Preview: Wednesday 17 July 5-8pm

Johannah Latchem’s work addresses themes of law, punishment and power. It intervenes in the material culture of the courthouse to establish new rituals. Her art installations are sometimes installed in courtrooms and critique the symbolic materiality of law’s historical artefacts. Latchem creates new legal objects and explores their performative role in courtrooms, challenging the existing role of courthouse rituals, and exposing the need for new ways to convey revised messages to the public. Her current practice-led PhD focuses on the subject of courtrooms, maritime law and power. Latchem’s work raises issues that resonate with wider public concerns today on the administration of fear by the state, punishment and silencing the female voice. Her work also examines issues of representation and responsibility in contemporary public art in the courthouse and the woman’s voice in sites of law and order.

No Whole Truths
(2019) is a three-channel film and sound installation that address the multiplicity of ‘truths’ in the law space. On the central wall a video documentary plays of the artist’s 2018 public procession work, Carry the Woman You Forgot. This was a procession of a new courtroom object made by Latchem titled My Bloody Oar, a reconfiguration of an Admiralty Silver Oar, an ancient symbol of the Courts of the Admiralty, made in walnut. The object was carried along Newcastle upon Tyne’s quayside by two uniformed naval servicemen, from the 17th century Guildhall Courtroom to Trinity House, the 500 year old headquarters of a corporation that in former centuries supported the important maritime community of Newcastle – keeping the River Tyne navigable, building and maintaining light-beacons and buoys, as well as building alms houses to home seafarers and their dependents in need.

In the centre of the gallery space is a large table on which My Bloody Oar lies. On the walls to the left and right of the central video projection, a series of manipulated still images of the Newcastle Guildhall court and the parade appear in a display, carefully synchronised to a responsive soundscape. A rhythmical sound composed of the creaking floorboards of the Guildhall courtroom and an insistent tempo maintained by the repetition of two key notes reflect a sense of time passing and the pressure to deliberate. The piece asks audiences to become witness to the parade and consider their place in legal space and attitudes towards objects of authority.

Thanks to: Trinity House Newcastle, Newcastle University, and Northumbria Wood Turners for their woodwork instruction. Sound collaboration, David de la Haye. Sound sample of floor recorded by Tim Shaw. Filming of oar procession by Alan Fentiman Film.

Johannah Latchem was born in Gloucester and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. She received BA Hons Fine Art from Wimbledon School of Art in 1999, an MA from Goldsmiths College University of London in 2004 and is currently completing her PhD in Fine Art and Art History at Newcastle University. Recent solo shows include ‘Courting Power’, Newcastle Guildhall Courtroom, ‘Carry the Woman You Forgot’, Merchant Adventurers Hall, ‘Kiss the Wooden Lady’, Trinity House, Newcastle upon Tyne (2018). Latchem has lectured in art and design, published in the field of identity and museum education and directed an opera with Birmingham Opera Company and the BBC in 2013. She was the Research Fellow to the AHRC Commons Fellow from 2014 to 2017 at the University of Birmingham and then Newcastle University, and held posts for the previous twelve years in research and teaching positions in UK universities, including digital projects across business, academic and cultural sectors and research with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2014.