An artist working outside of the box
IT'S no surprise that Beth Emily Richards is an artist who is difficult to pigeonhole – she did a film about escaping from a box after all.
Is she is a film-maker, an actress, a story teller or what?
The best answer is that she is all of those in her work as a performance artist, now on a screen near you, liberating herself from that claustrophobic enclosure Beth was commissioned as part of British Art Show 7's Plymouth visit to make The Handcuff King, a kind-of re-enactment cum re-imagining of a stunt by the great escapologist Harry Houdini in the city in 1909.
The film is one of the Constellation artworks, commissioned by Plymouth Visual Arts Consortium, which are on the edges of BAS7.
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In the piece, Beth presents an "inexact re-enactment" of Houdini's performance. The artists had a box and lock specially made by Plymouth craftsmen, just as the escapologist did in 1909. Her film is being shown daily on the big screen on the city centre piazza.
The Handcuff King continues Beth's practice of viewing/updating at historical stories through the prism of today.
In After Drake, Beth plays a drum in city pub Golden Hind as she sips a pint, and for After Scott she bedded down like an Antarctic explorer in a cold storage unit.
"I am interest in the malleability of memory and history," she says. "Re-enactment gives me an opportunity to reframe the original event."
BAS7 has given her a lift not least because the presence of the exhibition gave her an outlet for her work.
"I think BAS7 has given an uplift to the arts in the region, helped create an audience and given the momentum to bring their work into the public domain."
Beth did a foundation diploma in art and design at Plymouth College of Art and a degree in photography at Camberwell College.
She worked in London, making a living in fashion photography while also practising as a performance artist. Beth returned to Plymouth a couple of years ago and has a day job in arts research administration at Plymouth University.
The artist is not short of inspiration including, from unlikely sources.
A plaque on a wall in Union Street referring to the decades-past craze of rollerskating led to her current project, Rinkomania.
You can see more of her work at http://bethemilyrichards.wordpress.com/