'A near-occult state of the nation address' - C Joynes.
James Holcombe’s film Tyburnia revisits the site of Tyburn Tree, a place of execution for over 700 years at the junction of Edgware Road and Oxford Street. Here political, religious and judicial transgressions were punished with hanging, burning and gibbeting for public entertainment and instruction. The film explores parallels between contemporary and historical notions of crime in relation to business and property, the spectacular nature of punishment, and the use of the body as a site for political control.
Shot on 8mm and 16mm film, James gained access to numerous artefacts associated with the Tyburn; reliquaries housing the remains of Catholic martyrs, body parts preserved by surgeons, the bell that tolled on the eve of executions, and the eventual resting place of the gallows themselves. Using hand processing and archaic chemical techniques only possible at no.w.here, Tyburnia demonstrates that despite the gallows having long since vanished, we still stand in the shadow of its punitive ideology.
James began researching the histories of the Tyburn Gallows during a three month residency with the Edgware Road Project in 2009 as part of the no.w.here’s Free Cinema School. In May 2015 the film premiered in London at the Carpenters' Arms Pub. There is a popular belief that the wood from the gallows was taken to build the rests for beer barrels in the cellar when public executions ceased at Tyburn in 1783.
The features a soundtrack developed and performed by Dead Rat Orchestra. Featuring songs that were composed by (or for) those condemned to 'dance the Tyburn jig', DRO bringing a new understanding to the broadside ballads that have become a staple of folk music, but are here presented in close association to their original context.
Between May and July 2015 The Tyburnia Tour visited market and county towns around the UK where assizes, gallows, and gibbets were a feature of everyday life. To explore this rich and melancholy history, Tyburnia was screened and performed as close to the location of various regional execution sites as possible, with local historians, activists and researchers providing a contextual framework for the film.
James Holcombe's practice merges a deep engagement in re-discovered and invented historical, material and social processes of photochemical film production with single screen and expanded performance works.
Dead Rat Orchestra is formed of Daniel Merrill, Nathaniel Mann and Robin Alderton.
Tyburnia exists as a three screen expanded 16mm film work and live soundtrack performance as well as single screen digital. For more information please contact jamesrholcombe (at) gmail.com