'Hannah Perry & Hotel Palenque, 2012' Performance, RGB projection on fabric back projection wall courtesy Cell Project Space, London
In a conversation with Francesca Gavin last month you said, "I see the clips from TV as being as much my personal memories as the ones from my own life, yet also having resonance with our collective national consciousness." Much of your work blends footage you've shot yourself, personalized footage shot by strangers, and the ersatz human experience offered by TV and adverts. It assumes pop cultural references naturally interpolate into one’s personal memories.
That quote was in reference to my editing style. I was explaining how my editing derives from listening to hip hop and dance music, and music production techniques. I look at the looping and sampling of sound, and then use those methods to play with audio and video in a similar way.
When I was a kid I would raid my brother’s room while he was out, and listen to his tapes. He is over 10 years older than me and was heavily into the rave scene. I distinctively remember nicking a rave tape from 92, so I was probably about 7-8. The stories about what he got up to were also influential.
The rave scene is one pop-culture reference, among many, that reoccurs in my work. I feel close to that youth/social movement and the music that spun out of it, but I have always felt slightly outside of it too, which made it easy to romanticize the whole thing until it became a part of what I did in my late teens.
If we think of rave culture as the last British subculture before the mass use of the Internet, it may well be being revived to a certain degree, but in an age where everything is consumed at a much faster pace, the cache of collective knowledge is being recycled in imagery and reference and its continual reviving from the archive of popular culture. As we live in an age where things are increasingly fragmented, i am looking at the media as if it provides us a basic image of our lives, (meanings, values) to form a totality to which these fragments can be understood.
I film a lot of my own footage, like my nieces playing, or record conversations with my friends. In the same context, I collect the personalized footage shot by strangers. They say that when you go to the cinema, you look for yourself in films’ characters. I’ll often choose footage because it’s the type of banal experiences that I have had, but with different characters. Within my work I like to confuse and intertwine my footage and that taken from an advert or a sitcom.
Pete [Morrow] used to hate it when people talked about an episode of Friends as if it was something that happened in their life, or made an analogy, “it’s like in Friends, when Joey said…’
It’s not only playing out the personal through popular culture but, it’s also about placing the personal experience within a wider cultural context. Within this timeline of mass and subcultural references I can locate my personal experience in a way that I hope other people relate to, in some ways autobiographical, but in a way that is not overly personal, is not only about me but the viewer as well.
That’s what I mean by collective national consciousness - the personal and non-personal becoming incorporated into one grand scheme. Relaying back an image that feeds back on itself.
In relation to cultivating grand schemes, when I think the analysis offered by Hebdige, and other British cultural theorists working in the late 1970s to early 1990s, I feel like they couldn't anticipate the kind of process of developing one’s own adolescent identity within a massively saturated visual culture that thematically reoccurs in your work.
I feel that underground social movements like punk were described by Hebdige and such as means of giving autonomy to the disenfranchised. I am working with my friend Harry Burke on some text for his blog at the moment about this subject and as he puts it, perhaps they were unable to predict the ‘potential attack on the autonomous subject’.
If I use an albeit shallow example of social change brought about by the fast pace commercialization enabled by forces like the internet, I’d use the example of how fashion now doesn’t have the capability to remain outside of the mainstream for long. Historically - to wear a certain item of clothing could operates as a code of defiance to the system and individuality. The pace of things means that before you know it, it will be in every Topshop on every High Street in the country. I could, but won’t, also go into the collapse of the record industry how we knew, but that’s a whole other, much longer, discussion.
As we evolve among signs, our identity becomes partly a process of managing the signs we consume; the catalogues and gigabytes. It’s important to invent with the ‘do it yourself’ mentality of the past, and to be aware that footage and imagery are our readymades, and that this common imaginary is dictated by power sources. It’s worth considering what the social functions, and how we produce relationships with this material and within the world.
But let’s also not forget feelings here - I think music, fashion, and a lot of these images have and always and will always, makes people feel something, in the same way breaking up with lover makes you feel something. There are powerful sensory experiences to be found in cultural products, just as much as they can be found in personal events.
Going back to our discussion about pop references being absorbed into one’s life, a lot of what my work is getting at is the feeling that emerges from the personal colliding with these social symbols. As Harry would put it (perhaps better than me), ‘maybe we can call it a narrative act of creating subjectivity through personal encounters with shared visual symbols.’
Tell me about hannahperry.com...
My website is access point to an archive of finished works rather than a online viewing platform, it's why I have a password on the site. It also encourages people to email me and ask for the log-in details, which initiates one-on-one contact with people interested in my work, and encourages a dialogue. I also want people to come and see the work in a physical space, as I've set it up to be seen.
