Ellen Southern performs At Her Music at the iconic Art Deco building.
15 Aug 2013
Work by a University of Brighton Faculty of Art Final year MA Performance and Visual Practices student has been selected for performance at the prestigious De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, East Sussex.
Ellen Southern performed as part of the Dear Serge event, a new bi-monthly live art, music and performance series in homage to architect Serge Chermayeff (1900-1996) who was responsible for most of the interior design and partner architect to Erich Mendelsohn who designed the iconic Art Deco style De La Warr Pavilion during the 1930’s.
Ellen’s work, entitled At Her Music, is a process-based, site-responsive vocal performance and installation that takes shape over the course of a day in different locations combining Ellen’s live and recorded voice. She developed the piece over four months whilst studying at the faculty and was invited to perform at the pavilion by her tutor Claudia Kappenberg.
Ellen explained the creative process: “At the De La Warr, I first performed a cycled-song on the north staircase and digitally recorded it. I played it back immediately in the space and harmonised it with my recorded self. I then made a second recording of this, which I took away and carefully transcribed to produce a score of layered parts, which I re-recorded during the day.
“As a textural ‘accompaniment’ to my two harmonising voices, it included vocalised versions of the noises in the space; the words of passers-by and electronic noises from fellow participant Ian Helliwell’s electronic work. This layered track was then spatially installed within a camera obscura to be once more combined with my own live voice during the final evening event.“
To experience the final installation, the audience entered through the doorway into the mezzanine of the pavilion’s large auditorium. Instead of finding themselves in the usual open space, they arrived in a small dark space, with unseen ‘voices’ singing and making vocal sounds to their left and right.
In front of them hung a frame seemingly suspended in mid air, on which they could see the auditorium optically projected via a lens, with the image appearing upside down. In the auditorium and on the other side of the lens, Ellen entered the frame and performed a final live layer to the song, harmonising with her recorded selves, moving nearer and further from the installation to allow the audience to hear different degrees of ’liveness’.
Over the process of the work, the parts of the song disconnected and transformed, and maybe it is the presence of the audience that ultimately created the work by instinctively assembling the musical and visual elements.
This approach allowed the acoustics, architecture and aesthetics of the building to flow directly into the work, showing the staff and visitors the pavilion in a new light.
Both the sounds from the staircase, and the view of the auditorium seen through the camera obscura, became inherent features of the piece. The image of the ceiling in the auditorium was especially striking, and very fitting, as it is an iconic example of Serge Chermayeff’s innovative approach to design and acoustic technology of the time.
Ellen is now interested in applying the same kind of performance to other spaces to create a collection of versions, all looking and sounding distinctive yet with consistent and unifying elements.
Watch Ellen Southern’s performance of At Her Music.
More information about this piece and Ellen's other work: www.ellensouthern.co.uk