The Hurrier is a new artist’s film work about labour, sex, time travel and working class women’s bodies: constructed through film experiments, improvisational performance and sound.
Throughout the 19th century, my matrilineal ancestors were repeatedly summoned before the ‘Kirk Sessions’ (Scotland’s church courts) to be chastised and rebuked for the ’sin and scandal of formication’. They lived in a small coal-mining village in Scotland and some died in the workhouse, leaving only a record of their sexuality and debts.This new work draws on these records to explore the control of working class women’s bodies through labour and the policing of pleasure. The bodies will tell the stories through collaboration with performance and sound artists and makers in a work that uses movement, song, beats and transformative, uncanny objects to connect with the continued vilification and exploitation of working-class women’s bodies today.
The title refers to ‘hurriers’: women and children working in coal-mines, in darkness, attached to various devices to transform their bodies into hauling machines. These included a brace which resembles a ‘scold’s bridle’ – metal headpiece with tongue restraint used to punish troublesome women. I am working with a sculptor and performers on a hybrid headpiece which combines these elements and adds antennae for telegraphic communication with the present day: ‘time travel’ offering resistance and celebrating pleasure. The personal connection is in voices ‘heard’ across time and one starting point was an encounter with the steady and unrepentant gaze of my great-great grandmother Rosina in a photograph. Building on film ‘process’ from earlier works, performance improvisation and sound work, The Hurrier will open up contemporary, complex and intergenerational conversations as what there about bodies, sexuality, work and class now.
‘she’s so deliciously low, so horribly dirty’
‘Dirt and waste, sexuality and contagion, danger and disorder..’