Arianne Churchman, When We Were in Horseback, Whitstable Biennale 2022. Photo: Rob Harris

Arianne Churchman
When We Were in Horseback

Sunday 12 June 2022

Dead Man’s Corner

A performative walk in which Whitstable becomes a stable for unstable and tangled collective histories. When We Were in Horseback invites visitors to don the cloak of the hooden horse and join a procession through the town centre, 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.” 

The walk begins at Dead Man’s Corner and takes approx. 1 hour, covering a distance of approx. 1 mile. No booking required.