Verity Birt
Deformation Attends Her

17/02/18 - 31/03/18, Thursday To Saturday 12-6pm
For her first solo exhibition, Verity Birt draws upon archaeological digs, feminine mythology and ritual practices to create a speculative interpretation of prehistoric sites.
Supported by Arts Council England. Project collaborators include Amy Butt, SHE Choir Newcastle upon Tyne, Hannah Ashman, Alys North.

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 of Black Tower Projects has been 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. 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. Alys North will perform at Black Tower Projects on the evening of the Vernal Equinox, marking the zero point in astrological time when the length of day and night are most equal.
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.
As part of an events programme, Verity Birt will host a roundtable discussion with artists and curators exploring feminist methodologies, collective practices and speculative pasts and futures.