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Hanne Lippard’s every syllable counts, writes Katharina Worf

Photograph: Hanne Lippard, artist.

Katharina Worf is the Special Projects Curator of Block Universe, London’s leading international performance art festival. Block Universe showcases cutting edge performance work at the cross-section of contemporary art, dance and music over a ten-day period. This will be their fourth edition, launching on the Bank Holiday weekend and running from 26 May – 3 June. The festival will be taking place in major institutions and unique off-site locations throughout London, including the British Museum, 180 The Strand, Somerset House, Royal Academy of Arts, Studio Voltaire, Brunel Museum and the Old Operating Theatre. Here, Katharina introduces us to the artist Hanne Lippard whose work is presented at this years festival.

Berlin based artist Hanne Lippard (b. 1984) focuses on the production of language solely by using voice as her artistic medium. Through a variety of disciplines, such as performances, installations, videos and audio pieces, Lippard arranges, composes and combines her own wordplays with words by others. Fragments from everyday speech sourced from various online platforms are constantly reworked through the use of repetition, pronunciation and rhythm. Content and form are merged so that, through a gentle rhyme, her vivid words begin to lose their prescribed value and evolve to take on new meanings. With an almost hypnotic, cleansing approach, the vocal sequences sink into the listener's mind and create a free-form, associative pattern of  melodic, linguistic formulas.

Hanne Lippard’s soothing audio-pieces are captivating. This is a result of the tone of her characteristically comforting voice, the skillfully composed rhythmic sentences and the weaving in of sound. She constructs, deconstructs and repeats to creates new meaning. She tricks us by flipping words around, stretching them, de-contextualising them, humming and pouring them into our ears. Some of her compositions can become catchy earworms, such as “The Ssecret to SsucceSs iSs in the Ss-eSs” or “101 misspellings of Cappuccino”.

Phrases and images associated with contemporary topics such as work, success, and lifestyles are evoked. We relate to it, which is why we want to listen to these pieces again and again, we want to understand what’s being said, what’s meant, what’s being wanted from us. Was it just a noise? Was it a word?  Hanne Lippard is a natural linguist. She speaks English, German, Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch. Her multilingual upbringing has informed her practice significantly, by being confronted with phonological representation of speech segments, word shapes, and tones, rhythm, and intonation since her childhood. Interestingly, Lippard trained as a graphic designer at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. This informs how language can be visually powerful and manipulated, rhythmic and performative rather than purely informative.

She has performed across Europe at a variety of venues and has built a strong following in the UK, with performances held at Bold Tendencies London, Grand Union Birmingham and David Dale Glasgow. I was introduced to Hanne Lippard’s in Sol Calero’s exhibition “La Sauna Caliente”. Visitors were invited to sit down in a traditional seaside deckchair, rest their head in the top bar when lying down and asked to put on headphones. Whilst catching the view over the Lake Constance (the Bodensee), listeners were seduced by Hanne’s mild and hypnotic voice, repeating the ingredients that would eventually assemble a fruit cocktail. Words, image and imagination.

In most recent years, her work has become much more sculptural. For her solo show at Kunstwerke Berlin (2017), Hanne conceived an immersive installation. In the centre of the main space, visitors found a spiral staircase, painted in a fleshy skin tone. The stair invited visitors to enter a cubicle, where one was hardly able to stand. It was an awkward, squeezed space, usually not intended to be viewed by the public. Thus, it had something atmospheric and comforting, a secret location you would like to withdraw to. A line of windows offered a typical view on Berlin’s background yards, and a bench attached below invited visitors to take a seat or lay down on the beige carpeted floor. A voice was floating through this small space, approaching the viewer from various angles, tickling them and forcing them to listen to the play of words. This is what Lippard is best at: shaping language and grabbing listeners attention. She won’t let go, once she has caught you. Once Hanne is in action, you will know exactly what I mean.



Block Universe will present a performative Reading, in partnership with Somerset House on Wednesday, 30 May, 8pm. A Lunchtime Artist Talk will take place on Thursday, 31 May, 1pm, discussing the artists ongoing practice in relation to storytelling, immateriality, absurdity, black humour and what it means to solely use the voice as artistic medium. blockuniverse.co.uk

Hanne Lippard, born in 1984 in Milton Keynes, GB, lives and works in Berlin.  She is the recipient of the ars viva prize 2016, awarded by the Association of Arts and Culture of the German Economy at the Federation of German Industries. She has performed and exhibited at ars viva 2016; Index— The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Stockholm (2016); AUTOOFICE, *KURATOR, Rapperswil, CH (2016); Fluidity, Kunstverein, Hamburg, DE (2016); Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig, DE (2016); 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2015); The Future of Memory, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2015); Transmediale, Berlin (2015); Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld, DE (2015); Unge Kunstneres Samfund, Oslo (2014); Berliner Festspiele, Berlin (2013); Poesía en Voz, Mexiko-City (2012).