Hannah Hull has developed a number of projects and interventions that explore Longbridge from a social viewpoint during the period of her residence and collaborated with Stephen Burke for the ‘Women of Longbridge’ project.
Hull’s starting point was the archival material held by Bournville College, now sited in Longbridge. With Quaker roots connected to the nearby Cadbury factory, the College’s archival documents tell a particularly political tale underpinned by education for ordinary working class people and for women. A student newspaper from the turn of the century that provided a voice for women has been used as source material to develop new texts with today’s female College students. What has surprised Hull is how many of the narratives and concerns of individuals are similar despite being separated by more than one hundred years. Creative writing workshops with College students and older women have facilitated discussions on feminism, fashion and relationships. Titled ‘Postcards from Bournville College’, Hull has produced a text-based artwork that has been distributed to residents sharing some of these women’s stories. The wax-sealed postcards offer advice to women across, as Hull describes it, this ‘collapsing of time’.
Hull is also working on a project with musician Nigel Clark from the pop rock band Dodgy, who was employed at Longbridge car plant for four years. Together they are developing lyrics and music for a song looking toward Longbridge’s future via an accumulation and processing of real experiences. The music will be performed by local musicians and will eventually be distributed via a limited edition CD and online. Hull sees this project as allowing for a far deeper level of audience engagement, as her research is literally ‘embodied’ through the physical and emotional acts of singing and playing music.
Another of Hull’s projects is exploring boundaries by engaging with local businesses on the periphery of the new development. In collaboration with other artists such as Cathy Wade and Rob Hewitt, Hull has visited small retailers – fish and chip shops and kebab houses, for instance – and offered her services as an artist for one day to these outlets. This generous and playful series of interventions has created conversations about creativity and art with people for whom this is not necessarily a part of daily life. Proprietors have revealed stories about drawing or other creative processes, have begun to think about art again for the first time in many years and some have asked Hull to complete specific tasks for them. As its manifestations and impacts are often extremely subtle – perhaps a change of perspective, a brief verbal exchange or the jogging of a memory – this has been a difficult project to document. Hull has described this approach as ‘social sculpture’. An interaction with people on a very personal level is at the heart of her ongoing practice.
Text by Anneka French
Hannah Hull makes situation-specific art and undertakes social research. Her practice catalyses dilogue and change for socially-excluded and at risk groups. Her approach is dynamic and responsive; an open mechanism that allows things to be made, reformed and challenged. The outcome of this process might be an action; it might be an object; or it might be words.