Hannah Perry's Gush at Somerset House, Let Me Know What You Think?
Updated: Nov 2, 2018
Hannah Perry’s powerful exhibition of new work encompasses themes of love, loss, mental illness and friendship and interrogates the contemporary issues that we are living through now. Her warmth and compassion for fellow humans really shines through in her mesmerizingly fascinating installation of new work at Somerset House in the un-refurbished River rooms. Her use of what may traditionally be thought of as masculine materials and methods of construction, welding, car heat-wrap and the trope of the car, reflects her compassion for and experiences of growing up with brothers and a father who are all welders and car enthusiasts. By considering the car body as fetishized object, representative of the male body, she interrogates the problems associated with strict gender conformity, in particular the ways in which masculinity manifests and constricts male ability to show emotion. The work directly engages with the traumatic suicide of her best friend Pete Morrow, who himself suffered from bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.
In Gush Perry takes us on a journey with her immersive film, that is both intimately personal but wholly universal in its content, referring to mental illness, love, grief, friendship and despair, in the age of social media. She has custom created a 360 degree camera for the purpose, projecting onto a large curved screen, where the viewer finds themselves right inside the viewing space, or not, depending on where they want to place themselves. It creates an interesting dichotomy between intimacy or immersion and overwhelm and insecurity.
The script, written by Perry draws on her friend Pete’s diaries and her own experiences, and depicts erratic thought patterns, intertwined with personal film and cut in and out with close up glitching lips, high speed cars, male and female bodies stretched around the curved screen, dancing, almost embracing the viewer. It is intensely personal as well as being completely universal and I find two words keep floating round my head overload and emptiness. To me it tells a story of so much in our contemporary world, depicting a sense of intense experiences that are almost too much to bear, too fast, too intense, and maybe suggesting a need to go slower, connect, in real life, stop rushing. High speed cars remind us of road kill and the vulnerability of human skin and the fragile body inside. An empty room in a London flat, her flat, after the death of her friend (?) and the feeling of loss that comes with grief that is almost impossible to comprehend, where, life goes on all around, still the same but completely different. And just like our contemporary lives, it is interspersed with Facebook memories and we are asked in large letters traversing the screen “how do I say this in a way that you will understand?”, and then she asks “Let me know what you think?". I feel both drained and sad but at the same time vaguely uplifted that someone else gets it, and has expressed it so clearly, and there is something powerful in her collaboration with other creatives and young people in realising this film. It makes it life affirming and lifts it out of an empty hole of grief and loss.
The exhibition continues with Rage fluids, a large-scale sound sculpture installation made from car body heat wrap stretched tight across a welded metal frame. It fills the gallery curving and winding it’s way seductively around, and through the space, like a shiny enticing rose gold or copper coloured metal skin. Subwoofer speakers bring it to life as it vibrates from the low frequency sounds directed at the tight stretched skin. It gently vibrates like an organic mass, a body (?), both solid and soft, strong and delicate. I am prompted to consider the fragility of skin again and what lies beneath? The fragile and delicate balance of emotions, feelings and experiences that we all negotiate as part of our human condition is there within us all, and I look into my reflection and find that it, and the rest of the room around me, is distorted. The car wrap skin becomes a mirror into how we are seen and how we may perceive ourselves, in that nothing is clearly defined and things are always shifting, changing overlapping, unclear.
Emptiness, limitations, glitches and layering, narratives and connections and the bits where things overlap, are just a few of the contributing elements of Perry's work and they echo life. And while I was watching GUSH, there was a moment when I bumped into Hannah Perry herself, she was really busy with a technical issue and preparing for the premier of her new performance work to take place that evening, but she gave me a piece of her time in such a generous friendly and open way.
And so, do you want to know what I think? I think a desire to connect, to create an open dialogue with others, to include people, to care, to love, to offer support and to make a space where we can think about, and form undefined definitions of human-ness, and question them, I think that’s what resonates so strongly throughout her work, and that is why I have been thinking about it ever since. Visit the show if you can, still on at Somerset House until 4thNovember 2018.
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