Lindsey Mendick’s solo exhibition will transform The Weston Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), taking the form of a multi-media installation that investigates dreams, Gothic stories, television and cultural experiences from the 1990s. Bringing the artist’s recurring anxiety dream to life, Where The Bodies Are Buried takes the form of a decaying house with dark secrets beneath the floorboards.
Works will include ceramics and stained glass emerging from the floor as hands, feet and limbs, with a film playing across several screens creating a chorus for simultaneous viewing. Anxiety dreams have long inspired artists and writers, ranging from Eve’s prophetic dream about eating the forbidden fruit in Paradise Lost, to Surrealist paintings and sculpture depicting hauntings and dream-states. The phrase ‘where the bodies are buried’ means to possess information or secrets about a person or organisation. In Mendick’s installation, the secrets are both literal and metaphorical, the buried bodies signifying her fear of being ‘found out’ and misdeeds of the past being unearthed.
The installation references the popular 1990s UK soap opera Brookside, in which abusive husband and father Terry Jordache was stabbed to death by his wife Mandy in 1993. Mandy buried his body under the patio, assisted by their daughter Beth who was played by Anna Friel.
In a storyline watched and discussed by millions, the body was eventually discovered in 1995 and Mandy and Beth were charged and imprisoned. Mendick reflects on this plotline and the simultaneous, communal television viewing and shared cultural experience of 1990s soaps. Her work mirrors the tensions, crescendo and drama of years-long narratives, in contrast to contemporary on-demand viewing culture.
Mendick also draws on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 short story The Tell-Tale Heart in which a murderer is plagued by the sound of a heartbeat. He assumes it is that of his victim buried below the floorboards, but the sound is likely the narrator’s own heart betraying him. The story is a powerful reflection on paranoia and guilt, driven by the pounding heartbeat as a rhythmic compulsion to confess.
Mendick creates worlds layered with personal anecdotes, timeless myths and popular culture references. She works predominantly with clay – a material that has historically been associated with decoration and the domestic sphere. She acknowledges and subverts these associations, creating intricate works that explore the roles and experiences of women in society. Dark comedy permeates Mendick’s practice, and her confessional approach knowingly combines crushing self-doubt with sensational honesty. Her installations draw on the artist’s own stories and memories, with humorous, grotesque and beautiful results.
While exploring personal anxieties, the installation will draw attention to the layers of history and the lives that have played out on YSP’s grounds over centuries. Seams of clay, Mendick’s primary medium, are present within the earth on the 500-acre site. The clay is intermingled with coal fragments which, via extraction and exhuming elsewhere in Yorkshire, brought wealth and status to the families who shaped this landscape.
The exhibition is supported by Jigsaw Foundation.