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Ruth Barker and Niall Macdonald
And The Three Mothers Ask: Don't You Know Me? 2011
C-print, 120 x 90 cm Ed. 1/3

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Ruth Barker, Directions for a Radio Play, 2016

“Directions for a Radio Play” is a sculptural assemblage around a sound piece. A central image is the impression of a pregnant female torso. The painted sculptural shell is placed atop a domestic ladder as a stand in for the performer. The conceptual centre of the work is the voiced narrative, presented as a recording on an iphone and fragmented sculptural elements. The recorded spoken word tells a contemporary female fiction about desire and fulfilment and anticipation. Integrated into the structurally connected textural print, and the contemporary narrative are casual snapshots of the iphone carrying a detail of Man Ray’s “les Papillons “ (1958) on its screen. Without making the link too complex Barker comments on a very contemporary form of engagement with the digitised screenshot as a means of not only digesting visual information but also owning the idea on the personalised electronic device. Continuing in a sense from Man Ray’s own commentary that the representation of another visual image, reproduced as a photograph, is a work in its own right, the iphone becomes the frame for a detail of Man Ray’s work, which in turn takes on meaning as a work in its own right. The motif is a visually small incidental component within the rich tapestry “Directions for a Radio Play”, Barker’s own contemporary narrative and foregrounding female thought and female sexual desire.

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Point Your Toes to the Ground - You Are Dancing, 2012
Visual Poem, Series of 4 C- prints

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Ruth Barker, Circle Work, CCA Glasgow, 2015

Circle Work has been developed specifically for a theatre auditorium. A complex
and immersive experience, it features spoken word, installation, and costume.
Ruth Barker speaks from within an ad-hoc paper mountain that is part sculptural
installation and part large-scale performance garment (designed with Lesley
Hepburn). Taking a shamanic descent into - and re-emergence through -
landscape as its starting point, the work speaks to shifting states of being,
bin bags caught in trees, and a schoolgirl who believes that she is turning into
a horse. Circle Work extends Barker’s interest in autobiography, feminist writing
practice, and unconscious associations, through a new work that adopts the form
of a provisional séance. By turns thoughtful, engrossing, hypnotic, or darkly
humorous, Circle Work is a live work creating a preternatural metaphysical experience.

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Ruth Barker, What To Say When There Is Nothing To Say
(no words no sense of the appropriate), Siobhan Davies Dance Centre,
London, 2015

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Ruth Barker, The White Ink Lecture, The Old Hairdresser's,
Edinburgh, 2015

The White Ink Lecture addresses the audience as a lesson in the form of a
reported seance, summoning a sequence of associative connections
between French feminist philosopher Helene Cixous, tattoos, and Google
image search. Layering a complex set of nested descriptions, the
performance contemporises an ecriture feminine form to critique
assumptions of a singular corporeal / textual experience.

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Ruth Barker, Genius Loci (Echo And Narcissus),2014

Reading with live radio broadcast, 1 hour. Genius Loci (Echo And Narcissus) 
was commissioned for 'Remote Performances', a collaboration between
artists London Fieldworks and Resonance104.4fm, the world’s first art radio station.
For one week in August 2014, 20 specially commissioned artist performances and
programmes created with local residents were broadcast live from Outlandia,
a unique artists’ field-station in Glen Nevis, Lochaber, Scotland.

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Ruth Barker, Demeter Song, 2013
Performance, 20 minutes approx. The script was memorised, and recited as a
spoken word performance by the artist. Garment design and production by Lesley Hepburn. 

Because tonight my daughter is going back.
Tonight she will pull herself down, deep under the soil,
Where I cannot go. She will be lost to me,
Gone cold and lonely down, into the dark earth.
She will lie in the land underground.
And she will lie with the blood of his pomegranates wet on her lips.
Tomorrow I will sing only to mourn her.
Yet again, and the same as always.
Yet again, and the same as always.
Yet again.

