Installations can create a mood, an invitation, a mystery, a different atmosphere in a characterless place, and invite the visitor to engage with a space through sound, props, images and projections.
Sometimes I make installations in their own right, and at other times I make an installation in a place where I then do a live performance. Also a thought-provoking and interesting location can in itself be a kind of installation within which I can perform or respond .
For example for my performance A Bird’s Eye View, at the Tea Shed overlooking Deptford Creek outside the APT studios in South London, I made an installation of birds in the shed which included crocheted swans, inflatable and toy seagulls, and a copy of Chekov’s play The Seagull (see detail below).
South Pacific Postcards 2011
Surrounded by tropical plants, the suitcase of a World War 2 naval officer lies open to reveal one hundred different postcards. On one side is a still from the film South Pacific (1958) based on James Michener’s 1947 book and the Broadway musical of 1949. A projection from a slide projector with no image, suggests the “exotic” as a site/sight of fantasies as if had no content or identity other than what the viewer brings to it.
The reverse sides of the postcards are printed with one hundred different extracts selected from Michener’s chapter “Fo’Dollar” which recounts the love affair of a U.S. marine and a Chinese girl who is a migrant labourer. The extracts invite us to consider ideologies of love, romance, the exotic, racial prejudice and imperialist conflict. A card can be taken away to send to someone as if from an “exotic” location.
Lost in Translations? 2012
Various translated interpretations of the same two lines from Homer’s Odyssey invite the listener to consider how we interpret the words of lovers and questions of sincerity, trust and speech. Circe invites Odysseus to bed after she has failed to transform him into a pig. Weakness, strength, or an ambiguous expression of both?
Sell Your Islands, 2012
Right-wing German politician Frank Shaeffler suggested in March 2012 that Greece should sell some of its islands to redeem its debts. His views were published in Bild newspaper under the headline “Sell your Islands you bankrupt Greeks! And sell the Acropolis too!”
This installation attempts to bring into collision the European admiration of myths and culture of ancient Greece, and the negative treatment of Greece by bankers and politicians in the European Union, who portrayed the Greek people as lazy and profligate. From cradle of civilisation to the whipping boy of Europe, from poetic idyll to scene of demonstrations and teargas attacks by riot police, Greece still asserted its fascination over the rest of Europe.
Song for the Deaf and Blind, 2013
Song for the Deaf and Blind was first performed in early 2013 at the Huguenot Cemetery in Wandsworth Town, South London, where it was recorded for this installation. The piece was also performed live at Hostings 12 GHostdance 11, University of the Arts London. The song comprises verses of Ophelia’s mad song in Hamlet, with additional words written by me, and the inscription on the wall of the cemetery as the last verse. Singing the song remembers people subjected to injustice and violence by forces of the state, victims of religious persecution, the importance of historical memory, and those marginalised by mainstream historical narratives. I also wanted to explore the power of site-specific commemorative acts and the ways in which the past returns not as nostalgia, but to collide with, or invade, the present.
Milkmaid’s Song 2014
Installation with sound, Uppark House Old Dairy, National Trust
Commissioned by Unravelled Arts, this was the first sound work to be installed at this National Trust building.
As soon as I visited Uppark, I knew I wanted to make a work about the young dairymaid , Mary Anne Bullock whose singing voice attracted Sir Harry, who had yet to set eyes on her. The sound piece works both inside and outside the dairy, as the sound from a single speaker is audible to the passer-by, inticing him or her into the cool dairy where the sound resonates off the hard tiled surfaces. The piece is in dialogue with its external and internal surroundings…the cockerel crows and the birds sing in the recorded sound and in the real world outside the dairy. The sound of ancient dairy equipment in use after such a long time builds up to a hypnotic rhythm, and the present intrudes on the past when Shirley Hill of the National Trust informs us “That’s the butter made now!”
The voice of the singing milkmaid sounds alive, but when we enter the dairy there is no-one there, only a speaker/monitor. The voice sounds alive and breathing through a body, but what kind of body….alive, or dead?
When will our Fields be seen? Our churchbells heard? 2014
Commission from Altered, for St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, Caistor, Lincolnshire. We were warmly received by the generous Rev. Ian Richardson, his family, and members of his congregation who helped in many ways to facilitate these installations.
A collaboration with Lynn Dennison video artist
The other three works installed in the Church in Caistor were Buoy Bell, Letty’s Globe, and Mute Lovers on the Railway Journey
Male voice by Davey Doy
projections and 4 sound pieces on loop, collaboration with Lynn Dennison, commissioned by Martine Rouleau, UCL Culture.
This installation in the historic Flaxman Gallery in University College London Library, responded to the site and to writings of nineteenth-century sculptor John Flaxman. The main sculpture in the gallery shows St. Michael casting down Satan, onto which, in darkness, Lynn Dennison projected images of water and fire, while four small speakers with headphones were situated on benches surrounding the statue. Through these, visitors could listen to four lectures on sculpture by Flaxman: on Drapery, Beauty, Egyptian Sculpture and Greek Sculpture, delivered by me. I also used field recordings made in the fabrics department of John Lewis, Oxford St., the Elgin Marbles court in the British Museum, the location of Flaxman’s grave, and the lecture on Egyptian sculpture was recorded in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Art. I found Flaxman’s lectures overlong and somewhat dull, so I sang parts of them in an attempt to enliven them for the benefit of contemporary listeners.