Penny Burnfield always produces thought provoking work and her pieces for DIS/rupt are no exception. With this in mind I was interested to find out a little more about the work she has produced for the exhibition so asked her the area of the DIS/rupt project she was investigating or exploring.
My subject is, perhaps, the ultimate disruption: War, and in particular the disruption of the lives of young people who are manipulated or drafted into the Forces to “defend their country”
Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt?
I am making two pieces that have their starting points in a couple of well-known war poems and a first world war recruiting song. One -The Old Lie- will be a ‘coffin’ draped in a ‘flag’ that bears the inscription “Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori”. This saying – which dates back to ancient Rome – means “It is sweet and honourable to die for your country”.
The second piece – His Work is Done – consists of some ‘found’ military objects from various countries and eras on which I am embroidering phrases from the 1914 song “Your King and Country Want You”, which will be on a CD player for the viewer to listen to on headphones.
What are the materials and processes that you are working with?
Textiles play their part in war – not just as flags and uniforms, but as containers for all sorts of equipment from collapsible spades to hand grenades. I have collected some American WW2 gaiters, a water-bottle and its cover, probably Dutch, and a Soviet-era Gas Mask and its bag. All are made of military canvas in various shades of Khaki. I have also used some old sheets that belonged to my parents that I have dyed in various shades of grey to make my flag. I am working with bonded appliqué and hand-stitching: the gaiters are very tough to stitch on!
Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?
The ‘coffin’ is life size. It would fit me rather well!
Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?
The ‘coffin’ is free standing and the collection of military objects will be wall hung. I hope that, together, they will form a coherent installation.
What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?
I hope people will reflect on consequences of war, and when, if ever, war can be justified.
Thank you, Penny. In these uncertain and unsettling times it is something for all of us to consider. I know your work will resonate with the visitors to the exhibition.
It’s becoming more and more exciting as we near the opening of DIS/rupt and for anyone thinking of attending the symposium Disrupting Tradition: New Textile Languages information can be found at Symposium. Speakers at this event include Alice Kettle, June Hill, Michelle Stephens and our curator for DIS/rupt, Melanie Miller. Sounds really exciting and will be stimulating.