The Ballad of The White Ship

The Ballad of The White Ship, Serf, Leeds, July 2018, in collaboration with Chris Alton

The Ballad of The White Ship by Chris Alton & Liam Geary Baulch was their first collaboratively produced exhibition. It builds upon the ongoing dialogue that exists between their practices, drawing out various commonalities. These include; recourse to popular and folk culture; humorous engagements with power; and a range of reoccurring political concerns, such as; climate change, notions of ‘Britishness’ and the commons.

The original White Ship was a vessel that sank in the English Channel on 25 November 1120. Amongst those who drowned was the heir to the English throne, William Adelin. His death led to a succession crisis and a period of civil war known as the Anarchy. A ballad concerning the sinking was written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and published by the Kelmscott Press (1893-94).

Throughout the exhibition, The White Ship serves as a metaphor for that which catalyses change. In their banners, drawings and posters, Alton & Geary Baulch look to other monarch-less moments throughout British history and the radical ideas that arose from these periods of civil unrest.

Their punk cover (by the Deptford punk band Etc.) of Rossetti’s ballad ties the 12th Century Anarchy to The Sex Pistols; debut single, Anarchy in the U.K. (released 26 November 1976). Their next single, titled God Save the Queen, was an anti-monarchy anthem, which attacks the hegemonic structure of monarchy; an emblem of British class hierarchy.

The Ballad of The White Ship retreads various points throughout British history with a view to articulating this country’s future, be it a utopic punk republic or an island steeped in colonial nostalgia. Alton & Geary Baulch are interested in how these moments intersect, collide and inform each other, and how they might be used to imagine the world that we inhabit in new ways.

Watched Over, Tryptic, Pencil on paper, by Liam Geary Baulch. On display at The Ballad of The White Ship, Serf, Leeds.

The Ballad of The White Ship, 2 min 29 seconds, Original text: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1881, Arranged by: Liam Geary Baulch and Chris Alton, 2018, Music written and performed by: Etc. (Edu, Tom and Colm)

William Drownded, 2018, digital print by Liam Geary Baulch and Chris Alton
900 years of anarchy in england, 2018, digital print by Liam Geary Baulch and Chris Alton
Playing at being men (after black annis womens morris side), pencil on paper, Liam Geary Baulch, 2018