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Ruth Barker, A Love Song, For Gilgamesh, 2013
Performance, duration 20 minutes approx. The script was memorised, and recited
as a spoken word performance by the artist for The Oral Tradition programme
at Camden Arts Centre. A Love Song, For Gilgamesh was originally scripted
for the striking location of the empty swimming pool on board the SS Rotterdam
- an ex cruise-ship moored in Rotterdam Harbour.

Photography by Hydar Dewachi. Garment design and production by Carmel O'Brien.

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Ruth Barker, Mouth Open In An Open O, 2012
Performance, 20 minutes approximately. The script was memorised, and recited
as a spoken word performance by the artist. This performance was commissioned
as part of the Between programme for Manchester Cornerhouse. It was also
performed and exhibited at the Agency Gallery 2.

Photography by Jonathan Purcell. Garment design and production by Carmel O'Brien.

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Ruth Barker, Your Leaning Neck - Song as Portrait, Scottish National Portrait Gallery,
Edinburgh, 2012
Your Leaning Neck - Song as Portrait offers an expansive way of considering
portraiture. Featuring unaccompanied vocal performances by performers
from Scots oral tradition and contemporary visual art backgrounds, an objective
of the performance is to challenge preconceptions relating to who or what is
represented in a portrait. The work was created as a site-specific response to the
Scottish National Portrait Gallery's collection of portraits from the Scottish
Enlightenment

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Ruth Barker,New Song for Three Mothers, 2011, Glasgow International Festival
Photography by Clyde Jones,Garment by Lesley Hepburn

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Ruth Barker
Selected Work
Biography/Exhibitions
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Ruth Barker is a Glasgow based artist who works with text and performance. Her practice uses a strange poetry to throw autobiographical sketches together with echoes of humanity’s oldest stories.

Reflecting theoretical ideas of connectivity and finitude, Barker works between written text and spoken word, often recounting her complex prose-poems from memory as live performances. Her practice foregrounds the artist's own daily experiences and the quotidian narratives of life in contemporary Scotland. The work is underpinned by the larger, longer stories of our own mortality, our sense of self, and our internalisation of ancient myth.

Barker’s performance poems are hypnotic, ritualised, events, often accompanied by lavish costume or unconventional locations. Her words are layered in structure and intensity, and use repetition, mnemonic, and moments of unexpected humour. Her exhibition practice uses installation, audio, scripts, and chaotic assemblages to draw the essence of a performed work into a staged re-encounter with the artist’s voice, live and online.

Ruth Barker's performance work involves scripting and memorising substantial literary monologues that draw on classical or mythological narratives, but remake them as resonant, current, events. She uses traditional techniques of mnemonic and storytelling to create challenging new performance works in a visual arts context.

Barker understands the act of mythmaking and storytelling as ways of describing the fundamentals of the human condition – acts which are able to influence as well as describe our knowledge of self and imagination. Drawing on works by literary theorists such as Susan Stewart, Marina Warner, Lewis Hyde, and Jaques Derrida, and the poets Ted Hughes, Kathy Acker, and Simon Armitage, Barker relates ideas of narrative structures, 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, without notes, before a live audience and are often composed for specific contexts. This act of recall is a feat of endurance; emotionally loaded and reliant on a concentrated focus that becomes by turns hypnotic, claustrophobic, and cathartic.
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Ruth Barker (Leeds, 1979), lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. She specialises on performance art and performative writing. In 2013 she was nominated as Canongate's 'Future 40. Her projects in 2016 include the Freud Museum, London, as part of “Tall Tales”, curated by Helen Wewiora, ‘The Space Beneath My Skin Is Closed To My Reason Today for: A Goddess for a Beauty Centre’, Online performance with Yeo Chee Kiong, curated by Yen Peng, NAFA Singapore, a public Memorial for the Staffin Crofter's Uprising 1870, ATLAS Arts, Isle of Skye and Strange Attractor, at the Agency gallery London, with Man Ray, Ulla von Brandenburg and Dominique Koch a./o., curated by Bea Gassmann de Sousa.