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New and Recent Works by Ruth Ewan in First Major Show at Dundee Contemporary Arts
Ewan is interested in viewing history as alive, relevant and capable of configuring the future.

DUNDEE.- Dundee Contemporary Arts presents new and recent works by Ruth Ewan in her first major solo show in the United Kingdom. For Brank & Heckle, Ruth Ewan explores notions of enforced silence and vocal protest by combining her ongoing interest in creative forms of agitation with new work responding to Dundee’s social heritage.

Ewan is interested in viewing history as alive, relevant and capable of configuring the future. Conceptually led but socially realised, her work takes specific historical images and sounds and renders them ‘active’ through use. The exhibition title combines two conflicting ideas: ‘Brank’ refers to the Scottish word for the Scold’s Bridle, used to silence and torture women, while ‘Heckle’ refers to an act of spontaneous vocal engagement, said to have originated in Dundee’s jute mills.

Born in Aberdeen, Ruth Ewan grew up in Fife and studied at Edinburgh College of Art. Her work, with its focus on collaboration and participation, was featured in 2009’s Younger than Jesus at the New Museum in New York, and in Altermodern: Tate Triennial. Her project We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted To Be can currently be seen as part of the second Folkestone Triennial, and she has recently been announced as a contributor for next year’s Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art.

Brank & Heckle features a newly-commissioned sculpture based on photographs of a statue of Paul Robeson that went missing in the 1940s in suspicious circumstances. Archive material relating to Robeson’s career and his experience of racism and political persecution is presented alongside tomatoes of the black-fleshed variety Paul Robeson, specially grown for display in the galleries.

A jukebox hosting over 2000 progressively themed or idealistic songs, entitled A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World, allows gallery visitors to select music to accompany their visit. The CDs are ordered into many categories including poverty, feminism and civil rights, creating a catalogue of the past, present and possible future of opposition and idealism.

Nae Sums 1911 – 2011 references an imagined slogan from Dundee’s school strike of 1911 using large letters made from reclaimed school desks. These letters use the unique Menzieshill typeface created by Ewan with the help of children from Menzieshill High School. She has also invited social historian Siobhan Tolland to lead a guided walk around the city, focusing on the part played by women and children in Dundee’s remarkable radical history. The walk features drawings and ideas generated by an artist’s workshop with pupils from Menzieshill.

Graham Domke, Exhibitions Curator, said: ‘Ruth Ewan is a perfect fit for Dundee Contemporary Arts: she has strong local connections and interests, combined with a global view and a growing profile in the art world. She has been working with staff across the DCA building to create an exhibition that really engages with us and the city.’

A series of cinema screenings, talks, workshops and education activities accompany this exhibition.

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