23 November 2012


6-28 October 2012
Woolsthorpe Manor, Grimsthorpe Castle and Ayscoughfee Hall, Lincolnshire

Jordan Baseman, Amanda Coogan, Jem Finer, Bethan Huws
Performance programme: Amelia Beavis-Harrison, Joana Cifre-Cerda, Robert Foster, Laura Mahony, Julieann O'Malley, Hestia Peppe and Sally Anne Roberts

Read about COMPASS

Museums Journal
Culture 24
This is Lincolnshire
The Lincolnite 
Andrew Bracey

Beacon presented an exhibition of four new commissions at three heritage sites in rural Lincolnshire: Woolsthorpe Manor; Grimsthorpe Castle and Ayscoughfee Hall. The four invited international artists drew on the particularities of Lincolnshire to create new artworks.

Woolsthorpe Manor
The name Woolsthorpe is derivative of the sheep trade the modest manor was used before it became the birthplace of physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton. Newton was born here on Christmas Day 1642 in a bedroom that can still be viewed today.

He moved away from home to study at Cambridge University, but returned to Woolsthorpe Manor during 1666 and 1667 when the plague hit London. It was during this time that he performed some of his most salient experiments involving light, optics and gravity, and the apple tree that lies outside the house is a descendant of the catalyst for his theories of gravity.

Following Newton’s death in 1727, Woolsthorpe Manor was sold to a farming family and remained in the family for two hundred years.

The Royal Trust bought the house for the National Trust in 1942, and it was in a considerable state of disrepair. Areas of the house have since been restored, including steps to the hayloft and an old kitchen garden wall. Although none of the displayed furniture and belongings of the house were ever owned by Newton, there is some slight visible evidence of the scientist’s subsistence. He was known to use the walls as ‘doodling pads’ for his formulas, some of which can still be faintly seen today.

Jem Finer ¡Arriba!
In a small caravan parked in the grounds, Finer’s commission includes three interconnected films made from found, amended and invented footage and sound. These have been edited to create a voyage through fictional spaces and the cosmos set up to be viewed through the caravan windows. We experience a virtual journey through altered states and the far reaches of the cosmos; a fitting piece to be located in the place where Newton was also concerned with the far reaches of the universe.

¡Arriba! is a co-commission with Tatton Park Biennial.

About Jem Finer
Since studying computer science in the 1970s, Jem Finer has worked in a variety of fields including film, photography, experimental and popular music and installation. His work incorporates the reconfiguration of old technology with long-term sustainability, whilst encompassing sound with landscape, the cosmos and astrophysics. Furthering his works in the latter two areas, between 2003 and 2005 Finer was Artist in Residence in the astrophysics department of Oxford University. Here he made a number of works including two sculptural observatories, Landscope and The Centre of the Universe.

His recent works focus on his aforementioned interest in sustainability and older technologies and include Spiegelei, a spherical camera obscura. He is also currently developing an 8 bit gravity powered computer, ¡supercomputer!, for a site in Cambridge.

Finer has also created many musical pieces and installations. His 1000 year long musical composition, Longplayer, represents a convergence of many of his concerns, particularly those relating to systems, long-durational processes and extremes of scale in both time and space. Another of his musical works was Score For a Hole In the Ground,a permanent, self-sustaining musical installation in a forest in Kent which relies only on gravity and the elements to be audible.

Bethan Huws The Last Supper
Bethan Huws’ piece at Woolsthorpe Manor presents a series of work notes on The Juggler of Gravity Marcel Duchamp, 1947, set in the context of Newton’s apple tree. Huws has a long-standing interest in the works and theories of Marcel Duchamp, particularly his extensive use of French idioms.

About Bethan Huws
Bethan Huws’ work aims to address the fundamental questions concerning the content and meaning of art, language and existence. Her bilingual upbringing in North Wales is often highlighted in her work, which includes wall texts, installation, sculpture and film that make links to experiences of daily life and Huws’ own personal memories and cultural identity, combining conceptual art with comedic wit.

One of these pieces was False Teeth (2009) when she stencilled the words ‘False Teeth’ onto the windows of a seaside shelter in holiday resort Margate, in Kent.

Her creations of tiny boats made from a single reed reflect personal memories of when she used to make them with her father when she was a young girl. Her exhibition, entitledCapelgwyn (2011), at the Whitechapel gallery in London featured one boat, no bigger than a fingernail, in a glass case.

Architectural intervention is also a subject Huws has familiarized herself with. By altering gallery floors-such as raising them (Capelgwyn, 2011) Huws adjusts the perspective and experience of space, both spatially and acoustically, forging new sites for contemplation. The readymade and conceptual art of the 1960’s, particularly that of Marcel Duchamp whose method of working she has been exploring since 1999, are often quietly echoed in Huws’ work. This reflects her interest in French idiomatic expression and gives possible interpretations to Duchamp’s work.

