Commonwealth and Council

Apprentice Crone's Hearing Trumpet

Anne Walsh


Commonwealth & Council presents Apprentice Crone’s Hearing Trumpet by Anne Walsh, a visual ‘adaptation’ of Leonora Carrington’s radical, comic fable The Hearing Trumpet (written in Mexico City 1950, published in Paris, 1976).  

Narrated by a toothless, deaf, vegetarian hag, The Hearing Trumpet imagines revolt and anarchy at the old ladies’ home where Marian Leatherby and a gang of unruly crones are confined. This book, an allegory of eco-consciousness, spiritual immanence, interspecies love, and radical un-ageism, and its author have been the inspiration for much of Walsh’s work since 2007. Apprentice Crone’s Hearing Trumpet includes a series of photographic and laser-cut works on paper; a ‘music video’ and 4-channel video installation; and a live performance in the gallery of weekly ‘auditions’ for the role of “Leonora Carrington casting The Hearing Trumpet.” Walsh will conduct scheduled and open readings of monologues and scenes from the book on Thursday afternoons during the run of the exhibition.

Walsh’s ‘adaptation’ evokes a set of real and imaginary relationships of mutual influence amongst an intergenerational community of women: Walsh, the younger aspirant, and Carrington, the elder influence. The photographic works—small scale collages and larger studio photographs—are a methodically subjective collection of images made during Walsh’s research into the book, weeks spent in Mexico with Carrington herself, and attempts to come to terms with the process of becoming a (fictional) old lady.

Each of the 13 ‘cast lists’ names 17 fantasized ‘actors’—living and deceased and even fictional figures drawn from politics, philosophy, sports, popular culture, art history, film, theatre, and Walsh’s own past and family—for a film version of the book. Of these works, Walsh writes: “I imagine each actor as an elderly version of him or herself. Not with special effects, just naturally aged. New actors occur to me every day, so there are many casts.”

The exhibition’s two video works, both titled Anthem, are quasi-documentary shorts showing a group of senior citizens (mostly female students in a musical theatre class) learning and rehearsing the Oscar-winning song, “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen. Walsh, who enrolls in the class in search of potential improvisers and actors, is cast and featured in the production as Elsa, Frozen’s protagonist ice queen. When “Let it Go,” a song which ostensibly celebrates personal liberation from constraining mores (powerfully anthemic to young children Walsh’s daughter’s age) is adapted—or adopted—by a group of women aged 65-80, their maturity and crone-dom give the song new meaning. 

Anne Walsh lives and works in Oakland, CA. Her own works and those made with artist Chris Kubick have frequently engaged unsuspecting collaborators in the retelling of histories and the translating of texts. Spirit mediums, professional magicians, historical interpreters, craftspeople, and her own family members become ‘co-authors,’ so that the process of making, with its risks, desires, and failures, gives shape to the final work. Her projects have been exhibited at Diapason, NYC, San Francisco Camerawork, the Rosenbach Museum and Library (Philadelphia), Artists Space (NYC), Royal College of Art (London), Lothringer 13 (Munich), the Whitney Museum of American Art and as part of the Hayward Gallery's (London) traveling exhibition program. Her sound work with Chris Kubick has aired on multiple National Public Radio (US) programs, Resonance Radio (UK), Munich Public Radio, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Works for publication have appeared in Cabinet (NYC), Leonardo Music Journal, ArtLies (Houston, TX), and Camerawork. She is Associate Professor of Art Practice at U.C. Berkeley.