Joshua Watson’s Leg (In Four Movements) 
2020/21 - work in progress

Joshua Watson’s Leg (In Four Movements), 2020/21
Three-channel HD Video | 23’04”
(In Four-Part Symphonic Form)

Bruce Stens as Joshua Watson
Richard Smart as Henry Newburn
Sherry Duggal as Malin Sorsbie

I.  The Accident | Allegro - 120 BPM | Sonata Form

Joshua Watson’s leg had been badly broken in the accident. A sharp bone pierced his skin, and he bled out over the course of many hours...

Woodland tracker and leatherworker, Henry Newburn, comes across Joshua’s body at the bottom of a ravine.  A workable leather specimen, the craftsman carefully procures his find, dragging the cadaver through the brush to his nearby workshop.

II.  The Resurrection | Adagio - 66 BPM | Slowly, with Great Expression

Upon arrival, the awaiting apprentice, Malin Sorsbie, patiently assists Newburn in preparing the corpse for the tanning process.  Malin nurtures Joshua Watson’s remains, delicately washing his lifeless body.

III.  The Undertaker’s Minuet | Andante - 88 BPM | Three-Quarter Time

The dance begins in a damp, candlelit workshop. Henry Newburn strikes a match, illuminating his face as he stokes his pipe. The dried tobacco leaves gently crackle into frail embers. The air is rancid and sweet, as thick drags of dry smoke mingle with humidity.

IV.  Joshua’s Requiem | Varying Tempos| Sonata Rondo Form (Finale)

Henry’s hands are fermenting. He waits for his partner, Joshua, whose skin is taut on a frame. Rising from his arthritic chair, he tends to his companion with earnest measurement. The wet coolness has left the hide. Placing the leather on a thick paring stone, Henry strops his knife and pushes his weight into the hide. Thin slivers of velvety suede fall to the side of the stone, as Henry brushes them away and diligently works the skin into a delicate tissue, so thin that you can almost see through it.

... Malin and Joshua join in the rollicking finale of Joshua Watson’s Leg.

* This movement is structured as a Sonata Rondo in an ABACABA format.  The A section is set at a 120 BMP Allegro tempo.  The B + C sections are set at a 66 BPM Adagio tempo to add contrast to the fast-paced A segments.  The final A component is set to a 144 BPM Vivace tempo to bring the story to a climactic conclusion.

** BPM = Beats per Minute

Clay Death Mask, Handbound Sculptural Book
w/ Inlaid Teeth & Digital Video Screen

Narrative Synopsis

Structured as a four-part symphony, Joshua Watson’s Leg, follows the pseudo-historical account of a grave accident resulting in the eventual anthropodermic binding of a disturbing “coroner’s report”. Leatherworker, Henry Newburn, comes across the body of Joshua Watson in the woods. Keeping time, Newburn drags the corpse back to his nearby workshop.

Bindery apprentice, Malin Sorsbie, prepares the body for the tanning process, while subtly tucking away a fractured shard of bone in her apron. As Henry methodically binds a leather book out of Joshua Watson’s skin, a process known as anthropodermic bibliopegy, Malin practices her calligraphy skills on scraps of paper.

Based off of an authentic 18th century handwritten note, the story is a mythical saga fabricated from a legendary script:

“This was Wrote on Sunday 24th January 1773 by Malin Sorsbie,
with a Bone which was taken out of Joshua Watsons Leg the Same Day, by Henry Newburn”

Above:  Hand-written Note by Malin Sorsbie (1773);
Uncovered in a bin of scrap paper at Old English Bindery in 2015

Collection of Pseudo-Historical Objects 

Above:  Shankbone of Joshua Watson, Henry Newburn’s Glasses & Pipe, Joshua Watson’s Death Mask, Anthropodermic Handbound Book w/ Teeth Inlays, Malin Sorsbie’s Apprentice Folio, Joshua Watson’s Field Notebook, Two-headed Taxidermied Rat

I gratefully acknowledge that I live and work on the unceded, traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples - sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations.

I gratefully acknowledge that I live and work on the unceded, traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples - sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations.