Image: And the Three Mothers Ask: Don’t You Know Me (2011)
Photograph: by Janet Wilson, courtesy the artist and The Glasgow School of Art.
Ruth Barker is a Glasgow-based artist originally from Leeds, in the North of England. She completed a first class BA (Hons) in Environmental Art at Glasgow School of Art in 2001, and an MFA (Master of Fine Art) at GSA in 2004. She will begin a practice based PhD at Newcastle University in Autumn 2011.
From a background in site and context specific practice, Barker’s most recent work has been primarily text and performance based. She produces work for galleries as well as for more public locations and sees a balance between the permanent public commissions she’s worked on (often civic memorials), and her essentially ephemeral, transient performative work.
Recent and current projects include performance commissions for Segedunum Museum, Wallsend; ReMap festival, Athens; the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies, Newcastle; Machon Hamayim Gallery, Tel Aviv; and the Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Art. In 2008 Barker designed the first permanent British war memorial to commemorate non-combatants killed in conflict. The Choir Loft is a grade II listed monument, and is sited beside the Cenotaph in Blackpool, UK.
Ruth Barker‘s performance work involves scripting and memorising substantial literary monologues that draw on classical or mythological narratives to 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. The artist 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.
Ruth Barker often works with fashion designer Lesley Hepburn, from whom she commissions handmade, bespoke garments which she wears during performances.