13 APRIL - 22 MAY 2016

"Today, the term ‘weird’ means something strange, bizarre, or supernatural. But in its archaic and original sense, it meant that aspect of life which was so deep, so all-pervasive, and so central to our understanding of ourselves and our world, that it was inexpressible." Brian Bates author of Way Of Wyrd.

Starting with the Neolithic axe head and its complex layers of symbolism Sol Bailey Barker has spent the past year studying the evolution of power symbols and mapping their history in order to understand how a material aura once perceived as magic or wyrd is still retained in contemporary objects and machines.

From the Neolithic era the axe head was used as both a tool and a sacred object, coveted and imbued with the powers and attributes of ancient gods. Across Europe axe heads too large for practical use have been discovered buried in waterlogged land, frequently left on the boundaries between ancient territories within short walking distance of burial mounds and chambers, agricultural land and settlements.

The axe was surrounded by sacred ritual. Whilst being transported across the land, axes were wrapped and bound to protect the uninitiated from their powers, whilst also protecting the object from outside contamination. The wrapping and unwrapping of the axe within different materials presented the metaphor of secrecy, the notion of the insider and outsider. Axes past down as heirlooms through families carried the narrative of ancestry channeling power through the generations. Often the axe was considered to be sentient and those who possessed the wisdom to make axes were tribal leaders; perceived to hold cosmological, transformative powers.

For 'Wyrd Then : Weird Now' artist Sol Bailey Barker takes the ancient ritual axe as a starting point to explore notions of sacred objects and rituals of the Neolithic landscapes of Europe. Through an investigation of the evolution of sacred forms and materials, and in reviving shamanic characters to perform ancient object-based rituals, Bailey Barker reflects on the relationship between societies and their enduring power symbols.

Bailey Barker has worked in collaboration with composer and sound artist Joe Farley to create a complex soundscape for the exhibition, making use of the sculptures’ sonic potential, and employing them as ritual instruments. This soundscape is used as the soundtrack for an accompanying film, made in collaboration with cinematographer Ruben Woodin Dechamps.

‘Wyrd Then: Weird Now’ features work from ‘Outpost’ 
*, a photographic series by Tom Hatton made around the North Wales mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The series, presenting the closed slate mines as evocative space-scapes, captures the harsh geometry of the landscape, which has inspired much of Bailey Barker's work.


Projecting an alternative trajectory through time, Tom Hatton’s Outpost unveils a strange horizon of a potential future. Set in a disused slate quarry in North Wales, once the world’s largest, these extra-terrestrial landscapes form an oscillation with the remains of an industrial past and an organic present.

The project was conceived after research on Bergson and Einstein’s concept of time, particularly the notion of Kairos, and also in part to Mikhail Bahktin’s Chronotope. Tom’s unfamiliar terrains evoke a sense of bewilderment which resonate within his presented fiction.