Deformation Attends Her

For her first solo exhibition, Verity Birt draws upon archaeological digs, feminine mythology and ritual practices to create a speculative interpretation of prehistoric sites.

at Black Tower

‘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 Miriam Austin, Nathalie Boobis, Victoria Sin and Lucy A. Sames exploring feminist methodologies, collective practices and speculative pasts and futures.

Project collaborators include Amy Butt, SHE Choir Newcastle upon Tyne, Hannah Ashman, Alys North.

Roundtable Discussion: Saturday 3rd March 4pm
Alys North Performance: Tuesday 20th March 7pm

Black Tower

Opening Times
Preview: Saturday 17 February, 6-9pm

17 February - 31 March 2018
Thursday to Saturday, 12-6pm

Black Tower
Abbey Trading Estate Bell Green Lane
SE26 5TW