Artist Mary Reid Kelley’s work often involves the retelling of history in voices that have been written out of it – and her new commission for Tate Liverpool continues this effort.
Making her videos in collaboration with her partner, US performance artist Kelley looks at events and recasts them from the viewpoints of those who are otherwise overlooked or ignored. Women’s experience of war and revolution, for example, has often been dwarfed by the narratives of men, whether in literature or art. In her new commission for Tate Liverpool, Kelley tackles that most dominant of writers – adopting a poetic meter used by Shakespeare.
Scripted and acted by the artist, Kelley’s works see her playing multiple characters within painted and highly stylised environments – and in this new piece she assumes the roles of crew members on a Second World War-era submarine, hearing of the bombing of Hiroshima. The work is shown alongside her 2016 piece This Is Offal, which transfers the lament of a man over a dead female body into the voice of the woman, giving her agency to tell her own story.
First staged at Tate Modern, This Is Offal – the title typical of Kelley’s wordplay – was inspired by Thomas Hood’s 1844 poem The Bridge of Sighs, and offers an almost brutally physical, surreal and frequently funny reversal of the protagonist’s gaze.
In addition to the two films, the artist’s distinctive designs can be closely appreciated in a series of life-size, lightbox character portraits.