Film / Video

Clipping the Church

In Summer 2016, Tereza Buskova adorned a Birmingham church with ornate baked bread and encircled it with a living garland of people. In this vibrant new public work, Buskova revives an almost-extinct English tradition called Clipping the Church and, consistent with her artistic style, brings to the surface some of the deeper (possibly pagan) customs from which this tradition probably originates.

Clipping the Church traditionally took place once a year when young apprentices and women in service were allowed to travel home to visit their families and their ‘mother’ church. During the ceremony, the reunited families and local faithful would link hands to form an unbroken chain around the entire church. Facing out towards the world, members of this living circle would often sing hymns as they slowly revolved around the symbol of their faith and belonging.

Tereza Buskova’s work involved a re-enactment of this striking custom through the participation of over a hundred locals, weaved with explorations of the ‘mother’ archetype through live performance, music and – intriguingly – ornate baked goods, including traditionally fried celestial crusts paraded and affixed to the church as decoration. In the weeks leading up to the main event Buskova held a series of baking workshops, open to the public, where participants worked with plaited dough. Communal preparation and display of ornate baked goods is rooted in the harvest and marriage festivities of Tereza’s homeland.

The artist chose to work with St Barnabas’ Church on Erdington High Street because of the extraordinary role this church plays in its community, which has a sizeable Central and Eastern European population. At a time when much of Britain is reconsidering what it means to ‘belong’ to a wider community, this event invites reflection on how the meaning of ‘community’ has changed from the days when Clipping the Church involved the people of a single village.

Clipping the Church is organised in close collaboration with St. Barnabas’ Church and its congregation, located at the heart of Erdington High Street. Since its renovation the church has become a thriving cultural hub and its building now fuses original historic design with contemporary architecture.

Artist Tereza Buskova said:
“This project will bring together Birmingham’s diverse communities including some of its fresher arrivals from Central & Eastern Europe, like me. It will help us to see how people from various backgrounds can experience and enjoy British traditions.”

Project curated by Roma Piotrowska.