Artist Ruth lays herself open to new experience

Artist Ruth Herbert at Bank St Studios
Artist Ruth Herbert at Bank St Studios
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SOME might call it an exercise in solitude, others might think it an experiment in exhibitionism, a few might just say it’s a student with too much time on her hands.

Ruth Herbert, however, calls it fine art.

Lying down on the job: Artist Ruth Herbert at Bank St Studios

Lying down on the job: Artist Ruth Herbert at Bank St Studios

Next week she will spend 60 uninterrupted hours on display at a Sheffield gallery where she will not speak, not have access to a phone, TV or internet, and not even allow herself any privacy when asleep. She will spend the whole time, including two nights, in a curtainless room so passers-by - should the fancy take them - can watch her snoozing.

“I suppose it’s almost like making myself a zoo animal,” says the 23-year-old of Hunter House Road, Hunter’s Bar, Sheffield. “Or maybe a prisoner. Which I didn’t really think of when I came up with the idea. A couple of people, like my mum, have asked if I’m sure there won’t be some psychological effect from not speaking to people or having any privacy.”

She thinks for a second.

“My answer is I don’t know - but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I hope so anyway.”

Fingers crossed, then. But then as any artist worth their shark in formaldehyde will tell you, it is the risk that makes such a project worthwhile.

“It’s like people see something they don’t like on display in a gallery and they’ll just dismiss it without thinking about the stress or the hard work that goes into making it,” says the Sheffield Hallam fine art student, who originally comes from Coventry and first came here to study English six years ago.

“Well, this whole project on the surface is probably quite easy but I don’t think anyone could doubt there will be a certain element of stress - the difference is the easiness and the stress will be on display for people to see, if that makes sense?”

It does. Sort of.

The only time she is allowing herself to leave her room at Bank Street Arts, Bank Street, Sheffield, is to go to the toilet, clean her teeth and have a wash.

She will record her thoughts in marker pen on the walls of her room, and her only concessions to technology will be an alarm clock and a camcorder to record the project. Then at the end, on Thursday evening, she will host a small party where she will speak once more.

“I’m already kind of thinking what my first words will be,” she says. “But I’m definitely not planning them - if you plan them they’ll just go wrong and you’ll sound like an idiot. I’ll just say whatever comes into my head.”

Starts at 10am on Tuesday.