Prototyping My Bloody Oar
Walnut and Silver
My Bloody Oar is a new legal instrument made by the artist, it is an agent to show how some existing historic objects can be integrated into society’s current rituals, with sometimes little known, or questioned, about their histories. It is the size of the average human body, a character, and a response to the Admiralty Silver Oar (copy, right), which is 2 feet in length and thought to date from the 1360s, a well-understood symbol of British naval power, punishment and death throughout the British Empire, copies of which are still processed into courtrooms today. The silver oar was processed publicly at executions of convicted pirates before their hanging. My Bloody Oar was processed on the shoulders of the Merchant Navy in a street performance piece following the historic procession route of its admiralty oar predecessor, it became a character to carry revised messages to the public (Carry the Woman You Forgot, 2018). It displays a poem engraved in silver written by the artist based on love letters found in Trinity House archive and from the perspective of the forgotten women victims of naval impressment and the silver oar.
Nearly a year in the making, the title also refers to a mishap whilst sculpting the oar involving a lot of my blood - it’s still in there... it is also a reference to the last line of a piracy play from 1639 in which the silver oar was described on stage as being made to blush with blood. I learned my skills from the former Tyneside ship builders, the best and most talented men who had turned their hand to wood turning under the guise of the Northumbria Wood Turners. A fitting way to learn a skill that links to those communities today. Attended by 500, the procession in 2018 of My Bloody Oar wound its way from the Guildhall Courtroom to Trinity House, Newcastle in 2018, now on permanent display at Trinity House Museum, Newcastle.