you left me.

On a bier with a bug in my nose.

I’m covered with silver and gold,

And all the breath of my body

Gone into the wind, and lost.

 

V.

I stand here before you today

I was a young man.

I have eaten clay.

I have swallowed the soil underground.

My lips are ash.

Here in the house of dust,

Here in the house of dust,

I have entered.

And now with my arms like dumb wings

I have sung for you.

I have sung for you.

Goodbye.