Fairytale in Belfast
Follow the little red line to SpaceCraft for 13 Tales of Love, Death and the Weather
On the night that Tales of Love, Death and the Weather opened, Siobhan Rodgers and a friend drew a red line between SpaceCRAFT, the Linen Hall Library and the University of Ulster. It can stil be made out – just. ‘They keep washing the streets,’ Rodgers mock-protests.
Tales of Love, Death and the Weather is a multi-disciplinary, multi-site, multi-fairytale exhibition created by Rodgers for her MA at the University of Ulster. Inspired by 13 different fairytales, legends and superstitions she reinterpreted them using words, weaving and photography. The result is a polished collection of quirky, clever art that veers from faithful reproduction to feminist deconstruction.
With her dark curls and huge eyes, Rodgers looks as she could belong in a fairytale herself. Not that of 'The 12 Wild Geese' though. She shakes her fingers and admits that weaving one coat of bog cotton and reed was enough for her.
‘It took an entire summer. I had calluses and rope-burns from constant weaving,’ she says. ‘But this piece is about the amount of time it takes to weave something like this. It took the sister – and she had to be silent the whole time – seven years to weave 12 of them. I can definitely understand why.’
The exhibition is divided between three sites in Belfast – thus the red line – with a superstition closet at the Linen Hall Library and the art divided between SpaceCRAFT and the University of Ulster. After two years spent working on the project, Rodgers is at a lost to pick a favourite piece. ‘It depends on the day you ask me!’ she protests. ‘Or what I’m working on!’
It shouldn’t be so hard for viewers of the exhibition to pick something. It is trite to say ‘there’s something for everyone’, but Rodgers whimsy in constructing her fairytales does mean the exhibition has a wide appeal.
Some of the stories are modern recreations of elements familiar from the original story. In ‘The Red Shoes’ a trail of ribbon-blood through a snowy forest convey the bloody feet of the dancer. Fine bones wrapped in a red velvet square stand-in for the murdered step-son of The Juniper Tree as both boy and bird.
Others have their underlying morality – the ‘don’t go into the woods’ and ‘beware of strangers’ messages - tweaked to better suit a modern audience. Rodger’s takes an urban fantasy slant with 'Little Red Riding Hood', arming the original hoodie with a monogrammed pouch of silver bullets.
‘I looked at how we tell these stories nowadays and the amount of vampire movies around. I have a slight problem with that, so I just wanted to give her a way to kill him when he turned.’
'Briar Rose', on the other hand, is given a feminist slant. Her story – a variant of the ever popular 'Sleeping Beauty' – was originally far darker than the Disney version. Unimpressed by the less-than-charming Prince of the tale, Rodgers gives her character a skirt of thorns to protect herself.
‘This is definitely a feminist take. In the original stories, the prince doesn’t bother waking her up. She wakes up when she gives birth to his children. I didn’t like him much, so I tried to give her a wall of thorns. Some sort of defence.’
Superstitions are also covered in the exhibition. A row of delicate needle-stitched homilies about various beliefs about pins and needles hangs on the wall at SpaceCRAFT. There is also a Superstition Cabinet at the Linen Hall Library, where anyone with off-beat or family superstitions can contribute.
Asked whether she is a superstitious person herself, Rodger giggles and rolls her eyes.
‘I would be quite superstitious,’ she admits ‘I’d say hello to magpies and things like that, then catch myself on.’
Find out more about 13 Tales of Love, Death and the Weather in the What's On guide.