‘Mouth in an Open O’
Ruth Barker (UK)
21st September 2012
For Between Barker developed a new work, ‘Mouth Open In An Open O’, which continues her attempt to re-imagine the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh through visual art performance, spoken word poetry, and embodied voice techniques.
The work involved multiple instances of the artist’s voice, interwoven between live and recorded elements to produce a rich tapestry of storytelling and acoustic / sculptural experience. Barker also worked with fashion designer Carmel O’Brien to produce a bespoke garment for the performance, emphasising the physical and sculptural quality of the vocal work.
Ruth Barker’s performance work involves writing substantial poetic texts that retell ancient myths, and remake them as resonant, current, events. She uses traditional techniques of storytelling, poetic construction, and vocal performance to develop challenging new site-specific performances.
Barker presents the gesture of retelling ancient myths as being a way to explore the fundamentals of the human condition. By remaking these stories (in art, in life, in contemporary culture) we influence as well as describe our knowledge of self and imagination. Barker re-voices these myths as an artist, as a woman, and as an individual. By doing so she repositions their imagery through an inescapably contemporary lens – relating ideas of narrative structure, repetition and metamorphosis, to the vivid quality of the live, present, female artist. The re-making of the mythic space of performance becomes a gesture towards the ritual and/or artistic understanding of self, gender, and mortality.
Barker’s works are recited (sung, incanted, spoken, and invoked) from memory before a live audience. The act of performance is a ritualised act; emotionally loaded and affecting, and reliant on a concentrated focus that becomes by turns hypnotic, claustrophobic, and cathartic. Barker often works with fashion designer Lesley Hepburn, from whom she commissions handmade, bespoke garments, to be worn during performances.
Ruth Barker was born in 1979 in Leeds. She completed a first class BA (Hons) in Environmental Art at Glasgow School of Art in 2001, and an MFA at GSA in 2004. She is currently undertaking a practice-based PhD at Newcastle University, and has recently shown in the UK, Athens, Dublin, Rotterdam, Tel Aviv, and New York. Ruth Barker lives and works in Glasgow.