Q & A with Helen Shaddock

Themselves Here Together is a brand new, sensory art installation which is being displayed here at The Word until Thurs 21 June. The project is designed to immerse the audience in multi-layered physical and psychological situations. We spoke to artist Helen Shaddock about her work and how displaying it in The Word has helped her.

What was your inspiration behind Themselves Here Together?

My experience of mental illness informs the work that I make. More specifically, my investigations into visual and auditory hallucinations stemmed from an increasing awareness of the different types of voices I encounter; inner speech, helpful inner voices, but also the destructive and commanding kind that challenge me on a daily basis. Although I worked with artists, researchers, academics, mental health organisations as well as a range of individuals to increase my understanding of visual and auditory hallucinations, I mainly drew on my own experience for my inspiration.

How does it link in to the series of Voices: Within and Without?

Themselves Here Together is the culmination of Voices: Within and Without, a project funded by the Arts Council England Grants for the Arts. The overarching themes that link all work during the Voices: Within and Without series are mental illness and words, both spoken and written.

How did the project come about?

The project began in April 2017 when I participated in a Spoken Word residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada. I was keen to share the wealth of skills and techniques I had learned, so in July 2017 I hosted a performance workshop at TURF Projects, London. I also hosted a two day workshop at Newcastle University for those with an interest in performance and writing.

How do you want people to react or feel towards your work?

I want to situate the audience in multi-layered psychological and physical situations. I hope that my work challenges people, making them active in their viewing and encouraging them to spend time reflecting on their experience. I intend for the work to involve contradictions, sometimes suggesting a soothing and calm atmosphere, whereas at other times seeming to be overwhelming, overstimulating, monotonous and confusing.

What made you choose The Word to host your work?

Since I had previously created a four-channel audio installation with sound coming from all directions, I was keen to make an artwork with visuals that would completely immerse the viewers, requiring them to move around in the space in order to experience all aspects. The Word is very unique in having StoryWorld that allows for projections on all four walls and so as soon as I found out that this was possible, I developed and submitted a proposal to use the space.

How does having your work in StoryWorld help you?

As an immersive experience is integral to Themselves Here Together, the technological capabilities of StoryWorld has enabled me to realise this. Doing this project involved learning how to use new software and has therefore extended my skills. Having never exhibited in South Shields before, I have benefitted by using The Word as my work reaches a new audience.

Themselves Here Together, part of Voices: Within and Without, is exhibiting at The Word until Thursday 21 June and its available to see in StoryWorld Monday – Thursday from 4 -6.30pm and Sundays between 1 – 4pm.