Artists’ Research Centre (ARC)

Performing the Self


The inaugural Artists’ Research Centre Fellowship was awarded to Corin Sworn in partnership with The Tetley and the University of Leeds.

Under the title, Performing the Self, The Fellowship ran from November 2016 until March 2017, with a program of events including performances, symposia and screenings hosted by The Tetley. A text on Sworn’s film work was also commission from artist and writer Lucy Reynolds, which can be found here. Information on all the events from the Fellowship and partners can be found in the sections below.

Corin Sworn is pursuing research through a Philip Leverhulme Prize from the Leverhulme Trust

Artist’s Statement

My work often manifests through various different mediums, I have worked with drawing, sculpture, video and photography. I use formal strategies of appropriation and détournement to address the means by which our interpretation and digestion of cultural matter (histories, artefacts, images) produce us as social subjects.

I previously used drawing to appropriate and re circulate significant and underrepresented moments in history, though my recent works use various cultural fragments to build scripts, performances and theatrical installations.

During the initial stages of production I will research broadly in order to bring various themes from history, economics, culture and politics into close association. From here I then begin to write ‘scripts.’ Sometimes these involve dialogue and interaction between characters and are later used in a film. At other times these are interactions and annunciations between different mediums and are used in a gallery space to produce a very different sort of dialogue. These ‘scripts’ both reveal information and fold it in upon itself. On the one hand this allows for the ability to think one thing through another but on another level it resists rational endpoints and instead maintains erratic meetings and schisms.

For the ARC Fellowship I will continue my interest in how the early modern stage practices of itinerant players and the ways they rehearsed identity, performance and belief with the audience in precarious times might offer tools to our own period. Presently, I am most drawn to wrenching the topic from the past and looking at it purely in the present, hence examining the mobility of the screen rather than the stage and focusing on performances of flexibility amid contemporary precarity. At the same time I am reticent to loose some of the strange echos of our present day to be found in early modern theater works and I wonder if we might find contemporary tools for articulation within the past.

Corin Sworn, won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women 2013- 2015, and created a new large-scale installation Silent Sticks (2015), for the fifth edition of the Prize. The work, a result of Sworn’s 4 month Italian residency, is inspired by the characters and tales of mistaken identity from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte theatre.  These improvised plays, performed by touring troupes, originated in Italy from the 16th century and influenced Shakespeare and artists from Goya to Picasso.  The installation featured a dramatic stage set with props, costumes, sound and film: performative and theatrical devices, which retell an infamous story of deception and imposture.

Corin Sworn (b. 1976) lives and works in Glasgow. She studied a BA in Psychology at University of British Columbia, Vancouver; a BFA at the Institute of Art & Design, Vancouver and an MFA at The Glasgow School of Art.  Sworn creates films and installations deeply rooted in research, weaving together history with memories and fragments of true and imagined stories. Recent exhibitions include: a solo exhibition at Inverleith House, Edinburgh (2014), 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014),  The Rag Papers at Chisenhale Gallery (2013), Art Now: Corin Sworn at Tate Britain (2011)and The Foxes (2012) was exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale.