Festival Commissions 2023
A Whistling Woman, a Crowing Hen
A Whistling Woman, a Crowing Hen
Carl Gent was invited to make a new work in response to the 25th anniversary of Deptford X to sit within the archival exhibition. A Whistling Woman, a Crowing Hen is the result and draws inspiration from both the festival’s history and an encounter at St Alban’s Cathedral where Gent witnessed an organist rehearsing a song on headphones. Struck by the partial spectacle of this private performance in a public space, Gent came to understand the long history of Deptford X through the same lens. As the years have passed, the history has grown and thousands of performances, conversations and encounters have happened as part of the festival. However, the full extent of these remain ungraspable from a present standpoint, with only listings, maps and documentation remaining.
A Whistling Woman, a Crowing Hen consciously adds to this history of art work on Deptford soil and replicates a fleeting, private experience. The work is centred around a film of musicians Charles Hayward and Rubie performing electric drums and electric piano on headphones in Deptford Creek at low tide, heard only by each other. They are improvising around the folk song ‘Just as the Tide Was A-Flowing’, which tells the tale of a tryst between a woman and a sailor in the early morning by the banks of a river. The song includes the line; “we’ll never know what they spoke”, which accords with the partial spectacle of A Whistling Woman, a Crowing Hen and the history of Deptford X art works of which it is now part. Conscious of the precarious balance, evidenced in the festival’s history, between artists and urban development, Gent sought to produce a work that left minimal traces. Keen not to disrupt the wildlife of the Creek, or the human geography of Deptford, the filmed performance takes place quietly, at dawn, before the city wakes.
The installation in the gallery offers a glimpse into that morning performance in the mud of Deptford Creek. Through recreations of unattributed art works found in Deptford X’s photographic archives, it also pays tribute to the obscured history of the artists whose practices make up the dense history of the festival.
Drums: Charles Hayward
Cameras: Rebecca Lennon
Production assistance: Paige Murphy
Special thanks to Creekside Discovery Centre, Leon Dee, Beth Bramich, Ufuoma Essi, Joseph Noonan-Ganley and all at Hospitalfield.
Every third screening will be captioned.
Carl Gent is an artist from Bexhill-on-sea, UK. Much of their recent work has sought to refictionalise the life of Cynethryth, eighth-century Queen of Mercia through a range of amateur dramatics, tabletop gaming on self-publishing cesspits and the parading of decapitated kings in community carnivals. Together with Kelechi Anucha they embedded new recordings of English folk songs inside sculptures that investigated the girly and divine links between folk and church song. Their ongoing collaborative work with Linda Stupart has given birth to a range of live, published and exhibited projects that restaged 1990s video game Ecco the Dolphin as an artist’s play.
They have recently exhibited their sculptures, songs, vehicles and printouts at Badischer Kunstverein, Istituto Svizzero, the De La Warr Pavilion, ICA, Somerset House, Goldsmiths CCA, Flatland Projects, Wysing Arts Centre, KELDER, Jupiter Woods and the Museum of English Rural Life. They have recently published with Monitor Books, Sticky Fingers Publishing, Kelder Press, HOAX and Arcadia Missa.