The first ever, seven-part score for female mouth whistling, was created in collaboration with the composer Eugene Feygelson, based on the English superstition of the Seven Whistlers and performed by a female whistling choir.
Whistling has existed in unusual and interesting ways throughout British history. Beyond musical hall entertainment and its use in the resistance struggles of WW2, superstitions around the 'seven whistlers' can found in mining folklore records throughout the UK including Kent, Shropshire and Leicestershire. There is a history of whistling being banned at work, including the ban placed in factories during the Industrial Revolution and social restrictions on women whistling in public were linked to prostitution, lack of marriageability, and connections to the Devil.
This original composition was performed at three locations where whistling was previously ‘banned’.
The Cutty Sark was chosen because with the exception of the Captain, whistling was banned on boats as it was believed to ‘whistle up the wind’ and make sailing more treacherous.
The China Hall at the Spode Factories, Stoke-on-Trent was the scene of many changes during the Industrial Revolution. Singing and whistling were banned in factories and workers fined if they disobeyed.
The Geffrye Museum of the Home represents the domestic ‘feminised’ sphere of the home, whistling inside was one of the few places where women were allowed to whistle without fear of society’s disapproval. The parlour however was historically spaces where marriage proposals could take place, although whistling was believed to reduce a women’s marriageability, thus becoming a secret, hidden activity.
A film documenting the choir is currently in post-production.
‘A whistling woman and a crowing hen are fit for neither God nor Men. ‘
Banned in factories, down mines, aboard ships and backstage of theatres, whistling has created superstitions, provoked damnation, socially ostracized, denoted class, and for women has alluded to prostitution, financial ruin and reduction of ‘marriagability’
Intrigued by the British superstition of The Seven Whistlers, in whose curlew-shaped form ultimate devastation is wrought, artist and filmmaker Thea Stallwood set out to create a female whistling choir.
Assembling in banned locations, the women of the choir ruminate on their roles before performing the first-ever, specially-composed, seven part score for female mouth whistling.
She Can Just Whistle: Trailer
She Can Just Whistle: Audio Installation
In a long-forgotten room of the now-defunct Spode China Factory, a mournful whistle can be heard.
Banned in the Industrial Revolution, heard throughout the factory’s long history of female ceramicists and, after the closure of the factory in 2008, now existing only as a memory.
Exhibited at the British Ceramics Biennial, the audio installation of the She Can Just Whistle female whistling choir, is embedded into the same moulds that historically would have been used to produce the famous Spode chinaware.
She Can Just Whistle: Audio Installation
If someone asks you, 'what do you do?’ what do you say?
What happens when your 'work' doesn't pay for you to live?
Are artists owed a living?
For artists and makers, whose artwork is not their source of income, these can be awkward and uncomfortable questions to contemplate. Is there a creative person who hasn't considered giving it up for a 'proper' job?'
Art.Work follows six artists as they oscillate between their two worlds, in an examination of the crossovers between making, and making money. The unexpected overlapping and collisions are highlighted as the duality and role-playing required to balance these two lives comes into play.
Following on from a residency in North Wales, the exhibition gave visitors a numbered photograph from my time there, and inviting them to stick it on to the corresponding grid on a wall. As a group this created an unexpected overall image related to a recent event in the surrounding area, which considered the consequences of group action, and indeed, inaction.
The Last Elephant
The Last Elephant is a single-screen projection within a 16-seater temporary cinema. Audio is delivered through headphones that the audience wear. Running simultaneously with the film are four separate audio tracks that recount four different stories relating to the images unfolding on the screen. The audience members are unaware of the parallel experience until reactions between listeners become incongruous and jarring, suggesting the possibility of alternative narratives.
Hyde and Seek: I
Hyde and Seek
In Hyde and Seek viewers were given an A3 map of ‘London’ and a sheet of stickers. Directed to a sound piece they were then asked, through the relaying of a recollected narrative, to peel off the stickers and place in various positions on the map, resulting in an end image. The completion of the image rests entirely upon the obedience of the listener to a set of given instructions.
An exhibition audio tour suddenly, and disconcertingly, revealed as a live, CCTV-filmed, radio-transmitted experience.
In the series Audio Walks an auditory tour was created using binaural recording technology, and layered sounds, to create a parallel sonic environment. Through the audio walk the listener becomes an attentive viewer, urged to consider the smallest details with the greatest interest and concentration, their headphones authorising their actions. In this world, the viewer is directed throughout a space by a gentle voice, requesting that they follow certain directions, whether banal, ludicrous or potentially dangerous/illegal and asking the listener to consider the extent of their obedience.
Wall of Wiki
A site-specific intervention considering information-gathering processes, our pathways through and around information, and levels of trust placed upon these. Taking the framework of the information search engine Wikipedia, five contradictory pages were created and sited in an area reserved for gallery information.
Here and There
An online filmed surveillance of an artists’ studio. The films run simultaneously from four cameras and whilst the beginning suggests the same event occurring from a multitude of angles, each individually moves in its’ own direction, suggesting the possibility of the parallel, often directly contradicting our understanding of Time as linear. The piece has also been developed as a live performance whereupon notions of ‘live’ and ‘staged’ are asked of the audience.
Commissioned for Or-bits online gallery. The piece can be viewed in-situ by visiting www.orbits.com and following Previous Programmes > Superpositions September 2009 > Artists’ Pages > Thea Stallwood