Grimsthorpe Castle
Throughout its long history, Grimsthorpe Castle has been occupied by several families, but it is now home to the present Lady Willoughby de Eresby and managed by the Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust. Over the past century it has been used as an emergency landing ground in World War I and a bombing range in World War II. In October, Grimsthorpe Castle will be one of three heritage sites showing the work of international artists for COMPASS. Bethan Huws will be exhibiting her enigmatic text artwork in the grounds of the castle.

The History
Construction of Grimsthorpe Castle began in the 13th century by Gilbert de Grant, Earl of Lincoln. After his death, the castle fell into the hands of King John. The naming of King John’s Tower, which is believed to be part of the original 1140 build, is misleading, suggesting the castle’s origin to be in King John's time.

During the 15th century, Lord Lovell occupied the castle, however his support for the early Tudor dynasty saw the property seized by the royals, and given to a family that supported the sovereign.

Home to the de Eresby family since 1516, Henry VIII granted it to the 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, upon his marriage to Maria de Salinas, lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. The last architectural work to be completed on the building was commissioned by the 17th Baron Willoughby de Eresby in 1715. To celebrate his position as first Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven, he employed Sir John Vanbrugh to design a baroque front to the house.

The 3,000-acre park of rolling pastures, lakes, ornamental ponds, herbaceous borders and a mini arboretum was landscaped by a contemporary of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in 1771. Some oak trees on the land were recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. Many were felled during the Tudor period for shipbuilding, however some are thought to have still been in the park in the 20th century.

Bethan Huws Where is Duchamp? He is in the Library
Bethan Huws’ piece combines her textual work with her deep-rooted interest in the work of Marcel Duchamp, the father of conceptual art who she has been studying since 1999-2000. At Grimsthorpe Castle her enigmatic text runs the length of an impressive colonnade - each letter occupying a single alcove, echoing the books in a library. The work reads Where Is Duchamp? He is in the Library. The central fountain and traditional sculptures in the colonnade give a further humourous context.

Ayscoughfee Hall and Gardens
Sitting on the banks of the River Welland in the fenland Town of Spalding, Lincolnshire, is Ayscoughfee Hall. This beautiful, historic venue has provided the inspiration for the works of Jordan Baseman, Amanda Coogan and Bethan Huws  that will be shown here during the COMPASS exhibition, starting on 6 October.

Ayscoughfee Hall is a Grade I listed building dating back to around 1450, and is one of the most complete medieval buildings to have survived the 15th Century. It is rumored that the name is derived from Ascough, a Lincolnshire Knight in the early 1500’s, while ‘fee’ is a term for a portion of land, given by King to a Knight.

Sir Richard Aldwyn is thought to have had the Hall built. He was a prosperous wool merchant. The family’s climb up the social ladder saw Sir Richard’s son, Sir Nicholas Aldwyn, become the Lord Mayor of London in 1499.

The house left the Aldwyn family and was brought by the Johnson family in 1658. Maurice Johnson II, a keen historian, documented his time at the building and its surrounding grounds. He founded the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society in 1710, with poet Alexander Pope and Sir Isaac Newton being key members.

The Johnsons modernized the building in the 19th Century, giving the hall its Gothic appearance. In 1898, the public bought the grounds and house, following the death of the sixth Maurice Johnson. Over the years it has been used as a school, local government building and finally, a museum which is owned by South Holland District Council

Bethan Huws Homage to a Gardener
The homage, as Dan Cooper (the head gardener at Ayscoughfee Hall) modestly pointed out to me, is not only to him, but also to a whole line of gardeners who worked here before him. The oldest part of the yew hedge is 300 years old, making it the oldest kept yew hedge in Britain. It has been clipped into a unique, cloud-like form – “contemporary style”, as Dan puts it – which follows the trees’ natural growth pattern and gives the hedge a distinctly surrealist appearance. Originally it had a conventional geometric shape and it was only through periods of neglect, when it was left to grow wildly, that it assumed an unusually free form. Now the hedge is trimmed and shaped once a year at the end of October. This takes one man two weeks using electric shears and a hydraulic platform; previously this would have taken six men four months, using hand shears and ladders.

Inside the yew hedge there are ten speakers playing the Dawn Chorus.

The recording is the British Library CD “Dawn Chorus”, NSA CD16.

