Artist Q&A Blog
Artist Nicola Woodham answers your questions from ‘Buffer’ the We Are Invisible, We Are Visible disruption at Preston Bus Station.
To mark the 102nd anniversary of the 1st Dada International Exhibition in Berlin, 31 d/Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent artists staged a Dada inspired intervention in 30 spaces on 2 July 2022. The Harris partnered with artist Nicola Woodham to bring a surreal intervention to Preston Bus Station in association with DASH ARTS.
Why did you choose the Preston Bus Station as a performance space?
The Preston Bus Station has been the site for many inspiring art works. The team at the Harris let me know it was a space I could potentially be in to perform an intervention as part of WAIWAV. I thought it was an amazing space from pictures and videos I looked at. An intervention should create a break in routine. We hoped that the intervention would create a shift from the familiar routine trip to the station. For me the nature of those routines also chimed with my practise. The intervention ‘Buffer’ is about bringing awareness to the pressure many feel to rush about, keep going and to catch up. It about creating softness and space. It’s about making visible and audible different paces.
How did you choose the noises for the sound suit?
The way I’ve got the suit set up at the moment a switch in the jacket plays or stops a sound sample, a short audio recording. This sample is taken from a rehearsal recording from another performance where I looped my hissy vocals and used a big bass line. (There is just one sample at the moment but I’m working on making a live sampler to sample my sounds or found sounds in the moment, so look out for that.) The pompom, ePom, on the cap works like an effects pedal, it removes bass from the sample as it plays. When the pompom is pressed the hissy, shushing sounds are what is left. The bass sound in the sample is like an announcement and a way to take up lots of audible space, when the pompom is pressed it’s a soothing action, the pompom feels comforting. Squashing makes me think of release as well. Musically pressing the pompom creates a literal softening of the sounds.
How do you choose the words you speak out loud?
I work alot out through experimentation in rehearsal. I improvise and record everything. I find that what emerges is often an emotional response but that’s tied to material conditions. It may be a response to the systemic pressures and expectations of being a disabled person. Now that I’m working with movement I want the sensors I make and the movement and sounds all to relate to each other, to be part of the same intention. With Buffer I knew I could activate a pompom sensor with pressure. I was also thinking alot about creating Buffer spaces, spaces of recovery and pause in between demands and pressured time frames. So part of the intervention is me making sounds like ‘foof, flurl, phoof’. Imagine me in rehearsal wracking my brains to think of what making a buffer space would sound like. These are sounds that involve a big release of the diaphragm, puffing out my cheeks, blowing out air. I imagined myself like a piece of pop-corn inflating and tried to make that in sound ‘bhup, bup, bup.’ I contrast this with the edgy, incessant, frenetic sounds which are all very shallow breath and bunched up face. During the performance I embody states of tension and release in this way, so while making the sounds of creating a Buffer space, I’m also physically making one as I perform. It feels nice to say ‘phoof’, relaxing.
Can you tell me more about e-textiles?
eTextiles include conductive thread, yarn and wool. They are produced by combining fine threads of conductive materials including stainless steel, copper and silver that is combined with textile fibres even sheep’s wool. Then I make the circuits and circuit components with these. So I don’t buy or customise off the shelf switches or pressure sensors. Most of what I use is hand-made. This is a fairly new branch of electronics where you can make ‘soft-circuits’. The quality of these lends themselves to being sewn directly into a garment. I came to know alot through looking at the work of the Etextile Spring Break researchers that meet up yearly to share creative applications of eTextiles.