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Toxic safe spaces: Hannah Perry

INTERVIEW! British artist Hannah Perry's hypnotic installation 100 Problems at Contemporary Fine Arts takes on gender formation, relationships and vicious cycles with video, spoken monologue and music. It's on through Dec 17.

Image for Toxic safe spaces: Hannah Perry
Hannah Perry, Hot Crazy Matrix (2016)

Hannah Perry on how girlhood, an ex and even Beyonce ended up in her Berlin solo debut.

The British artist’s mixed-media works examine the personal at a time when almost everything is public. Hypnotic installation 100 Problems at Contemporary Fine Arts centres around gender formation, relationships and vicious cycles in a “toxic safe space” of video, spoken monologue and music.

What were you specifically drawing from to create the installation?

Image for Toxic safe spaces: Hannah Perry
Photo by Oskar Proctor

For the monologue I was thinking a lot about social media: when it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s bad, it’s awful, like with stalking or seemingly general posts on Twitter where the poster knows damn well who they are targeting. The idea of dropping things out there in public, or broadcasting, even if it’s to an empty room. A while ago I spent a lot of time writing hate mail that I will never send, and on later reflection I found the tone and energy quite funny. Meanwhile Beyonce’s album had just come out and the stereotype of the angry hysterical woman or ex-wife seemed to be en vogue. Along with broader research, I used all this as the basis for the scripts that formed the monologue.

You tend to mix your own video with found footage. Is that the case here?

I’ve used footage of my family members along with stuff from Youtube, and taken it through several layers of processing, like transferring it to VHS, so it’s unclear what the source is or what’s made up. Most of the footage is of young girls at that affirmative age when all norms around gender are formed. So the installation mixes the playful child with slightly aggressive hysteria, paranoia and humour.

The installation will be surrounded by silkscreens. Do they also mix personal and found images?

I wrote hate mail that I will never send.

One includes a photo of my ex-boyfriend sitting in the front seat of a car reaching to me in the back seat. We’re holding hands. There’s another one where I’m in bed with a guy, our bodies are tangled up, naked legs and arms like pretzels. Both images are in the video, too – they’re these cycles of memories that go around and around in your head.

Are we talking about more than one person?

Actually about several different relationships, which is quite important to know because it kind of doesn’t matter who it is – it’s more about the idea of taking the lineage of every relationship you’ve ever had and folding back on itself, replaying time and time again. Everything you encounter is a reflection of this lineage of memories, thoughts and traumas.

Why do you use non-linear fragments in your work as opposed to narrative?

It’s all about perspective and the way you interpret information. It’s very difficult to get to the truth. With fragmentation I find that I can get across a feeling or sentiment rather than a story or fact, and talk more easily about things that are intangible.

Why put all of these inner experiences out there?

I’m trying to figure out how certain feelings fit into a broader context. The idea is that it’s much easier to sit in repetitive cycles and negative thinking. That’s a more comfortable space than stepping outside and trying to change your own perspective.

100 Problems, Nov 5-Dec 17 | Contemporary Fine Arts, Mitte