With the While It Lasts installation for Zabludowicz Collection, I created a cinematic environment that was impossible to replicate online. There are many reasons why I dislike showing my video work online, primarily because within the work, I try to set a rhythm or pace with fast edits which is totally lost if it stutters, the audio goes out of sync, stops half way through or if the video isn’t displayed properly, such as when it only half loads – all of which often happens. Bass sound is awful on tinny laptop speakers. And when the work is viewed in a channel surfing manner, and not for its full duration, it doesn’t receive the same element of consideration because the viewer doesn’t see them as they do in an exhibition context.
The immerse element of the work stems from the videos themselves (the changes of pace throughout which demands the attention of the viewer), the installations (creating a physical environment out of elements of the film which the viewer passes through) and the performance (where the audience sits in the middle of the performers and surround sound speakers). With so many artists whose work I've experienced first on the Internet, when I see it in real life, it tends to be bigger, louder or more interesting than I anticipated.
With the installed photographs, and other pieces at Zabludowicz, the installation felt akin to walking into a YouTube video. You also did a performance with Pete Morrow, which I missed. What happened?
We did an audio performance with me on a sampler, Pete on drums and 10 female performers. I put a lot of the sound bites (samples) through AbletonLive and added effects to them, so some were more unrecognizable than others.
Originally, we were going remix the exhibited film’s full soundtrack, but in the end, we focused on a specific section, beginning with the sound of children singing a Beach Boys’ song, a telephone conversation between a friend and myself, marching footsteps in heals (which is mixed in to the tempo of a Pussycat Dolls beat), and a girl dancing.
Within the film, all these elements play as a series of vignettes, or introductions to a moment in our transition towards adulthood. Whilst the film looks at this from the male and female perspective, the specific section we chose is about the feminine and becoming aware of your sexuality- although we chose this mainly because the sounds are better.
The performance was an ‘event’ after the advent, so to speak. The audience sat in the middle and the 10 female performers marched around them, acting like a metronome. When they fell into a rhythm and pace, we began to add other audio elements. Pete played along to their timing and I followed with the altered soundbites.
I’d been thinking a lot about remixing in the context of rhythms/cycles, patterns of social moments and events.
How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?
Always. Technology is an integral part of making in one way or another. Whatever your medium inevitably you’ll need to use programs like Photoshop.
Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I studied fine art at Goldsmiths College and then fine art at the Royal Academy of Arts in London both being interdisciplinary with no specialism. I have always done a bit of everything. It’s the Goldsmiths way: jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?
With traditional, I am going to differentiate that between analogue and digital. Video is the main part of my practice, and I’ve developed a language that mixes analogue and digital found footage with mine, along with brand and individual imagery.
My process involves a lot of processing. One example of this is taking footage filmed on my iPhone and processing it through VHS players, Aftereffects or DV capturing devices to confuse the content and to make it look like something from YouTube or an advert. This creates textures and displacement. I am currently working on a web based project, whilst at the same time on some printed material using more traditional processes like silk screening, trying to mirroring certain editing techniques like repetition and rhythm.
Technology is becoming more and more innate to grow up with. For example, my mum doesn’t know how to turn a computer on, and I always finds it particularly humiliating when I am leaning how to do something in After Effects from a 10 year old American boy’s YouTube tutorial!
So in my work, old and new media go full circle.
Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?
I am about to attempt to writing something for a friend’s blog, although, in foresight, I should probably stick to Facebook and DJing.
What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?
an artist. I worked at MOT International gallery after I graduated for
a couple of years where I learnt a lot
, and in a post production
house in Soho. Although it was relevant, all that taught me was that I
didn’t want to
work in post production, it’s not autonomous enough.
Who are your key artistic influences?
Dr Dre, Steve Reich, my older brother, that sort of thing. Artists like Sarah Lucas, Clunie Reid, Richard Prince, Seth Price and Mark Leckey have all been key figures in sculpting my artistic taste.
Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?
Oh loads. I last worked with Ben Vickers on some HTML coding for my current show with bubblybyte.org. In the past I’ve worked with LuckyPDF, Harry Sanderson from Your Body is a Temple and musician/music producer Pete Morrow. Next I want to work with Harry Burke on some text.
Do you actively study art history?
I am not ill informed, but I don’t actively study it. I have always been more interested in music and TV.
Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?
I am currently reading a few thing; Rhythmanalysis by Henri Lefebvre- it’s a critical
text that analyses rhythms of urban spaces and the effects of those rhythms on the inhabitants. Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus-a social critique through art and music and SUBCULTURE AND THE MEANING OF STYLE about subversion to normalcy.
I have always been more interested in sociological texts; Giddens, Goffman, and especially Bourdieu text Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, although one art referencing book that I read which I think is reallyrelevant is PostProduction by Nicolas Bourriaud. I don’t think this has much to do with the way I make work, the work would be the same without it.
Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?
See the “tell me about hannahperry.com” question