16 September – 31 October 2017
Arianne Churchman has taken the folk costume worn by the Hopper Joe character in the Cropwell Bishop Plough Monday play as the focus for her performance and exhibition. The smock that was last worn in 1895 is on display in Nottingham Castle’s Threads gallery, on permanent loan from the Folklore Society.
Hopper Joe appears only momentarily during the play, but is one of the only characters to pass between audience and an informal stage. He is a farm labourer as he can plough, sow, reap and mow. His role throughout the play is to collect money from the audience and place it in the seed hopper that he carries in front of him.
HORSE-PLAY utilises Hopper Joe’s ‘ragbag’ sensibilities to explore the costumes context within The Story of English Clowning and the dubious authenticity of the smock. The Story of English Clowning was staged at Nottingham Castle in 1977 and curated by poet and exhibition designer Arnold Rattenbury (1921-1967). Rattenbury grouped folkloric objects and costumes into two categories – those involved in horseplay, and those used in the transformation of normative modes of behaviour. Hopper Joe falls into the latter.
HORSE-PLAY, a performance by Arianne Churchman, 2017, Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, image credit Simon Withers
The exhibition comes following a recent performance by Arianne at Nottingham Castle, also titled HORSE-PLAY. The performance channeled the Hopper Joe character and the 1977 procession of the Minehead Hobby Horse, which took place around the castle site and grounds. Originating from Somerset (c.1830) and traditionally performed on May Day, the brightly coloured and decorated Minehead Hobby Horse traverses the town’s borders creating a ritual space.
Arianne is the winner of the Nottingham Castle Open 2016 solo exhibition prize. Within her practice Arianne investigates British folk traditions and celebrations using performance, film, sound and sculpture. She questions how we might import or re-imagine ancient rituals, beliefs and rites within our modern life.
Image taken from The Story of British Clowning catalogue, Nottingham Castle, 1977.
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