Rebecca Bligh

The Courtenay Bubble or To Kick a Sick Lion, 2010

Rebecca Bligh’s research into local history led her to 19th century accounts of the eccentric life and peculiar celebrity of the impostor and “false Messiah” Sir William Courtenay, otherwise known as John Nichols Thom, maltster of Cornwall, and “Mad Thom”. From his first marvelous appearance, and thanks to his own gifted oratory, remarkable dress, imposing stature, and rousing publication ‘The Lion’, this self-styled Knight of Malta was to take an unsuspecting Canterbury by storm.

For the Biennale, Bligh presented her own version of his story, ‘The Courtenay Bubble’ or ‘To Kick a Sick Lion’. The readings contrasted the flamboyance of Courtenay himself with the quiet comfort of intimate storytelling.