As part of Arnolfini's Artist Development Programme, artist Hannah Sullivan occupied the Dark Studio at Arnolfini to develop her project ‘With Force and Noise’. Here, Hannah introduces her practice and talks about her time in the Dark Studio.
My practice is based in contemporary theatre and consists of working with movement, singing, autobiographical writing, research and interdisciplinary collaborations to create solo performance. All of these processes aim to uncover or delve into something I wish to spend time with, re-define, or create space for. Through making solo performance in this way I aim to create an honest detailed personal meditation; a kind of opening.
Whilst in the Dark Studio I worked on a developing solo called ‘With Force and Noise’, in preparation for a work-in-progress showing at Shoreditch Town Hall.
‘With Force and Noise’ has been a year long research into violence and anger and is shaping into a one-woman monologue, experimenting with spoken text and costume.
My time in the Dark Studio immediately followed the terrorist bombings in Paris. I began by questioning my existing material in relation to this tragic event and the resulting current public mood. I became worried about how the work would collide with this reality. The piece sometimes calls for noise, for impact and change. By being in the aftermath of a very aggressive outburst I felt the need to call for silence. I wanted to emphasise the determination it takes to hold precious silence. I discussed with my dramaturg the artist’s responsibility to react to global events. For me, my work is reactionary to the world I live in, but heavily weighted in an interior life of memories, dreams and feelings; a world absorbed. I was sparked by another violent global event; The 2014 Hrushevskoho Street Riots in Ukraine, to make this work but not to report on it, it made me want to begin my own investigation and this is what I need to commit to. And so, I didn’t alter the material.
- Together with my dramaturg, Alice Tatton Brown, we looked back on previous versions to help decide how to structure this next showing. We decided to go back to the beginning, to the basis of the earliest version
- I got very distracted by the song ‘I got a Razor’ by Willie Dixon. I spent a long time singing it. I was fascinated by how the song transformed me, by its calm violence, threat, by its attempt to communicate being strong and invincible, and in this communication becoming strong and invincible, or foolish and ridiculous. I am interested in how emotion is connected to imagination. Within this song several imagined scenarios are described: he is envisioning himself like this, he builds his identity on these fictional statements.
- I skimmed back through old text to see if there was anything else to salvage. I salvaged some text about dressing like the devil and jumping into mosh pits.
- I cut, altered and rearranged the text, paying attention to methods of sustaining the audience’s engagement with a monologue.
This time allowed me to consider how to effectively use my final in development showing of the work, and prepare the piece with new questions and concerns in mind. An artist and audience member from the Shoreditch Town Hall performance, Simon Bowes, wrote this reflection on the piece: ‘I think of the anger before me as something long harboured. I see it shimmer on her skin and shiver through her muscles.’
‘With Force and Noise’ is now in final development supported by Arts Council England, Bristol Ferment, Coats Foundation and Camden People’s Theatre.
With Thanks to Arnolfini, Shoreditch Town Hall, Bath ICIA and Solo Contemporary Performance Forum.
Hannah is a member of Interval, an artist-led support network that shares a base at The Exchange on Corn Street, Bristol.
Image by Jack Offord, Costume Designed by Annelies Henney