Rediscovering the persecution of witches, reimagining the landscape. An evolving installation combining sculpture, sound and moving image, with hand-crafted pieces from local communities.
A Coven A Grove A Stand is a major exhibition by the artist susan pui san lok. The installation explores the folklore surrounding witchcraft and the history of the witch persecutions across East Anglia in the 16th and 17th centuries, including the campaign led by Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled ‘Witchfinder General.’
Born in Suffolk and based in Manningtree, Hopkins operated across the East Anglia region between 1644 and 1646, and is believed to be have been responsible, along with John Stearne, for the execution of as many as 300 ‘witches’ – often single and elderly women. Many suspected witches were often imprisoned at Colchester Castle, just a stone’s throw from Firstsite. Hopkins is buried in an unmarked grave at St. Mary’s Church in Mistley, Essex.
A Coven A Grove A Stand, a fluid project that the artist will continue to create during its run, interweaves and examines the narratives around these ‘witches’, exploring themes of voice, place and collective remembrance and resistance.
Through seeing, writing and hearing the names of the ‘witches’, visitors are invited to recognise the persecuted, then and now, and our collective power to remember and resist.
A Coven A Grove A Stand is part of New Geographies, a three year project which aims to create a new map of the East of England based on local reflections and stories of unexplored or overlooked places. As part of the project, the public was asked to nominate unexpected places in the region that they find meaningful and interesting. Over 270 sites were identified and ten artists, including susan pui san lok, were commissioned to highlight some of those places through new site-specific work.
susan pui san lok, who was born in Essex, responds to seven of the nominated sites. Sister O Sister (2018-19) draws on the form of ‘Old Knobbley’ and also references the tree known as ‘The Witches’ Wooden Leg’ in the ruined Church of St. Mary’s of East Somerton, Norfolk. Other sites include Kitty Witches Row in Great Yarmouth, the Witch’s Heart in King’s Lynn’s Tuesday Marketplace and locations in St. Osyth and Manningtree in Essex.
susan pui san lok is an artist and writer based in London. Her work ranges across moving image, installation, sound, performance and text, engaging with notions of nostalgia and aspiration, place and migration, translation and diaspora.
The other artists selected as part of New Geographies are: Maria Anastassiou, David Blandy, Cooking Sections, Ian Giles, Krijn de Koning, Taylor Le Melle, Studio Morison, Stuart Whipps, Laura Wilson and Zadie Xa. Each artist will work closely on the realisation of their work with one of the New Geographies partner institutions from across the region.