Laura Wilson: Milling About
Hull & East Riding Museum 36 High St, Hull HU1 1NQ
7 October - 6 December 2017
Milling About by Laura Wilson explores Hull’s and the East
Riding of Yorkshire’s history of growing grain and producing flour for
baking bread. Inspired by the archaeological collections in the museum,
Wilson worked with archaeologist Dr. Melanie Giles, University of
Manchester, to explore the evolution of ancient grinding technologies
and their affect on the human body.
This new commission by Invisible Dust for Surroundings, a Humber Museums
Partnership programme, was presented within the archaeological
galleries, in a building that between 1856 and 1925, was part of the
Corn Exchange and is situated opposite the now demolished Clarence Flour
Mills. Set to a soundtrack by Mira Calix, the video follows the
protagonist enacting the repetitive motions of grinding flour by hand
using quern stones, a common practice in Britain until the Romans
brought their engineering skills here and as Dr Giles says, ‘eased the
burden on the body’.
‘Historically quern stones would have been very personal
objects, and often destroyed when the owner died. This was a daily
ritual producing just enough flour to make bread, the upper stone is
rotated or rubbed to and from on the lower one: the stones grind each
other and produce dust. It is rhythmic movement, there is a pace to it but these movements are laborious, demanding and necessary: the body
Laura Wilson’s research included visits to Skidby Windmill, the local
family-run organic millers J. Stringers & Sons and the deserted
village of Wharram Percy. She also met John Cruse, co-ordinator of the Yorkshire Archaeology
Society’s Yorkshire Quern Survey; Dr. Ruth Pelling, Historic England
Senior Environmental Archaeologist; and Dr. Richard Osgood, Senior
archaeologist of the Ministry of Defence, to discuss her ideas.
Curated by Lara Goodband.
Photo: Laura Wilson, Milling About, 2017 (still from video). Commissioned and produced for
Surroundings by Invisible Dust in partnership with Humber Museum
Partnership. Photo credit: Laura Wilson
Milling About by artist Laura Wilson explores
Hull’s and the East Riding of Yorkshire’s
history of growing grain and producing our for baking bread. Inspired by the
archaeological collections in the Hull and
East Riding Museum, Wilson worked with
archaeologist Dr. Melanie Giles, University of Manchester, to explore the evolution of
ancient grinding technologies and their
a ect on the human body who describes the
archaeological context here.
‘The history of milling in the British Isles has
a long heritage. From the earliest cultivation
of cereal crops in the Neolithic to modern organic farming, the Yorkshire Wolds has
been the scene of generations of farmers,
using di erent types of quern stones, to mill their wheat, rye and barley, for daily
bread. Whilst the technology has changed
dramatically over six thousand years of our-
making, the intimate knowledge of the soils,
the crops that can be best grown, and the
skill that goes into the making of our daily
bread, links past to present in a powerful way.
Quernstones tell the day-to-day story of food
production. They are often made of a special
stone brought into an area: gritty enough to
grind grain, but not leave too much sand in the sandwich! Sometimes they are worked
into engraved surfaces to help grind the our into a ner grade, and rarely, they are
decorated. Some could be worked by grinding
back-and-forth (the ‘saddle quern’), and others
by turning with a handle (‘beehive’ and ‘rotary’ querns). Most are ceremonially broken
and fragmented at the end of their life-use,
and placed in special contexts: pits, ditch
terminals and rarely, burials. They were bound
into the life of a house, perhaps strongly
associated with individuals, who had their
own, distinctive way of working these stones,
and they were clearly powerful symbols of
fertility and well-being for those agricultural
communities who thrived or starved,
according to their harvests. It was only with
the Romans that water - and later, wind power - could be used to ease the burden of
toil this took on the body. This leaves traces that
archaeologists can identify in the shoulders
and musculature of prehistoric bodies.
From discussions with experts in ancient
querns, archaeological botanists and experimental archaeological farms, to
modern organic farming on the Wolds, Laura has produced a film inspired by the
transition in the Iron Age to early Roman
period (about 500 BC to 100 AD), from simple
saddle quern to beehive and rotary quern.
Drawing on her previous artworks on the
making of bread, Laura brings to this project
an understanding of the way in which the
body, the quernstones and the grain, are
fused in a dance-like, entrancing relationship
of everyday labour’.
