9 July 2018
Open House is a long-term collaboration between Kettle’s Yard and our neighbouring communities in North Cambridge.
Can you tell us a little about your work and practice?
As an artist, sound artist, artist facilitator, artist educator, arts project manager, and many other titles, my ambition is to engage people in conversation with challenging ideas. My work is really varied – I’ve facilitated creative play with early years, delivered lectures to arts students, and run a longstanding music project for people with mental health needs. I’ve done lots of work with young people on creative projects, from recording soundscapes to remixing the news, and we’ve debated all kinds of ideas – what would the world look like without jobs? should artists be ‘responsible’ whilst creating their works? how are young people represented in the media? This bulk of my work is a collaboration with participants, probing ideas and seeing what comes out.
When working on projects alone or with friends, I tend to question inequality – I want to explore the voices prominent in society, how we listen to others and how we come to understand the world around us. Sound is my main medium – though I sometimes play with digital aesthetics and enjoy collecting my ideas into zines. I’m keen to share my enthusiasm for sound arts and spark people’s interest in listening to the world around us.
What drew you to working with sound?
Playing and listening to music was a passion and obsession for me growing up, as I’m sure it is for many. But as I started music training, I found myself more interested in the ideas underpinning the work than in the technical skill of producing music. I met a group of experimental musicians who were playing with sound in a more expansive sense – and became interested in learning to listen in new ways. I learned about revolutionary artists who used everyday sounds such as laughter and thunderstorms in their compositions, and to challenge the established roles of artist and audience to create a more fluid and inclusive approach to art-making. I want art to be more than an object you place on a wall, and music more than just sound you hear in a concert hall or through the radio. I think art is a moment where we notice something that we hadn’t considered before, and share this experience with others. These are the ideas that draw me towards working with sound – listening and sharing, experimentation and play, flexibility and inclusiveness.
What was it that attracted you to the Open House programme?
Open House felt like a great fit with my interests and values. I was looking for an opportunity to do an in-depth piece of work, to allow ideas to unravel over time, and Open House had a good time scale in which to research and develop some work. I’d recently completed a project involving the Circuit young people’s programme at Kettle’s Yard, and got to know Cambridge through these young people’s eyes and artworks. During this time I witnessed the central role outreach and education play at Kettle’s Yard, and the contribution this made to the organisation and wider community. Learning from and with new people is a real privilege, and I felt excited by the opportunity to work with lots of different groups and hear their reflections on what community means in the ever changing landscape of Cambridge.
How do you think working collaboratively affects your work?
Working with communities means that learning is shared both ways. My ideas are challenged, I can connect with others, I get a new perspective. Each new view I encounter is a gift to my practice as well as my personal development; I get to share in an experience and pick up new creative practices. Working collaboratively keeps me open and receptive, just a small part of a collective, who together have a more confident voice.
After my first meeting with the Open House Community Panel, I’m absorbing some of the ambitions and motivations of the team, and considering how I can contribute to this shared vision. I’m meeting with Harold Offeh, last year’s Open House artist, to hear his reflections on completing the residency, and working with the Kettle’s Yard team to plan a series of workshops with local groups over the summer. In between, I’m browsing piles of interesting research and listening to recordings from the Kettle’s Yard archive, gathering together questions and materials that spark my interest, seeing how all these aspects form interlinked narratives for me to explore over the coming months.
About Hannah Kemp-Welch
Hannah Kemp-Welch is a London based sound artist, activist and youth worker.
Through performance, sound and digital technologies, works explore the voices prominent in society, how we listen to others and how we come to understand the world around us. Works invite play and encourage collective action as a catalyst for change.
Author to sound-art-text, a longstanding research blog, Hannah has an MA in Sound Arts and an extensive portfolio of projects delivered in galleries and arts spaces across the UK.