Friday, 25 November 2016

Hacking the Silence with Hannah Thompson

We are in Senate House - 'the vast bulk of London University insulting the autumnal sky' (Evelyn Waugh, Put Out More Flags). The glacial brutalist monolith is softened by wood, glass and bronze deco fittings once you get inside.

According to myth, the Chancellor's Hall - now the ceremonial focus of the building - was earmarked to be Hitler's office. Tonight, a long table bears a sprawl of gadgets with a hint of Bakelite, dinky pound shop pseudo-Tupperware boxes housing unfathomable electronics, an arterial system of leads, and gear from the dictatorship of Apple.

'Hacking the Silence' is sound artist Hannah Thompson's final event in her Leverhulme-funded residency at Senate House Library. Hannah doesn't press 'play' and sit back. It's live performance, manipulating captured sounds of the building and people.

Roars, gushes and filigree episodes move around the hall as different speakers are animated.

At one point Hannah darts out to play her amplified violin; she ends with a heartbreaking recorder solo.

In the Second World War, when the Ministry of Information was based in the building, this space would resonate to gunfire:

"The hall bridges the space between Senate House’s northern and southern blocks and has tall windows providing views west towards Gower Street and east towards Russell Square. It is one of the only rooms that faces both approaches. This geography led to it being used as the headquarters of the Ministry’s unit of the Home Guard. Guns were set up overlooking each entrance and practice drills would take place in the hall. This was said to ‘create a great deal of disturbance’ because the room was also used for meetings." - Dr Henry Irving, Leeds Beckett University, from a blog Senate House Revealed.

Hannah Thompson: 

Hacking the Silence is part of the Being Human Festival. 


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