Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Hepworth’

Cat Werk Imprint – 7th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Walk away… walk around it.’ On the page, the words are devoid of threat or menace. But delivered in a fractured, disembodied voice that carries a strange sense of madness, it takes on altogether different shades of unsettling uncanniness. Amidst creeping fear chords, clicking insectoid flickers and scrapes and scratches, the voice, childlike and compressed warps and twists, as through refracted through a temporal veil or a spiritual force-field of some description. It feels like a communiqué from the other side. The voice is that of celebrated modernist sculptor and Henry Moore contemporary Barbara Hepworth, and this is one of the early moments on Olivia Louvel’s latest release, a work which forms the basis of the artist’s Masters degree, in which she investigates the voice ‘from preservation to resounding, while taking further the voice of Hepworth into the physical space as a multi-speaker diffusion’.

The source material is a 1961 recording of Barbara Hepworth’s voice, recorded by Hepworth herself in her studio in St Ives, the tape’s initial purpose was for a recorded talk with slides for the British Council, with an original duration of thirty-two minutes. Louvel’s resounding is of a similar duration, but instead of a linear narration which details the artist’s working methods, we get scrambled cut-up snippets which strangely still give a semblance of sense, reducing the extrapolations to the barest bones to give a sense of Hepworth’s creative processes and focus. But them, Willian Burroughs suggested that cutting up text (and for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll consider audio a form of text) reveals the truth, and while Hepworth’s talk isn’t brimming with political rhetoric and doublespeak, one feels that Louvel’s cut-up of her words does perhaps bring us closer to the heart of her meaning.

‘Must Carve a Stone’ loops and layers a breathy whisper of the word ‘carve’, which becomes an unsettling mantra. Minimal glitchtronica and hovering, echoing notes provide a ponderous, stammering backdrop to the looping, multi-tracked vocal layerings of ‘I Draw What I Feel in My Body’, and the sparse arrangement creates an uneasy backdrop to the words.

There isn’t a moment that’s comfortable or easy here, and Louvel’s ‘resounding’ of Hepworth is relentlessly challenging as an auditory and sensory experience. But it’s also impressive in the way that it provokes the listener to awaken those senses and absorb a multi-faceted presentation of what it is to be an artist.

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