Ghosts of the Pendle Witches: exhibition

Some of the installations at the Ghost Bird exhibition that is being staged at Live at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts [LICA] from October 7th to December 6th. (s)
Some of the installations at the Ghost Bird exhibition that is being staged at Live at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts [LICA] from October 7th to December 6th. (s)

‘Ghost Bird’ is a haunting new exhibition of photographs from Louise Ann Wilson Company’s site-specific production of the same name being shown for the first time in a gallery setting as part of ‘Transformed’ a double bill exhibition at Live at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts [LICA].

A powerfully atmospheric silent, outdoor walking-performance and live-art installation, ‘Ghost Bird’ took place last year to commemorate 400 years since the Pendle Witches’ trial.

In this new exhibition, evocative documentary photographs of the site-specific piece, captured by photographer Manuel Vason, will be shown alongside installation elements taken from the original work including 15,000 spent shotgun cartridges and signs used to mark the original walking route, place names of the local landscape and the history of the birds presence in the Trough of Bowland.

The photographs in ‘Ghost Bird’ will trace the journey taken by the audience in the original live work which followed part of one of the possible routes taken in 1612 by 12 men and women from Pendle across Bowland Fell to Lancaster Castle, to await trial on the charge of practising witch-craft.

In the original production this physical journey created a space for reflection on the aggressive and unwarranted persecution of the Pendle Witches as a metaphor for the unjust pursuit of the hen harrier.

Referencing the ghostly grey feathers of the male hen harrier, ‘Ghost Bird’ also alludes to the plight of the species. The hen harrier has become one of the most stricken species in the UK due to the rise of grouse shooting. Known to take grouse chicks as part of their diet, the hen harrier became problematic in areas popular for shooting and game keepers were tasked with reducing their numbers, which, along with loss of habitat, has meant that the breed is now close to extinction.

The ‘Ghost Bird’ exhibition at LICA takes place at a particularly poignant time as this year, for the first time since the 1960s, no hen harrier chicks have been hatched in the UK, pushing the population to the brink of extinction.

The exhibition will bring into the gallery a compelling reflection on an internationally significant natural area of bog and moorland, a dramatic backdrop to the creation of original work for which Louise Ann Wilson Company drew on the creative resources of choreography, sound and live performance.

The exhibition will run from October 7th to December 6th. For further details call 01524 593057 or visit: www.liveatlica.org