The Past is Singing in our Teeth
Preview and performance
Thursday 1st March 6–9pm
Sound in collaboration with Cat Hope
Performed by Signy Jakobsdottir
Friday 2nd – 18th March 2018
Fri, Sat, Sun 5.30pm 8.30pm
“The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object…”
-Proust 1922: 45
On the opening night percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir has been invited to activate McMillan’s sculptures, bringing a voice to the silent objects that punctuate the exhibition with a score developed in collaboration between Cat Hope and Kate McMillan. The performance metaphorically and actually embodies the idea that listening to quiet sounds, sounds that may otherwise be overlooked, is central to acknowledging the lost voices that punctuate our histories. In this context the sculptures become percussive objects and the two film projections become records of landscapes animated through ritual and memory. The percussionist is clothed in what McMillan calls ‘a spell dress’. It is covered in pockets that house additional sculptures also used in the performance. The performance, McMillan feels, completes the work. The methodologies she employs through practice - listening, sounding, researching, thinking about place and landscape and what has been overlooked - are informed by her childhood in Australia. Growing up on stolen land, these clear actions have provided a creative counter to the repression of colonial history and the acts of violence enacted on the land she calls home. Glasgow's prosperity was built on the labour and lives of slaves and victims of Empire. It is perhaps then apt to also employ these methods of listening, to seek to uncover what has been lost and what stories hideaway amidst the residue of the past.
The Past is Singing in our Teeth suggests that artworks, objects and sound can serve as an umbilical cord back in time, thus functioning as an intermediary into the past; in this case a fictional past reinvented in the absence of women’s histories. The work, will be reimagined for the space at Civic Room, including a two-channel film projection, incorporating sound, the opening night performance and sculptures and a salt-laden floor. Like a conjuring or a haunting, the work draws a line around the things that sit at the periphery of our vision. In particular, it imagines a lost archive of women’s knowledges, a remembrance of which is triggered by the recovery of sacred objects and landscapes. Filmed in four UK locations – the Welsh Borders, the Kent coast, One Tree Hill and a Hampshire lake, as well as film sets (memory rooms) constructed in the artist’s studio, the exhibition traces the journey of a young girl as she rediscovers a heritage of knowledge and power. These filmic spaces become points of access into a world that is somewhat disjointed from language, a world that is felt and internalised, carried in the body, played out and recreated in present-day events. A central mechanism in this work is the creation of a series of sculptures that slip in and out of roles – props, sculptures and as musical instruments that form the basis for the film score composed by Cat Hope.
Key ideas include the repeating of history, the presence of linked signs, archetypes, place and the objects we carry alongside us throughout our life. The interplay between what is lost and what remains, the repetition of certain behaviours, the seeking out of certain systems and themes become the visual language of the work. So, whilst the impetus for the work begins with the artists’ own biographical engagement with time and memory the concepts expand outwards, inviting viewers and ideas in. The work is quiet, refusing monumentality – instead framing a precarious and fragile movement through the world. Like a psychoanalytic investigation, the construction of the work becomes a tenuous relationship between the real and the unreal, what is known and what is not.