Artist Interview: Hannah Perry
‘Wonderful While It Lasts’
Interview with Hannah Perry, 2012.
Words: Jade French
The Royal Academy is an imposing place to wander into, even with a purpose. On all sides rise up column and, the greying courtyard has had some of the best feet in art history stomp across it. Of course, with so much history instilled (and installed) into the very fabric of the institution it is easy to be blinkered to what the art school is currently producing. Walking through the back entrance of the gallery into the art school, a mixture of half-finished pieces by students and armless Grecian statues haphazardly line a path towards the canteen.
I am here to speak to Hannah Perry, who works with video collage and whose installations venture between the past and the future. Fusing comments on popular culture with the representation of women with disco-ball cars Perry’s art is fun but serious. Influenced by the personal she ventures from the internal to the universal to create though-provoking videos which have to be seen in person (if her password secure website is anything to go by…).
When did you first start getting into creating art with video?
I’ve always been into sculptural stuff and I was into a lot of snap-shot type photography years and years ago, the sort of grass-roots, going around with your camera like Nan Goldin… but I found the snapshots a bit too personal and wasn’t comfortable with my position in making work like that. I guess the snapshots transformed into a video camera. It was ‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’ by Mark Leckey which absolutely blew me away. Also, seeing the way VHS was used by Dara Birnbaum. She was the first person to mix VHS’s who did this fast cut up thing… she got footage of 70’s Wonderwoman and set it in a new light.
INFLUENCER : Mark Leckey – Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore
Why did photography feel too personal?
I did a series of photographs about my brother. He was really into taking steroids and working out so I photographed the development. But even something that came from my family had bigger themes like Machoism and I realised that I was always trying to make the personal feed into the bigger picture.
What feels different about working with video?
I video my own footage but mixing it with found footage or really well known popular culture references gives it a different voice. When you mix the footage together you can’t tell which bits are by me and which are ‘found’ which gives different connections which aren’t always obvious. It’s strange but I just fell into working with video. There are other artists who might use found footage but maybe distance themselves from it in way that can feel quite cynical. I think with my stuff it’s the absolute opposite, I hope there’s a voice that comes out even if I am trying to remove it from my own personal experiences.
You also have sculptural pieces too like the amazing, glitter car “Mid-Life Disco”. How do they develop?
Most of the time they’re part of a video I was trying to shoot which just didn’t work, where I was trying to say too much and it fell flat. They kind of morph into these ‘one-liners’. They’re part of the process but also stand alone and are less congested than the films.
I guess it shows art can be funny and flippant too, it doesn’t always have to be super serious! Speaking of senses of humour- does working at the Royal Academy have a different atmosphere to other places you have worked? It seems so imposing!
Yeah, it’s an amazing place to work and is getting more and more progressive… There are only 16 people in my year here so I guess it’s different in that way, more intimate. I saw Nicky Carvell’s, who used to work at Super Super, graduate show and it had all these amazing 90s graphics. It made me think that my stuff could fit in here too.
How come you have a password on website? So mysterious…
Yeah! My friend and I were having this whole conversation about putting stuff online as a video artist- ways in which you can attempt to keep it special and not just put it on YouTube. To my work on the laptop screen is not necessarily the context I want it to be seen. Sometimes I incorporate installation and so it’s important for people to come and see the work how it’s meant to be seen… People who are interested in seeing my work can ask for the password and see it online though. The login page on has little mini-mixes on. I have loads of little 30 seconds to a minute bit of footage- bits of mixed VHS that I’ve been messing about with so I put them up every month…
Is thinking about the music you use in your videos as important as the footage?
Yeah, I mean it’s a really big part of the piece. When I lived in Manchester my brother would always bring home tapes of 90s dance music, Hacienda style, and I’d sneak in and listen to them so that’s something which I’ve kept with me and used in my art… I’m trying to make my own samples to mix in with other bits.