The Below the Salt Online Exhibition is a collection of new works by Catherine Bertola, shown alongside the first inventory of Temple Newsam House, made on 12 September 1520.
The photographs and film on display in the exhibition have been inspired by the vast 500-year history of Temple Newsam and the house’s extensive decorative arts collection. The prints explore the lives and roles of those who have occupied the house over the course, both upstairs and down. The Below the Salt Online Exhibition shows us how hierarchies are expressed in the very architecture and materials of the building, segregating those who lived there from those who worked. It throws a spotlight on the people who would once have walked and worked, invisible, in the hidden areas of the house as servants and kitchen staff.
In January 2020, the floor of Temple Newsam’s Great Hall was temporarily transformed, using 42 kilograms of table salt to recreate the pattern of an early 17th Century woven linen tablecloth found in Temple Newsam’s collection. This tablecloth would have been used in the 16th Century when the Great Hall served as a dining room and welcomed guests. During this period, salt was a valuable commodity and not accessible to those of a lower social status, giving rise to the phrase ‘to be below the salt’.
After the installation was swept away, some of the salt was taken and, using one of the earliest photographic processes in history, combined with silver nitrate to develop a series of photographic prints. These prints by Catherine Bertola are joined in the online exhibition by a new dance film work In the Between Space, filmed in the tunnels underneath Temple Newsam. The choreography of In the Between Space reflects the repetitive nature of the daily tasks of servants working at Temple Newsam in its heyday as a country hall and farm.