Deep, Deepen, Deepening

Laura Wilson’s ‘Deep, Deepen, Deepening’ is a performance about forging connections over centuries. On display at Norwich Castle Museum until the 29th March, it is a piece about the intimacies of human communication, presented within the cohesive routine of labour.

‘Must Farm’ is an excavation site that is often labelled as the “UK’s Pompeii” due to its rich abundance of preserved artefacts, and is the location of Wilson’s piece. ‘Deepening’ features performers in identical jumpsuits interacting with their landscape and each other; twelve excavated pots are framed in a hollow in the wall perpendicular to the video screen. They rest on neon green plinths, a colour that is echoed in the jumpsuits of the performers, a direct assertion of the link between past and present.

The performance is displayed within the Museum’s Boudica Gallery, a section of the building dedicated to artefacts from the Bronze Age. As you make your way from the permanent collection to the exhibition, you cannot help but contemplate the relationship between old ways of living and Wilson’s contemporary performance.  

When talking about what drew her to Must Farm, Wilson said, “Over the last two years, I have been researching the prehistoric site of Must Farm, an exceptionally well-preserved settlement dating to the Late Bronze Age [1000 – 800BC].

“The site itself sits on the edge of a working quarry at Whittlesey, just outside of Peterborough. Excavated in 2016 by the Cambridge Architectural Unit, discoveries include a large selection of metalwork, quern stones, textiles, loom weights and spindle whirls – through my New Geographies commission, I proposed to work with these objects to open up questions around labour, trade and everyday life. ‘Deepening’ builds on my work made over the last few years, investigating how the body learns, adapts, responds to and performs manual work. I see this as a counterpoint to the increasing pace of mechanical production and the invisible, outsourced labour of today’s new technologies”.

Wilson went on to say that the performance was presented, “three times (11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm) within Must Farm Quarry on Saturday 19th October”.

I asked her what her connection to the people featured in the performance was, and if she was searching for a specific sort of person. Wilson said, “It was performed by twelve independent dance artists, I have worked with about half of them before in previous performances, and the rest were recommended to me by the other performers who have experience working with me”.

In regards to forging connections with the past, Wilson said, “Our past isn’t something we can ignore, it’s always there left within the fabric of our surroundings. In the quarry, you can quite visibly see this in the layers of clay and sediment built up over time – from the sediments deposited just a week ago, through to the bronze-age and to the Jurassic period at its very foot”.

There is a selection of talks coinciding with the exhibition, all taking place at the Town Close Auditorium at Norwich Castle Museum. On 28 February, Wilson herself will be there in conversation with Dr Rosy Gray. Two more talks follow; ‘Symbols of Power: Prehistoric People and Everyday Objects’ (6th March), and ‘Layering the Landscape: Geology and Must Farm’ (13th March).

‘Deepening’ offers content for all to enjoy, not only as contemporary art, but also as a work imbued with archaeology, geology, and history. It is well worth a visit and allows us a small pocket of time to reconnect with our past, and ourselves.

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Ally Fowler

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October 2021
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