This video documents part of Arianne Churchman‘s When We Were in Horseback, a new work performed at Whitstable Biennale 2022. It’s available online for a limited time.
A performative walk in which Whitstable became a stable for unstable and tangled collective histories. When We Were in Horseback invited visitors to don the cloak of the hooden horse and join a procession through the town, tracing the shape of a horse through collective shared actions, song and the sound of bells.
Drawing on the imagery of ancient hillside chalk horses, the spectre of the white horse in Kent and the Kentish folk tradition of hoodening, When We Were in Horseback is part of a series of works by Arianne exploring the social and political contexts of the horse in folklore.
The work centres on the act of hoodening, in which an individual is concealed in sackcloth or a horse blanket, and carries a snapping wooden horse head on a pole above them. This horse is joined by other revellers who perform acts of song, dance and folk plays in exchange for money and goods in the quieter winter months.
Whitstable’s hoodening tradition makes an unseasonal break with tradition, appearing at May Day each year. When We Were in Horseback seeks to further explore this seasonal rupture with tradition, entwining and corrupting histories in search of new collective fictions.
“We slip on the cloak of the hooden horse and pull up the hood. Atop our heads sits a snapping horse’s head. We look ahead and see it blend with our vision, pushing our lines of sight out to the side. We walk as a herd to the sound of bells, brass and song, white ribbons flowing from our necks, flickering at the ghosts of Kentish horses that adorn the streets and our feet mark out a fleeting outline on the pavement.”
Find out more about Arianne’s work at ariannechurchman.com.
Filmed by Chloe Langlois.
Commissioned for Whitstable Biennale 2022.
Curated by Emma Leach.