Performing Northumbria: Empire

a navigate commission

Performing Northumbria: Empire explores the question of 'empire' through the optic of the North of England. It focuses in part on Hadrian's Wall which is 73 Roman miles long and runs from Bowness on the Solway Firth to Wallsend (close to the Baltic on the north bank of the River Tyne). It was constructed not only to keep those to the north (still to this day understood academically as 'Barbarians') at bay but also to regulate the flow of people and goods from the north to the south. It was not unlike today's border controls that exist between nation states. However in the case of Rome, the 'wall' marked itŐs furthermost northern boundary. In the contemporary culture we are witnessing a frequent allusion being drawn between that of Ancient Rome and the 'new imperium' of the United States of America.

A closer inspection of this material has led me to the work of the early C19th Antiquarian, William Hutton. In 1801 Hutton left his home in Sutton (Birmingham) and set out on a walking tour which led him to Carlisle and across Hadrian's Wall. He then returned to his home on foot by way of the same route. His account, published shortly after, was entitled, 'The History of the Roman Wall, which crosses the Island of Britain, from the German Ocean to the Irish Sea, describing its Ancient State, and its appearance in the year 1801'.

Performing Northumbria: Empire has two phases:

1. The use of Hutton's text and itinerary as a palimpsest in order to arrive at a new performance text. This will have involved travelling Hutton's route and collecting associated data that bares relevance to the subjects at hand.

2. The artistic outcome of this process will take the form of a discursive performance developed at Baltic. This will collide action and reading to arrive at a collective dynamic in which the notion of audience might dissolve and help to further explode the critical and allegorical dimensions of Empire.

Tim Brennan is an independent practitioner who has exhibited internationally for 20 years. He is engaged in the notion of discursive practice through performance, photography, sculpture, writing, publication, drawing, curating and teaching. Since 1987, he has produced a corpus of work which has included the politics of the gallery and beyond. Over the last decade he has developed a methodology based on walking and conversation as art (which he refers to as the manoeuvre). This work exists in a region between traditions of performance art, loco-description, history and journeying, and surfaces as an exponential mode of radical travel-writing. Brennan recently completed an AHRB (arts and Humanities Research Board) three year fellowship at the University of Sunderland (UK) through which he engaged in an interrogation of devolution and the condition of British unity through the optic of Northumbrian history. His performance, Performing Northumbria: Empire for navigate emerges from this enquiry.

Brennan has been quoted as one of the most important practitioners to contribute to the social and political role of contemporary art and has been cited as developing and applying the concerns of minimalism, performance, land art and conceptualism within the social fabric.

Brennan is Programme Leader, MA Curating at the University of Sunderland.