Bethan Huws, 2012

Jordan Baseman A Moment of Darkness
Baseman’s piece is based on his time spent with a group of local paranormal investigators. His interview with the leading ghost hunter and trance medium, forms a monologue as she talks about what it meant to her personally and politically when she discovered she could talk with the dead. The narrative is heard against a backdrop of projected abstract imagery. The visual material is taken from two sources: the speaking part visuals are from film exposed during an all-night ghosthunt (led by the narrator of the film) on July 16 2012. Capturing images without lenses, the 16mm camera was opened when people said that they felt the presence of ghosts, so as to catch Spirits. The other material was filmed with a malfunctioning moving image pinhole 16mm camera made and adapted by Baseman, which he used to film the landscape from train windows as he travelled through the Lincolnshire landscape to attend the meetings.

About Jordan Baseman
Baseman’s films have featured in international exhibition and film festivals. Combining reportage, portraiture, documentary, creative non-fiction and narrative practices Baseman’s films seek to entertain, emotionally engage and challenge audiences. Reflecting his interest in relinquishing the boundaries of control within a process of image-making his work celebrates the collision between representation and abstraction. Baseman edits long interview sessions with his subjects to create his own narrative from the spoken words of their answers, creating work that lies between fiction and fact.

Narration, storytelling based on intimate personal experiences, speculation, opinion, ideas and anecdotes are often interwoven with empirical, known or factual information. Dark is the Night (2009), a series of short films interviewing Soho residents, is a prime example, and his exciting new work for COMPASS A Moment of Darkness includes the same combination.

Amanda Coogan Time and Time and Time
Amanda Coogan worked with seven emerging artists Amelia Beavis-Harrison, Joana Cifre-Cerda, Robert Foster, Laura Mahony, Julieann O'Malley, Hestia Peppe and Sally Anne Roberts. These artists were selected from a national open call to create a performance piece at Ayscoughfee Hall, that took place as part of the guided excursions.

About Amanda Coogan
Dublin based Amanda Coogan worked with seven emerging artists at Ayscoughfee Hall. to create site-specific durational performances that will continue to develop as part of COMPASS and be showcased at Ayscoughfee Hall.

Coogan is at the forefront of some of the most exciting and prolific durational performances to date. She has studied at a multitude of art institutions, including Hochschule für Bildende Kunste, Germany, under the self-acclaimed “grandmother of performance art,” Marina Abramović.

Her practice involves communicating ideas through longitudinal performance. Her work often begins with her own body and challenges the expectations of discernible context, such as head banging to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, and signing the lyrics to Gill Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution will not be Televised.

Represented by the Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin, Coogan has exhibited work in Europe and America. In 2008 she performed Yellow for 6 days at the Artists Space Gallery, New York and in 2009 she made her seminal durational performance, The Fall, over 17 days at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester for the Manchester International Festival’s acclaimed exhibition Marina Abramovic Presents....

Amelia Beavis-Harrison Watch the wall, my darling, as the gentlemen go by!
An interpretive performance referencing the associations of Ayscoughfee Hall and its connections with ‘owling’, an ancient term that refers to the smuggling of sheep. In this costumed performance, the artist walks back and forth. Whilst walking she plays long notes on the violin of no tuneful mention. The violin was an instrument of the common folk and their music, the smugglers and their ballads.

Joana Cifre-Cerda AUS.CUL.TA.TION
The dictionary definition of the word AUS.CUL.TA.TION defines it in general terms as the act of listening and in a medical context the use of a stethoscope to monitor sounds within the body. Joana Cifre-Cerda listens to her own body with a stethoscope. She is the only one who can hear the sounds from within whilst the viewer witnesses the time and care taken to perform this intimate act. We are reminded that taking time and space to listen to one's own body and needs is not an easy task and requires strength.

Robert Foster Welcome
Both inviting and disconcerting, Welcome presents the audience with conflicting possible interpretations for the same proposition. Inspired by slapstick comedy, the work uses a tragi-comic register to subvert the everyday function of a domestic object, and instill a sense of uncertainty about how it is to be responded to by the viewer.

Laura Mahony No Title

The artist walks around the building and grounds of Ayscoughfee Hall authoritatively, recording a continuous spoken commentary on the activity around her. Her commentary may include overheard conversations as she walks through the building.

Julieann O’Mally Untitled
O’ Mally physically pays homage to Isabella Johnson, the last lady of Ayscoughfee Hall as she comes from portrait to place, as an echo of the past overlooking the present.

Hestia Peppé String Figure (Spinning Yarn)

Referring to the historical links between the wool trade and Ayscoughfee Hall, the performance of unwinding and rewinding yarn creates a narrative that engages physically and emotionally with the space. The viewer is encouraged to seek out their own connections between the performance, Ayscoughfee Hall and their own experience.

Sally Anne Roberts The Lemon Squeezer
During COMPASS the performance will include the cutting and squeezing of two hundred lemons with the juice being stored in glass vitrines. This reflects the artist’s interest in working with the physical state of matter rather than making a physical representation. Whilst performed with all of the precision and attention to detail, this work plays with all of the senses.