Dr Melanie Giles, Senior Lecturer in
Archaeology, University of Manchester and author of Archaeologists & the Dead:
Mortuary Archaeology in Contemporary
Society (Howard Williams and Melanie Giles -
Oxford University Press) A forged glamour: landscape, identity and
material culture in the Iron Age (Melanie
Giles - Windgather Press)
Thanks to all who came on Saturday for the opening of Milling About at the Hull and East Riding Museum in Hull.
Photos: (From top image down) Laura Wilson, Milling About, 2017. Installation view. Photo: David Chalmers; Curator Lara Goodband introducing the work. Photo: Nick Harrison; Laura Wilson and Dr. Melanie Giles, archaeologist. Photo Nick Harrison; Laura Wilson, Dr. Melanie Giles and John Cruse. Photo: Nick Harrison,
join me on Saturday 7 October, 2-4pm for the launch of my recent
commission with Invisible Dust at the Hull & East Riding Museum as part of Surroundings 2017 for Hull UK City of Culture 2017.
Over the last few months I have been working with Yorkshire-based archaeologist Dr.
Melanie Giles to explore the evolution of ancient grinding technologies
used to make flour and their affect on the human body. This new video entitled Milling About (2017) will be presented within the archaeological galleries at the Hull & East Riding Museum 7 October - 3 December.
Alongside this, on Saturday 7 October in Hull's Museum Quarter, I will also present my durational performance Rolling (2017)
commissioned earlier this year by Delfina Foundation and the Royal
College of Art.
This Monday 7 August, I am presenting Four (2017), a new performance at Guest Projects, London as part of the opening of Lost Senses a programme of events and workshops curated by Linda Rocco. This new work with four bodies in response to the peculiar
architecture of the space, uses a score by Mira Calix and the
building’s supporting pillars as starting point for this new live
work. Featuring dancers: Elina Akhmetova, Iris Chan, Piedad Seiquer and
Lucy Suggate. The evening is 6-9pm, and performance will be around 7.15pm, followed by a live set by Lawrence Lek and Clifford Sage. LOST SENSES curated by Linda Rocco 7 August - 4 September 2017 Featuring artists: JocJonJosch,
Lawrence Lek & Clifford Sage, Laura Wilson, Harold Offeh, Charles
Michel, JoDI, Georgia Lucas-Going, the Uncollective & Sara
Sassanelli, Tom Railton, Rhine Bernardino, Katharine Vega, Pier Giorgio
De Pinto, Eliza Soroga, Andrea Maciel, Luli Perez, Sharon Gal, Diana
Policarpo, House of Absolute, Nora Silva, Paloma Proudfoot, Luca Bosani,
Finn Thomson, Beatrice Bonafini, Nataliya Chernakova, Federico
Guardabrazo, Jay Jay Revlon and more to be announced. LOST SENSES is a living space for encounters, open every day to everyone. Revisiting
the exhibition as format and exploring the gallery space as a fluid
cultural site, artists and practitioners will work in close relation
with people reorganising the self’s relation to perception.
one-month campus wants to create collective experiences and ways to
actively participate in everyday life, remembering that embodiment is
not just textual but consumed by a world filled with smells, textures,
sights, sounds and tastes. Generating a re-opening of senses exploring
otherness, lost and participation, everyday life will be critically
tested as a never static reality made of bodies, time and experiences.
Mainly working as a hub for thinkers and a space for reverie, LOST
SENSES will offer daily live experiences to engage diverse audiences
through meaningful inter(actions), opening up reflections on a wider
scale through processes of documentation and mediation.
campus will use Live art to explore the now: to reorganise, open and
reshape senses, generating reflections on our own identities, our
communities and beyond.
Last night I presented a new performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as part of We Portal, a curated programme by Mira Calix.
Thank you to the performers, Elina Akhmetova, Iris Chan and Piedad Seiquer, and to Yeast Bakery.
Laura Wilson, Trio, 2017
Available as a live stream on the V&A’s
Facebook page, the broadcast will ran from 6-9pm and featured 14
specially commissioned performances, which played out alongside a
series of artworks by a further 12 artists, to be viewed on the museum’s
Twitter and Instagram platforms. We Portal live stream was part of Reveal, a free, week-long public festival that runs at the V&A museum from 30 June to 7 July 2017.