Friday 21st May 2021 to
Monday 21st June 2021


UP TO YOUR NECK IN MUD is an online photographic exhibition by Holly Birtles including images taken from an opera performance based on the Mesolithic findings of the submerged landscape - Doggerland. Doggerland is an area of land that has been submerged beneath the North Sea, cutting off the UK from the European Mainland. Archaeologists suggest this was due to rising sea levels and a tsunami around 6200 BCE. Findings such as: bones of woolly mammoths and reindeer, hunting artefacts and human burials have been dragged up from the North sea over many decades, along with sightings of tree stumps signifying submerged and lost forests. Dogger tree stumps have been found in Purfleet, Essex and Cromer, Norfolk. The work in show presents backstage and rehearsal instances whereby members of the cast contemplate and practice their role as specific elements or proposed happenings. Elaborate props are made which represent the last wave, the Dogger mounds, the shifting ice and Mesolithic huts. Selected images depict teleport scenes. Teleportation and fragmentation of limbs presents a dual existence from rehearsal to mud. 

Click here for the exhibition

Watch the artist interview here

More recently a conceptually linked video was produced after solo show ‘up to your neck in mud’ by at xxijrahii Gallery in Deptford went from physical to virtual in October 2020. Singer Milly Blue and Holly Birtles worked together responding to key themes - teleportation into the submerged landscape Doggerland.

Watch here

Up to your neck in mud is closely linked to photographic project ‘C1 Monsters’. C1 monsters refers to the C1 imray map which charts The Thames Estuary From Tilbury, Essex to Orfordness, Suffolk. The project consists of a journey, recording key estuary points to both personal history and areas of visual intrigue. Utilising props produced and documented performances by artist/singer Natalia Kieniewicz, the imagery is obscured and transformed into visceral monsters through photographic techniques, post-production manipulations, 3D scans and layered sketches. The surface texture, shapes and design of the props are informed by archaeological research linked to historical findings associated with ever-changing construction, erosion and transformation throughout selected locations on the Thames Estuary. The props function as ‘wearable environments’ which link to the specific locations researched. Monsters vary in terms of location; the grotesque, humorous and bizarre these are reoccurring styles in which depict a symbolic tactile presence of the space visited.

22 May 19:30 – Q&A with curator Tonya Wechsler including performances by Milly Blue and Natalia Kieniewicz and comments from Ema O'Donovan director of Xxirahii.  

See more here

About the artist

In her work, Holly Birtles combines photography with collage, 3D imagery, painting and sculpture to create expressionist and abstract images. Birtles initiates performances in which stage performers and fellow artists pose with hand drawn props while repeatedly reciting and singing subject specific texts generated from collaborations with writers and linked research. The work integrates performances and props responding to historical myths, facts and experiences based on the selected locations in the state of environmental and physical change, including subsequent lost and submerged landscapes.



Friday 21st May 2021 to
Monday 21st June 2021





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The Cinder Path Project

Estuary 2021 is made possible by

Principal Partners

Creative_Estuary_New_1   ace

Major Partners

ecc uok thurrock thames_gateway selep medway  thames estuary   ebbsfleet    Ebbsfleet mayor locatekent kentcc gravesham uoe bas_coun   south_coun Here for Culture

Commissioning Partners

book_fest community_fund heritage_fund creative_coast bexleysalford fpg lesnes Essex2020Logo The Old Waterworks Logo UCA1

Festival Partners

arts_human uni_south uni_oxford uni_glas send_pier pla opp_se henley Flowers Gallery logoc2c roh southeastern Thamesmead2 Peabody2 BowArts3 raddison uber arriva Canterbury Dartford Faversham Swale1 Thanet Visit c2c1 Chat

Festival Supporters

essex_diversity SouthEssex1 UniversityCentre1 Churches International Exeter Wales Ramm Artist Grand