Helena Bryant 1998-2008 Archive Montage

At the beginning was the realisation that I didn’t want to produce art objects, but that my chief interest lay in process, and in event. I saw it as research – I thought that something could be discovered- or revealed through it. I put myself directly in it- as a body/subject/object/psyche. I devised work characterised by mess and material substances, containment, boundaries and coverings, slippage and spillage, destructiveness, vulnerability and the relationship with audience. Work often, and perhaps most successfully, took place in non-art spaces. I sometimes used the device of persona, as an individual or company, to give it a title – to mark it as fiction, and as art – as a way in to the viewer, or reader, to enter into the play of the work.

The followed  a courtship with imaginary and professional suicide. It started with blowing myself up. I was “Propane Girl” and played with destruction. One of her actions involved a burka. The tangle of censorships concerning the burka, and an act from within it, created a fascination and led to “In Between Selves” (2004). This considered  space in-between – suggesting that an artwork is located in such a space- between the artist and the audience, and also considering barriers physical or not,  that mark a separation between individuals. More precisely, the project investigated the veil, of how it was creatively and culturally significant to me. I proposed that the  ‘space in-between’ as a ‘a place where we overlap and can explore collective experience and imagination.’ I found that this interstitial site was one of confusion and difficulty. The locus of the project was several weeks spent dressed in a burka, which happened alongside a doomed love affair. I experienced a profound sense of alienation. The hijab was highly politically sensitive. Art and life became a very tangled. I then conceived of “Sally Bangs” as a (sexual) persona through which I could examine the personal while framing it as artwork, and re-install the boundary between art and life.

However, the separation of Sally and myself, art and life, was never  achieved. Art and life, Sally and me, continued twisting together, overlapping, with edges not only blurred, but sometimes there being no apparent boundary at all. Rather than enquiries being focused on the concept of persona, theoretical investigations returned over and over to identity , of form and ‘in-form’, the bounded and unbounded, containment, slippage and excess; and it came to light how central this was to my work as a whole.

>Camera-Helena Bryant, Carl Stevenson, Cathy Wren, Mark Leahy, Nino Sekhniashvili, Steven Eastwood, Anti-Festival and others

Soundtrack – Unchained Melody (Hyatt/North performed by the Righteous Bothers, Used without permission)