11 February 2023 – 7 May 2023
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter
“Artists: Caroline Achaintre, Emma Hart, Kris Lemsalu, Mercedes Mühleisen, Grace Ndiritu, Florence Peake, Kiki Smith, and Lucy Stein
Through the work of eight contemporary artists, this specially curated new exhibition for RAMM explores otherworldly connections to nature. Earth Spells: Witches of the Anthropocene responds to RAMM’s collections, specifically the Dartmoor Cauldron, once owned by the self-identified ‘Witch of Dartmoor’ Elizabeth Webb. The ‘Anthropocene’ is a proposed definition of geological time that describes the period from 1945 to now, where human activity has had significant impact on the planet’s ecosystems.
The artworks express an intuitive response to the climate and ecological crises. They suggest new spiritual relationships with the land, especially in Devon and Cornwall. Dartmoor is widely known as a place for self-healing and shamanistic practices with its Neolithic stone circles and burial mounds.
Earth Spells invites the viewer to consider if the artists and the artworks could be perceived as suspicious and challenging, radiating ‘witchiness’.
Artists Emma Hart, Grace Ndiritu, Florence Peake and Lucy Stein have been commissioned to create new work in response to RAMM’s collections.
Lucy Stein says, ‘To a certain extent as an artist/witch, I have to stay in tune with an uncultivated state inside myself. For this commission at RAMM, I am trying to tap into the vibe of my childhood, death, the mystical feminine and the spirit of place in the South West.’
Florence Peake presents films, ceramic sculptures and text-based fabric installations inspired by the cauldron’s aura and her visit to a Shaman on Dartmoor. Emma Hart is interested in the power of individuals whose words incite change, for example Greta Thunberg’s activism. Grace Ndiritu’s work draws on indigenous ideas that urge us to live and work for the benefit of all future generations and ecosystems. Her protest carpet is ‘activated’ through an intimate, spiritual ceremony in the museum.
Other works on display include a Jacquard tapestry and drawings by Kiki Smith; a hand-tufted rug by Caroline Achaintre; Mercedes Mühleisen’s video installation Lament of Fruitless HEN; and the sculpture Baubo Dance by Kris Lemsalu.
Earth Spells is co-curated by Lara Goodband, Contemporary Art Curator and Programmer at RAMM, and independent curator Gemma Lloyd.”