Tereza Buskova: Clipping the Church

A collage of St Barnabas Church adorned with salt dough pastry, by Tereza Buskova

Tereza Buskova’s practice reinterprets local customs and folkloric rituals through performance, film and photography. Many of the idiosyncratic customs that fascinate her still take place in parts of her native Czech Republic, though she admits to inventing her own too.

Buskova’s video, Baked Woman of Doubice (2012), for instance – set within the Czech village where she spent her adolescence – follows a dream-like narrative centred on an imagined annual baking ritual. Village women dressed in aprons lay highly decorative breads upon the naked, painted body of Buskova’s long-term ‘muse’, performer Zoe Simon, presented as a sensuous bell-ringing, banner-carrying figure of fertility and plenty.

Clipping the Church is a continuation of this earlier work. “The project is inspired by a strange photograph I found in an old library book showing a circle of people with their hands clasped around a church,” explains the now Birmingham-based artist. “It really struck me visually but when I spoke to people about it, no one had heard of ‘clipping’.”

Buskova is bringing this forgotten English custom to the streets of Erdington, a somewhat economically disadvantaged ward in the north east of Birmingham. Taking place on Erdington High Street and ending at St Barnabas Church, Clipping the Church will see Simon leading a grand procession of people, with live cello music, elaborate costume and a structure composed of baked goods.

The custom of ‘clipping’ has all but died out in England. It is an event of confused origin, having roots in both paganism and the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia. Ostensibly a ceremony to bless a church, school, village or field and bring it prosperity, it involves a circle of clasped hands enclosed around a place; it was once associated with Mothering Sunday, a time when people would return home to their ‘mother’ church. Clipping is, then, a gesture of community, family, thanksgiving, protection and celebration.

These are significant themes for St Barnabas Church, chosen by Buskova for its history as well as its geographical and social positioning. The building was very badly damaged by a suspected arson attack in 2007, an event that impacted upon the lives of many people in Erdington.

The church is now a glass-fronted, welcoming and thriving hub that seems to be very much at the centre of community life. St Barnabas’ parish priest, Reverend Freda Evans, is keen for the church to work with artists because, as she says, “It’s an area of the city where nice things don’t generally happen”…

Read the article in full on a-n
Published on 1 June 2016