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Contemporary Art in Focus

The Contemporary Art in Focus Series is supported by the Centre for Visual Art and Culture and the University College Senior Common Room and curated and produced by Dr Hazel Donkin.

Current Projects

Mick Stephenson is an artist who works with light. He is coming to Durham Castle in Spring 2020/21. 

Recent Past Projects

22 February 2020 – Bad Spirits (Dawn Bothwell & Paul Stewart) ft. Sally Pilkington & Gayle Meikle

SELAH

Selah offered a promenade experience for the audience, starting in Durham Museum and Heritage Centre before moving across Palace Green to Durham Castle. ‘Selah’ is a musical instruction, thought to mean ‘pause', creating a moment of silence for introspection and contemplation. The three performances that made up Selah highlighted female histories, including those of the philosopher Mary Midgley (whose archive is housed in Palace Green Library) as well as the saint, composer and poet Hildegard von Bingen. The performances aimed to explore their outlooks and methods as potential, towards imagining an alternative future and present.

 

The event began with a reading by Gayle Meikle of her text ‘An Address to Holy Motherhood’ in Durham Museum, where a sculpture of Gaia by Fenwick Lawson stands in the garden. The event continued with an organ performance of Soaring by Sally Pilkington in the Tunstall Chapel in Durham Castle. This work was inspired by Hildegard who wrote music as a means of exploring and literally giving voice to the female body in a manner that was not possible in text alone. Her vocal scores used a technique that she called ‘soaring, which she likened to the female contractin and the female orgasm. Paul Stewart’s The World in which the Kestrel Moves was placed in the chapel and the Tunstall Gallery. Drawings, displayed on bamboo pillars invited the audience to appreciate the Castle’s form from the perspective of a kestrel, circling overhead. This work was inspired by Mary Midgley’s text in Beast and Man (2003) where she writes “The world in which the kestrel moves, the world that it sees, is, and always will be, entirely beyond us. That there are such worlds all around us is an essential feature of our world.” Selah culminated in an audio/video performance entitled The Subtleties in the Bishop’s Dining Room in Durham Castle by Bad Spirits. This work compared Midgely and Hildegard’s practice of using personification to stir reverence towards the natural environment. Bothwell’s audio made use of samples from her own body: heartbeats both her own and an in utero accompaniment, breathing, stomach gurgles as well as tempos from 3 species: humans, and hummingbirds, mimicking their heartbeats (70,8 and 1200 bpm). Samples and drum patterns were made from field recordings of their breathing, digestion and other functions and were used alongside other recordings of materials and elements such as stone, wind and water. Hildegard’s scores for female voice O Virtus Sapiente and Nobilissima Viriditas were reworked. Stewart’s bamboo screens contrasted with the architecture of the Castle as impermanent, non-monumental structures and provided ethereal screens for Bothwell and Stewart’s video projections (pictured).

 

Bad Spirits is a curatorial project / a performance / an artistic collaboration between Dawn Bothwell & Paul Stewart. Bad Spirits creates environments that support collaboration, collectivism and making in the company of others.