This exhibition exhumes the lost histories of clog fighting in Oldham and surrounding areas. The brutal sport was poorly documented and the fragmentary information has never been brought together until now.
The artist has found evidence that the sport created a space for working men to rule their own lives and express pride and community under their own terms. The sport may have been violent, but, in the context of their lives, fighters displayed skill, sportsmanship, and bawdy good humour.
Anna FC Smith has a longstanding interest in history, folk culture, communal traditions, documentation and archives. As a practitioner she locates herself between artist, historian and anthropologist, with historical and anthropological research forming the basis of much of her work. Through her practice Smith demonstrates the imperfect pursuit of truly knowing and recounting experiential folk customs.
In order to illustrate elements of purring for the first time, Smith has borrowed her drawing style from an anonymous lay ‘documenter’ (c1805-1820), who recorded aspects of lead mining and miners’ lives in Northumberland using pen and ink sketches.
To revivify the experience of the sport Smith has created a triptych film, which illuminates the historical information she discovered by splicing found with newly recorded sound and footage. The work creates an intangible depiction of the sport and its context becoming a total immersion in the turbid history, at once perceivable and yet elusive.
Smith presents a collage of found materials and oral histories alongside her new film and drawings; interpreting reports and myths to resurrect the atmosphere of this shadowy past.