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Just / Unjust

LEEDS: JUST/UNJUST WAS AN ABSTRACT AND SURREAL PERFORMANCE PIECE INSPIRED BY FOLKLORE, WITCHCRAFT AND AN ELIZABETHAN WOOD CARVING ENTITLED DANCE OF DEATH.

Matty Bovan curated and art directed Leeds' installation, working closely with artists Rory Mullen and Adam Leach on the concept. The installation was inspired by a carved wooden chimney piece depicting the “Dance of Death” in the Red Drawing Room at Burton Agnes Hall, an Elizabethan manor house in Yorkshire. Titled Just/Unjust, it took its name from the grouped figures standing on either side of the skeleton at the centre of the chimney piece: the Just, who are about to be received by angels, and the Unjust, who are about to be claimed by the devil. It was both unsettling and dramatic: an evocation of heightened emotional extremes.

Visitors were confronted with a highly charged live tableau, comprising video projections, live performance and sculpture, created by fashion designer Matty Bovan and artists Rory Mullen and Adam Leach. Bovan designed bespoke garments for the project, which were worn by the performers and also displayed on skeleton-like scarecrow sculptures formed from salvaged wood and found objects. Further found materials and other forms handmade by the artists alluded to the carving’s symbols of earthly vanity – crowns, gold, money – and were stomped on and destroyed during the performances. Examples of these damaged objectswere presented in perspex cases on makeshift cabinets as enshrined relics from another time and world.

The aesthetic of the installation was inspired by British folklore, witchcraft and Aesop’s fables. The filmed acts of frenzied destruction, performed by Bovan, Leech and Mullen, were projected on three large fabric screens strung up with parachute cords.

 Credits:

  • Designers: Matty Bovan, Rory Mullen and Adam Leach 
  • Sponsors: Leeds 2023, Leeds Beckett University