Jacob Whittaker

 

10 July // Gorffennaf – 25 August // Awst 2017

Bragu Blodeuwedd
A film about transformation

Gorse ~~ Meadowsweet ~~ Oak ~~ Broom

This short experimental work uses the flowers from the story of Blodeuwedd and follows their transformations through fermentation processes, evoking the spirit of Blodeuwedd through chemistry, colour and sound.

The work looks at brewing as a creative act, the recipe and process become a ritual, a conjouring.

Gorse, Oak and Meadowsweet wines blended in equal parts, add 3 drops of Broom infused spirit and place in a jar with a barn owl pellet.

The final infusion continues to change as the wines oxidise and the pellet breaks down.

Perhaps she is alive.

Ac yna y kymeryssant wy blodeu y deri, a blodeu y banadyl, a blodeu yr erwein, ac o’r rei hynny, asswynaw yr un uorwyn deccaf a thelediwaf a welas dyn eiroet. Acybedydyaw o’r bedyd a wneynt yna, a dodi Blodeued arnei.

Williams, Ivor, ed., Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi, (Cardiff, University of Wales, 1951)

Jacob Whittaker

Bragu Blodeuwedd : Cerddoriaeth//music:

The soundtrack in the Bragu Blodeuwedd video was composed and performed by Deuair (Elsa Davies and Ceri Owen-Jones):

Description of Blodeuwedd from Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch (c.1350, Parcrhydderch, Llangeitho) was entwined with chosen contemporaneous melodies (c.1320-80, Tyddewi diocese) whose words venerate female love and show honour with flower symbolism.

These words and tunes were included in an antiphonal made during the same period as the compiling of Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch, intended for specific use in the Welsh liturgical calendar.

An arrangement of choral voices was transferred to Crwth, Telyn Wrachod, and Telyn Efydd, traditional instruments of poetic art in Wales with pre-Christian lineage.

The score was composed from these influences by playing with the shifting rhythms and tones of Jacob’s sound recordings of the brewing process and to his film images.

‘[…] blodeu y deri, a blodeu y banadyl a blodeu yr erwein.’
Flowers of Broom and Gorse. Mae telyn efydd yn canu ‘Sicut Lilium Inter Spinas’.

‘[…] nit oed gyueir arnei hi ny bei yn llawn oe garyat ef.’
Meadowsweet. Mae crwth yn canu ‘O Certe Precipuus Marie Magdalene Amor’.

‘Keisswn nineu ui a thi oc an hut an lledrith hudaw gwreic idaw ynteu or blodeu.’
Oak, strength and fuel. Mae telyn wrachod yn canu ‘Kaniad Yr Efail’, alaw o’r crynhoad cerddoriaeth canoloesol Cymreig.

Forged with magic and illusion, ‘Blodeuwedd’ appears while crwth enchants ‘Felix Maria Familiam Custodi’, ‘[…] hitheu a gymerth diruawr lywenyd yndi.’

Elsa Davies and Ceri Owen-Jones

Bragu Blodeuwedd was originally commissioned for Aberystwyth Storytelling Festival 2017.

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Jacob Whittaker

Jacob Whittaker

5 November // Tachwedd – 12 December // Rhagfyr 2015

Cymanfa Ganu1_edited-3

Sound and video artist, Jacob Whittaker is based in Cardigan, west Wales and has undertaken many projects which utilise his vast collection of vinyl records. As a founding member of the Gwrando sonic art collective he created the Capeli project with sound artist, Lou Laurens over a six year period. The project visited chapels throughout west Wales performing and recording sound and visual explorations and encounters.

The piece he has made for Oriel Blodau Bach makes reference to minister and musician Ieuan Gwyllt who set up the periodic music journal ‘Blodau Cerdd (Flowers of Music)’ in 1852 with three friends which gave instruction on hymns and hymn tunes.


 

Oriel Blodau Bach’s Second exhibition has been created for the space by Cardigan based visual and sound artist Jacob Whittaker. Whittaker has been working with sound as part of his practice since graduating from West Wales School of the Arts in 2003. A large part of his practice is centered around his vast collection of vinyl records, within which he has a particular interest in rare and unusual Welsh recordings such as those made by local groups or choirs.

Whittaker’s piece for Oriel Blodau Bach draws on this interest, presenting a collection of record covers relating to the work of the 19th century Calvinistic Methodist Minister and musician John Roberts or Ieuan Gwyllt (John the Wild). John Roberts was involved with teaching hymns and leading choirs and played an important role in Welsh cultural history.

Whittaker has also spent many years working with chapels in the west Wales area. As part of sound collective, Gwrando with artist and singer Lou Laurens he created sonic works within chapels. Part of that project involved exploring the decline of Chapels and the fight to keep hold of local traditions and communal spaces in the face of a modern world and an apathetic congregation.

The Cymanfa Ganu is also a traditional cultural practice in Wales that is under threat, while village schools and chapels close, our communities become ever more sparse and disparate. With no facilities in their villages people are forced to travel to towns or bigger villages to attend schools, shops, festivals and even pubs leaving these sparse traditions some of the very few things left to bring communities together.

Whittaker’s piece uses record covers from a recording of a 1969 Cymanfa Ganu to explore some of these ideas. The two thick rows of Welsh dragons adorning the gallery are almost a little shocking when they first hove in to view. The striking, repeated image evokes thoughts of nationalism and identity but really it is a piece about localism and community.

The viewer is asked to question where these ideas meet and who arbitrarily designates the lines between them. The small, local communities where we spend most of our time and which are our homes are being steadily eroded by the need to make things bigger, more connected and more universal. We are becoming a global community but is it at the cost of the physical places where people live out their lives?

The interplay of nationalism, localism and globalism are caught up for each of us with our sense of identity and that makes it a difficult subject to broach. These ideas come from the place where the impersonal and the personal touch and it is a difficult line to walk. I think Whittaker’s piece is thought provoking but not dogmatic; placing it here in the heart of a small Welsh village, the kind of place you might have driven through a hundred times but never stopped or noticed, is a way of making strong connections in unusual cultural spaces. It asks the viewer to stop and consider what is happening to the hearts of our villages, our communities and our culture and which loses are worthwhile sacrifices for a more connected, more global world and which of them are too high a toll.

Kirsten Hinks

December 2016