About RitaGT: Unearthing

YSP exclusively broadcast a new commission by the Portuguese artist RitaGT online to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021.

Unearthing reminds us of the necessary tribute to all the women caught up in male colonial expansion, forced to leave their homes, the singers who worked in the fields for a lifetime, who brought songs, who went and did not return.” - RitaGT

YSP exclusively broadcast a new commission by the Portuguese artist RitaGT online to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March. The artist choreographed a choral and movement performance for 25 women – singers from the folk choral Cantadeiras do Vale do Neiva and the dancers Piny and Isa Santos – set in an installation she created in Fábrica de Louça, an abandoned ceramics factory in her hometown of Viano do Castelo, in the north of Portugal.

Unearthing evolved from a research residency at YSP in 2018 and was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Viana do Castelo Municipality. The project embodied RitaGT’s exploration of post-colonial histories, the place of women and the global connection to the earth through clay and ceramic. The work is an act of acknowledgement, of unearthing, the overlooked history of the many women who had to relocate around the world during the colonial era. The choral element of the work, sang in Portuguese, reflects the traditional songs and chants of the region, which travelled with the women across the world.

Ceramics, like song, are symbols of Portuguese history. As part of the sphere of domestic and rural work, of the earth, they were projected at the centre of the production and ideological circulation of work with gender and feminist concerns. About the exhibition, YSP’s Head of Curatorial Programme, Helen Pheby, said:

“We are privileged to be working with RitaGT to mark International Women’s Day with her new commission in 2021, a year in which YSP’s programme is dominated by female artists. We are very grateful to Rita for sharing this important and poignant new work with our local to global audiences through our digital, public, space.”
Unearthing is reflective of RitaGT’s commitment to creating situations of contemplation and remembrance. She states: “At the centre of all discourses and power relations, whether imperialist, gender or social, there is always an incredible ability to forget, an incredible factory of forgetfulness. The task of artists, writers and thinkers is to analyse this process of early forgetfulness and to remind us of it.”

The commission was part of YSP’s female-led programme in 2021 also featuring Joana Vasconcelos, Rachel Kneebone, Annie Morris and the launch of Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945, an exhibition of work by women curated by the Arts Council Collection from their holdings.