Hannah Silva blog post

I was invited to be a part of the first phase of the Syndrome project. I had just started playing with text for a new solo show called ‘Schlock!’ so Syndrome provided a great opportunity to start exploring the work, extending my practice with a loop pedal, and collaborate with a video artist. Because we had a showing at the end of the week it was a great push to get the material together and then see how it felt with an audience. In the end the piece we showed was very much made in the Kitchen Street space, for the space. The materials of the venue became a part of the work.

On the first day I met Simon Jones for the first time. He had been asked to work with me for the week. We were going to show something to an audience at the end of the week. He asked me what I wanted him to help me with and I told him I didn’t know yet, because this was my first day working on the project too, and all I had were lots of words and a new loop pedal I didn’t yet know what to do with, and here we were in this large and freezing cold warehouse with nice people and junk upstairs and a hole in the floor downstairs and no technology anywhere, yet.  Simon seemed like a very nice person, so I asked him if he could be my collaborator rather than my technical advisor, that way we were in it together, and he could help me come up with ideas for the visuals. We tried but failed to do something very clever connecting my pedal with his computer using midi. Something like that.

On the second day Simon projected some colours on me, and a black and white movie, the shadows were interesting. I showed Simon some text and discussed how it wasn’t really about bondage but more about childbirth. We found videos of childbirth. We realised that the most interesting part of the warehouse was the hole, there was no ignoring it. It had junk in it, I think it was once a kiln. And my text is quite junky. The woman in my text describes her stomach as ‘full of beer cans, floating in pools’ so performing at the edge of the hole and then getting into it seemed the right thing to do. Simon spent that night watching babies being born, very close up.

On the third day screens were being put up in the space and it was taking longer than planned so I stayed at home and read the manual for my loop pedal and started making some noises, and Simon got together some images to project onto me using a kinnect – and some program which meant that the projection would recognise the shape of my body and project just onto me.

On the fourth day we had to re-position projectors which took some time, but in the end Simon had the brainwave of putting the kinnect in the hole so it could aim at me properly. And I borrowed a small infra red CCTV camera which we hooked up to live feed so I could get into the hole and film it.

On the fifth day I added junk to the hole and we may have done a run through. As well as a baby being born on me we had the trailer from Fifty Shades of Grey, and a woman opening a can wearing a top with an interesting design on it. In the evening I performed some poetry elsewhere. I may have given a workshop that day too, or it might have been the day before.

On the sixth day we showed the work (alongside a piece by the Hive collective and a ‘The Nodes of Thamsanqua Jantjie’ by Mark Greenwood and Nathan Jones) to a large audience of people in the warehouse. It was pretty incredible to see how the space had transformed to technology-less to full of screens and sounds and light.

Of course I don’t have a year-round view of Liverpool, but it feels very different to every other city I’ve shown work in. It feels full of artists, doing what they do, not pandering to funders or venues or audiences, just doing their work and showing it in a way that creates an experience in an interesting place, a night out, therefore growing audiences too. There are no apologies or explanations when working on Nathan’s projects. I know I can experiment without running the risk of not being invited back, in fact I know that Nathan wants me to push my work and I know his audiences are up for that too. The work is part of a place and an event and a community, it isn’t divided off from anything else, so it can beat….pulse…

Nathan’s projects are chaotic and not always perfectly organised and at a couple of moments during that week my stomach sank and I just didn’t know how we were going to make it all work. But it always does work in the end, and he collaborates with a team who work hard and are skilled enough to get technology working in a space it’s not designed for, to find ways of cheating when the conventional approach isn’t possible (because there aren’t many power sockets, for example). Nathan’s projects are connected up to other projects and groups and they are full of people, so working with him feels like taking a place in a growing organism, I play my part, leave, and it continues to pulse.