August 23, 2018
Interview: Hanne Lippard
On August 30, Kunsthall Stavanger will open an extensive solo exhibition with new and recent works by artist Hanne Lippard. Below, Lippard answers our questions about her views on the voice as artistic medium, the production of language, and the intricacies of human communication.
Your work takes many forms: performance, sound installation, video, books and other printed matter. This variety of formats asks for a different level of engagement with the audience. How do you think about the viewer when you’re creating a new artwork?
I always find it interesting to consider the word ‘viewer’ in relation to my work, as it is predominantly an experience of listening. Although neither is exclusive to the other, as my work exists in both realms, also when it is read in a book, or presented as a pure sound installation without the presence of my own body but its voice. In my work I reflect upon the connection between the body, and language in a broad sense. I often think about the body of the recipient, whether it is a reader, viewer or listener, and how my work resonates in their presence of my work. What do I physically touch upon without performing an actual human contact, but rather by using language and sound?
One might be forgiven for assuming your background is in literature, but I understand you actually studied graphic design at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. What lead you to audio and performance works, and what kind of relationship do you have with the literary field?
Graphic design is often connected to style, but I found myself more interested in communication and the rhythm of language rather than certain visual aesthetics of the trade. My relationship to language is a constant reflection on the differences between spoken and written language, and graphic design was my entry point to an understanding of how this could be performed without being placed into literature, design or even theatre, but rather something in between. That in between turned out to be an artistic practice.
Much of your work is about communication and the production of language. In your sound works, how important is the voice itself: do you consider it a tool, or subject matter in itself, or both?
It is a very exposed artistic practise, as I am carrying the ‘working tool’ with me daily. Most artists find themselves constantly in their professional ‘role’, both in their research and thoughts, however I believe artists who use their bodies in the work are subject to this on a higher level. I do make a distinction between the reading voice as an act, or a performance, and the one with which I talk to my friends or order a coffee in a bar. The interesting thing is that the use of the voice is always individual acts adapted to the situation; although the language differs, also the tone of voice I use when I call the tax office, is very different from that which I use when I call my family.
Every word when said with the right tone can become a piece of poetry.”— Hanne Lippard, Ancientism
In your piece Ancientism, there’s a line that reads, “Every word when said with the right tone can become a piece of poetry.” And indeed your work often involves ordinary or mundane words and scenarios. Can you describe how you think about something becoming poetry?
I think it is a bit like the naive idea that inspiration can be found in the smallest details, which I find to be particularly true when it comes to poetry and using language as a tool in ones artistic practice. Using mundane or relatable fragments of language connects back to the idea of resonating with the body of the listener/viewer and their own experience of language. The texts might seem autobiographical and confessional at times, but they are in fact often narratives belonging to others, existing or invented bodies. Although I work with one voice, I want to display not only one personality in my work, but many.
You recently published a new book, This Embodiment, which collects works related to your exhibitions and performances over the last several years. How do you approach translating work from performances and exhibitions into a book format?
I see both this book and the former one published with Broken Dimanche Press, Nuances of No, as a post-script work. Unlike some authors or poets who write towards the end point of a book, the book is compiled from texts which I have used over the years for performances and sound-installations, a kind of retrospective insight to my own practice. It seems to happen with an interval of three to four years...
Hanne Lippard, born in 1984 in Milton Keynes, GB, lives and works in Berlin. Lippard’s practice explores the voice as a medium. Her education in graphic design informs how language can be visually powerful; her texts are visual, rhythmic, and performative rather than purely informative, and her work is conveyed through a variety of disciplines, which include short films, sound pieces, installations and performance. Her most recent performances and exhibitions include Pocket, SALTS, Basel, CH (2017); Flesh, KW, Berlin, DE (2017) ars viva 2016; Index— The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Stockholm, SE (2016); AUTOOFICE, *KURATOR, Rapperswil, CH (2016); Fluidity, Kunstverein, Hamburg, DE (2016); Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig, DE (2016); 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2015); The Future of Memory, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2015); Transmediale, Berlin (2015); Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld, DE (2015); Unge Kunstneres Samfund, Oslo (2014); Berliner Festspiele, Berlin (2013); Poesía en Voz, Mexiko-City (2012). hannelippard.com
–Images: ars viva 2016, Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft, Berlin, DE. Photo: ONUK; Hanne Lippard, Flesh, 2016, Installationsansicht / Installation view KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2017. Photo: Frank Sperling; Reading for fans, KW Performance documentation, 2014. Photo: Joanna Szproch.