The British Isles have a particularly strong relationship to magic and the occult with the chants of witchcraft echoing throughout their history. This exhibition looked to the importance of craft, ritual and land on the practice of the ever shifting figure of the witch.
Traditional witchcraft has a strong connection to the earth with an intimate knowledge of herbs, plants and the elements - as well as the human body. As gatekeepers to altered consciousness witches have been both feared and sought out for their dealings with the unknown. Historically persecuted as an outsider, the witch has been taken on by artists as a challenging force to prevailing norms and as a symbol of dissidence. Looking to symbols, tools and the coven as a space for focusing collective intent, the artists in this exhibition explored the path of the witch as one for how we can connect with the earth and each other.
Artists: Verity Birt, Anna Bunting-Branch, Nadine Byrne, Mary Beth Edelson, Fiona Finnegan, Blue Firth, Fourthland, Georgia Horgan. Ben Jeans Houghton, Serena Korda, Candice Lin, Katarzyna Majak, Monica Sjöö, Lucy Stein, Ayesha Tan Jones and Cathy Ward.
Contemporary art works were contextualised through archival material and periodicals, as well as loaned artefacts from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Feminist Archive South/Bristol University Special Collections and Rupert White/artcornwall.org.
Accompanying the tour was an events programme led by the exhibiting artists. Artist duo Fourthland led public workshops where the weaving of modern day spells formed a participatory grimoire - a contemporary book of shadows - which was collectively added to at each exhibition venue, and keeps developing. Serena Korda led participants in musical improvisation workshops through playing the ceramics in her piece Jug Choir. These workshops resulted in public performances at the venues. Ben Jeans Houghton performed modern day rituals at the exhibition openings.
The Exhibition toured to
Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, 15 September - 7 November 2018
20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe, 19 January - 23 March 2019
Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, 10 May - 15 June 2019
Bonington Gallery, Nottingham, 27 September - 16 November 2019
For more information, to listen to episodes of a specially commissioned podcast by Blue Firth and to explore our interactive UK map of Witchcraft - developed by Ben Jeans Houghton - go to www.wakingthewitch.uk
The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, designed by Hugh Frost, which acts as a legacy of the tour.
Waking the Witch is a UK Touring Exhibition curated by Legion Projects and supported by Arts Council England.