Hannah Perry knows her samples. Heavy bass hits click into place, snares tick-tock, dirges mellow, and divas auto-tuned kisses echo. “I am getting better and better at Ableton” a piece of electronic music software, she brags. And for sure, its clear detail is generously layered into each piece of the artist, working in video collage and audio. So much so, that the chopped aesthetic of Perry’s visuals can be traced back to instrumental hip-hop production of DJ Screw and J Dilla. Scanning through soundcloud.com the London-based artist plays a guessing game, spotting samples producers have cut fragments of or manipulated beyond recognition, something only the best of ears could catch.Hannah Perry live performance. Photo by Tom Saunderson.
She links us to a section titled ‘The HA Dance’ from Eddie Murphy’s 1983 comedy Trading Places, ripped by Masters at Work, as well as a producer whose clearly been toying with Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer.’ Perry’s ex-boyfriend worked for a company called Sounds to Sample and it’s clear that the payoff has been a high-octane education in beat matching. “I always hung out with producers and DJs so I am much more involved with that side of audio rather than cinema. I think I try to replicate that visually sometimes. Like if you slow down a bit of footage to make the audio sound deeper, then visually it will be slower. If I have jittered the video I’ll try and jolt the audio too. ASAP Rocky used slow-mo in Purple Swag, and I loved that use of slow-mo.”
“Dancing and sex are the most exciting things in life,” Perry continues. “Heartbeats and rhythms of life are reliable and offer stability.” When a screaming voice reverbs into ambience then, it grasps our attention. Hollowed memories of yesterdays dance floor, a motion picture portrait of a young woman, conversations breathed between sets, break. At an exhibit at Peckham’s Arcadia Missa, you’re lifted out of the moment only to realise you are looking at a screen. Snapshots of footage loop within videos, re-cut into new contexts, asking us what was and what is, much like in Gasper Noe’s Irreversible, where the story begins with the end but faster, with a deliberate lack of quality-control. One minute we’re watching a YouTube video uploaded off a webcam, the next, a recorded conversation with friends or a jpeg. Footage and audio corroborate or clash, neither narrative nor aesthetic is king. “I work from what I know with videos. They’re rich and abundant, but I try and make the work, not merely an autobiography, but a portrait that is understood from the viewer as well that is empathised with.”
In Happy Paralysis, a film Hannah Perry showed recently in Switzerland, she looks at jealousy, proposing the idea of a certain reality based on perception disputable. “I portray that moment in a relationship where you think your partner is being disloyal to you, whether that is actually happening or not, in that moment, it seems real. I try to use this idea of our perceptions of reality to play against other ideas in film.” First cars became and now cell phones are perceived as extensions of personality. Images, audio and the ‘smilies’ we share replace gestures as internationally understood symbols of self-expression. Perhaps people’s affinity for LOLcats, their ‘cuteness,’ is the ultimate impossible grasp for intimacy in the mind of the net-user. What Perry wants to say is that we often forget who these images are initially created by, the power relationship between sources and in what context we reproduce them.
For now the Goldsmiths and Royal Academy-educated graduate is experimenting with different ways to produce visual video installation in gallery spaces, playing with projection mapping, multiple screens, and the potential for projections to become more sculptural. Before leaving I ask about ‘The Little Life Game Is Surprising’ an Infographic that appears in her videos. “The life game to me is many things… but also these little things we get ourselves into over and over again. For better or for worse. You know the feeling ‘I told myself I wouldn’t do this again’ but yet… yes, always surprising :D”
Hannah Perry exhibited her work at The Open Office / O_O programme at Arcadia Missa December 7 to 19, 2012.