Mining music, pop culture and her own personal life for her latest work, artist Hannah Perry tells us how to achieve her VHS-meets-the-internet video aestheticDiesel-Black-Gold-Hannah-Perry
‘What are you thinking about’? These words multiply, blur and spread across a black screen. We are watching London-based artist Hannah Perry’s latest video installation, housed at Diesel Black Gold’s London flagship store. It fills the courtyard in Conduit Street with videos that mine music and pop culture as much as personal relationships and Perry’s own life, creating fast-paced patchworks of colour, sound, and text. Though personal, there is something familiar about the sounds and sentiments flashing across the screen: snatches of conversations create not so much a coherent narrative as a feeling of a contemporary dialogue. Dancing bodies blur and become abstracted as colours glitch and bleed, superimposed with cryptic on-screen text: ‘Don’t regret if I don’t mention you.’ The work is full of implied questions about gender, culture, and the way we communicate with each other, filtered through Perry’s hazy VHS-meets-the-internet video aesthetic.
After opening another exhibition of new work featuring latex, crumpled car bonnets, and more video works, we caught up with Perry to ask her all about her practice, what’s made her the artist she is, and what advice she’d offer aspiring artists.
THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL
“Growing up without any kind of art education, when I came to art I accessed it from a sociological perspective; my personal experiences have largely been my key points of reference, not art history. I’m interested in looking at where people come from and how they deal with social conditioning, which is something I’m increasingly exploring in my work, alongside issues of gender. I tend to record people and things I am very close to, which has led to work in the past involving family and relationships. I often see my work as an homage or tribute. Heavy editing, and playing with rhythm, sound, and feeling often changes meaning from documentary to poetry. There is a blurred line between truth and fiction in my work that makes the viewer complicit in a process of understanding.”
“Someone once said to me, ‘Even if it doesn’t look like art, just keep going and eventually people will accept it.’ If your practise doesn’t fit into a box or a trend, if you really believe in what you’re doing – just keep doing it” – Hannah Perry
TEACH YOURSELF THE SKILLS YOU NEED AND EMBRACE IMPERFECTION
“I usually record video on my iPhone, and make the audio myself. I taught myself how to produce music using Ableton. While making loops, beats, or soundscapes for my own work I got heavily into the history and politics of music sampling, which I do a lot – whether it’s making a loop or kick from a recording of someone talking, or adding effects to a monologue to turn it into a collection of sounds. I do this to try and set a tone and put a series of conceptual connotations into play. I also heavily process video footage, in part to try and deconstruct the images through compression, reproduction, remixing, or reformatting. It degrades, and mistakes become a key part of the work. I work with text in a similar way, though I’m also influenced by the ideas of verbatim theatre. I tweet words or fragments of sentences, then use an online Twitter regenerator to re-fashion sentences.”
FOLLOW YOUR STRENGTHS
“Studying art at Goldsmiths focuses largely on critical theory and contextualisation, which can be alienating. In reaction to this approach, I started looking at the ways that life and art relate more directly and began to be influenced by artists with a personal, autobiographical focus: you can examine social structures just as effectively from a personal, embedded perspective as from a distanced position. This realisation became a key element of my practice. The RA (where I did a three year MA course) places greater emphasis on materials, processes, and skills. I found my practise in between those places: my work moved into manipulating sensibilities through meaningful, metaphorical processes and material gestures.”
EXAMINE INNER PERSPECTIVES
“Abigail Solomon-Godeau’s essay “Inside/Out” describes the way that artists have historically been incredibly suspicious of the way that recording something evokes an intimacy with that thing. Susan Sontag argues that the camera inserts itself between you and whatever you are photographing, creating a relationship of objectification. I aim to complicate these ideas in my practice; I am so emotionally embedded in what I record that it deeply affects my relationship with that object. I come from a certain place as an artist (culturally, socially, and geographically), but I don’t want to offer an uncomplicated and voyeuristic view of that world. As such, my work always aims to perform an ‘inside’ rather than an ‘outside’ perspective. These perspectives are always in flux, also, as I grow and situations change.”
MAKE MISTAKES AND ACCEPT YOUR INSECURITIES
“Someone once said to me, ‘Even if it doesn’t look like art, just keep going and eventually people will accept it.’ If your practise doesn’t fit into a box or a trend, if you really believe in what you’re doing – just keep doing it. Also, remember everything takes a really long time: there are no real shortcuts. Paralysis by analysis is a real problem: if you over-think things, they won’t happen. You are going to fail, you will make mistakes, but that’s all part of it. It’s about growing through doing. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. Exhibiting publicly makes you feel vulnerable and insecure; it’s good come to terms with this if you want to be an artist.”
ICA Off-Site: Hannah Perry in association with Diesel Black Gold is taking place at the Diesel Black Gold Flagship Store, 21 Conduit Street, W1S 2XP, until 29 November 2015. Hannah Perry: Mercury Retrograde is also on at Seventeen Gallery until 5 December 2015