The videos are part of a series created for SIREN collective’s residency at Somerset House Studios last November.
Late last year, Somerset House Studios opened its doors to SIREN as part of their Associate Artist residency programme. The London-based collective, formed in 2016 to champion the underrepresented within dance music, developed video series The Shape of Sound specifically for their stint at the London institution.
Spotlighting short, standalone performances, each filmed within Somerset House Studios, the idea is to profile six UK-based women and non-binary artists and present the work of each in a new context. The result pushed up-and-coming artists and sound designers – including object blue, Iceboy Violet, rkss, M T Hall and Moonbow – out of their comfort zones in order to create pieces that responded to their surroundings. In some cases, this resulted in artists exploring new performative and visual concepts to re-contextualise their live performance specifically to the environment.
We’re excited to premiere these videos exclusively via Crack Magazine, with introductions and annotations by the artists themselves. Watch them below.
“I wanted to explore slow live vocal processing and looping, which I don’t usually get the opportunity to do on dancefloors”
“Well my live shows are quite disorientating with specifically timed strobes and a live streaming GoPro projected into the space. So for this video, SIREN, the team at Somerset House and I tried to think of ways to transfer this disorientation to a standalone video that would be played for the festival as an installation and later streamed online (hi Crack reader!).
I’d like the viewer to reflect on the space they are currently in. Why do they think they are here?”
“For a while as a collective we had wanted to make a series of short videos that could act as a sort of “taster” of artists and producers’ live sets, that could be presented to an online audience – a bit like a visual version of what a DJ mix can be for a DJ.
The idea is it would give you a feel of the experience of what it is like to see those artists play live, and also give people on the other side of the world a chance to see it too, people who may not have access to otherwise see these artists.
When SIREN became Somerset House associate artists, we really wanted to make use of the amazing spaces within Somerset House, and it felt like a great opportunity to finally do this video project. We wanted to choose a selection of upcoming artists whose live sets feel quite different to their studio recordings – particularly through use of visuals, performance and live experimentation. Many of the artists involved came up with a specific visual and performative approach they wanted to take for the re-contextualising of their usual live set into this intimate one off performance – for example object blue did an entirely improvised set.
The rest of the collective persuaded me to also participate, and my performance took place in Somerset House’s Deadhouse: an underground maze of tunnels that sit beneath the main square of Somerset House that are only rarely opened to the public. It felt fitting for the dystopian themes that I explore in my forthcoming release (out later this year; two out of three of the tracks I play are from said release). So we filled the space with smoke, an eerie toxic green light, and plants climbing up from the concrete.”
“The performance is me, a microphone and a pile of trainers. The shoes represent a kind of masculinity, in contrast with the heels I wear. The trainers act as obstacles, rubble and fetish objects, the heels make me look and feel powerful yet also vulnerable as I move around the space. The film is an amab (assigned male at birth) non-binary person’s perspective on toxic masculinity, identity confusion and being part of multiple, sometimes opposing cultures.
I wanted to create a sense of tension and danger, my ankles buckling and turning to rubber as I try to traverse this landscape of trainers. I wanted the music to sound at once victorious and vulnerable, to represent the fluidity of mental health and the gendered experience. Sometimes I feel powerful in my identity, truly myself and free, whilst other times I feel scrutinised, objectified and lost.
It’s really important, as an act of community building as much as anything else, an act of queer people and womxn coming together to shout about each other and celebrate what we and our foresisters have done for the culture. As long as we are erased from electronic music history and underrepresented in the popular canon of club culture, collectives and spaces like SIREN will be vital.”
M T Hall
“The basement of Somerset House Studios is such distinctive environment, so I wanted to do very little to it; I wanted to create an authentic relationship between my live performance and the space. I was keen to work in some visuals produced for my live sets. My background is in contemporary art, and the imagery used in the video were representative of a point where my sound and visual art practice became entangled in a coherent, yet sometimes antagonistic way; the interspersed clips document the demolition of sculptural works, which are then reconstructed in harmony with my music productions and live set. The original visuals were produced by myself in collaboration with graphic designer, Thom Isom.
Inclusivity is really crucial. SIREN are creating a platform for artists, as well as cultural experiences that I feel are unrepresented at the moment. As the cultural and political landscape changes, collectives like this are at the centre of readdressing disparity in music, both on a macro and micro scale. In the electronic music scene, underrepresentation and inequity are pervasive and subtle, so sometimes difficult to articulate. The project is also a really great example of how we can encourage and give space to experimentation in a mutually supportive environment.”
“I’m very greatful to SIREN for including my performance in the Shape of Sounds. The video appears alongside other artists who’s music is really admire!
It’s a great reference for me as I continue to develop my live performance.
It’s also very lucky that I managed to document this particualr performance as I lost my entire set and all of my stems in a burglary about a month later!”