Beyond the Field
20th July – 22nd September 2019
‘Beyond the Field’ by artist Matt Stokes is an audio installation that Museums Northumberland commissioned for Berwick Museum and Art Gallery.
The artwork uses folk instruments to create the sounds produced by fauna present in the landscape of Berwick-upon-Tweed in the mid 1700s. This was during the Agricultural Revolution when the flower-rich meadowlands described by writers surveying the Tweed Valley were being drained and replaced with crops. The shift in farming practices altered local biodiversity, effecting the plants, insects, birds and mammals present in the area.
These changes were recorded by the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club, which was founded in 1831 by local resident Dr George Johnston. ‘Beyond the Field’ draws on their early publications, which are held here at Berwick Museum and Art Gallery. As a forerunner of naturalist societies across Britain, the Club’s records provide vital information about the ecology, history and culture of Northumberland.
The instruments played in ‘Beyond the Field’ were also common in the 18th century. These include a unique regional musical instrument, the Northumberland small pipes, alongside the Half Long (or Border) Pipes, fiddle, hurdy gurdy, tabor, tabor pipe, shawm, Jew’s harp and a variety of bone whistles. Sometimes individual instruments can be clearly heard. At other times the sounds of fauna were produced through layering many instruments, or by removing a component such as the reed or bellows from the small pipes.
The insects, birds and mammals represented in ‘Beyond the Field’ are almost all now considered ‘at risk’ or ‘of concern’. Although the installation conjures a place and time specific to Berwick-upon-Tweed, it invites the audience to consider the ongoing impact of human activity across the natural world.
The duration of ‘Beyond the Field’ is 12 minutes (looped)
You can find out more about the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club in our connected special display, featuring previously unseen objects from the collection. Younger visitors can enjoy ‘The Berwick But-they-no-longer-fly cabinet’; a facilitated art activity created by artist Bethan Maddocks. This art activity runs daily from 11am-12.30pm at weekends and during the Northumberland school summer holidays.
‘Beyond the Field’ is supported by generous public funding through Arts Council England and Northumberland County Council.
Matt Stokes would like to thank: musician Paul Martin, sound engineer and mixer Jordan Miller and members of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club.
Explore our other Northumberland museums this summer to experience more work by Matt Stokes:
Felons: Explore contemporary prisoner experiences through the connected symbolism of raptors at Hexham Old Gaol.
A Traveller And A Shepherd: Explore the lighter side of Northumberland’s unique musical instruments, the Northumberland Pipes, at Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum.
Soundmirror: Discover the incredible story of the orchid grown and named for local footballing legend Jackie Milburn at Woodhorn Museum.