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David Blyth

Bridle Suite/ Pommel Pony Collection

2006

An exploration into the clandestine horse cult known as 'The Horseman's Word'

The Bridle Suite was one of David Blyth's works made during his time as Town Artist in Huntly in 2006.

The North East of Scotland was home to a phenomenon known as The Horseman's Word, a clandestine horse cult operating until the late 19th century. The organisation was based on a particular relationship between men and horses. Words, potions and actions were taught to the members that were known to have a magical effect upon horses and exert control over them. An attractive incentive for young men invited to join this cult was a word that was said to also have an effect upon women. Consequently, David here addresses themes based on methods of control - both physical and mental - in relationships, and their emotional and social consequences.

 

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The Bridle Suite was an exhibition of elegant works consisting of constructions based on the designs of gymnastic apparatus, complete with handles and horse-tails, and upholstered in fine textiles. These objects asked the viewer to re-evaluate their function as fantasy/fetishised objects, contemporary sculpture, bedroom furniture or sports equipment. In their design, they respond to notions of control by referring to the precarious relationship between a gymnast and their apparatus. The gymnast must remain in complete control of his/her situation and movements, dominating the object with physical and mental aptitude. The inability to engage with the equipment will reveal their incapabilities through their failure to master this relationship. 

Here David suggests that this kind of acrobatic actions permeates married life as two individuals exchange varying roles of control, restraint, promiscuity and willing participation. The nature of participation, particularly in a social bond, is predicated upon both harmony and some degree of dissonance, as well as active engagement; something that is lost in the magical domination of someone. The skilled gymnast works for years to become fluent in his/her motions, and thus develops a strong relationship with the apparatus. It is no longer a tool, but something they come to depend on to define themselves. The philosopher Martin Heidegger saw tools endowed with meaning solely in the hands of their users, but here the opposite is suggested through a flattened relationship of command.

The Bridle Suite was exhibited within the impressive Stables Block on the Leith Hall estate, Aberdeenshire - a potential secret Horseman's haunt.

     

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