A new commission by Mat Collishaw explores the themes of martyrdom and treason, worship and heresy at Ushaw, the former seminary in County Durham.
The Nerve Rack is a life-sized animatronic eagle inspired by the grand scale of the college, chapels and Ushaw’s extensive archive. Collishaw commented: “I was drawn to a document in the library The Sincere and Modest Defence of English Catholics (1584), annotated by the Elizabethans’ chief priest hunter and torturer Richard Topcliffe. It outlines the two diametrically opposing viewpoints that defined religious belief in England at the time. When church and state are bound together the consequences are magnified, Protestantism and Catholicism, martyrdom and heresy – they are two sides of the same coin. It was this mirroring of religious conviction that I wanted to work with.”
Installed opposite one of the treasures of Ushaw; a lectern topped with a bronze sculpture of an eagle designed by Augustus Pugin, The Nerve Rack highlights the dangers of extremism and intransigence.