This month’s #SpotlightOn Helena Hunter exhibiting at the Horniman. Rosanna Head
Tell us about your art?
My practice spans visual art, poetry, performance and addresses environmental change and biodiversity loss. I work in relation to sites such as the laboratory, museum and outdoor environments where I do fieldwork and research. I produce poetic texts, photographic artworks and digital collages that often draw on scientific forms of imaging. I also make video, digital artworks and performance, which translate into a variety of formats and platforms.
How did you get into it?
Luckily, I was encouraged to be creative from an early age – so it felt like art wasn’t something ‘I got into’, it was very much part of life from the outset.
Who and / or what inspires you?
I am often inspired by the people, animals, organisms and sites I am working with. I was recently collaborating with a microbiologist on a project about a microscopic organism called the Social Amoeba. This singled cell organism lives in soil and feeds on bacteria contributing nutrients to the healthy ecology of soil. In times of food scarcity, the amoeba transforms from individual cells to a multicellular organism, by joining together and collaborating they are able to move, survive and reach new ground.
What is your most memorable piece of work either by yourself or another artist?
I recently came across ‘Biological Hermeneutics’ by the artist Sarah Craske. She worked with a 300-year-old copy of the book Ovid’s Metamorphoses, discovering and making visible the microbial life that had silently accrued through the centuries upon its pages. I love Katrina Palmer’s work and the way philosophy, literature and sculpture overlap in her practice.
Is there a seminal moment in your life that has made a profound impact on you and your work?
Looking at a drop of sea water through a microscope and seeing hundreds of living organisms all moving and buzzing about at different rhythms – I will never look at water in the same way again, it totally changed my perspective, to see water literally bursting with microbial life!
Do you have any current exhibitions on?
My current exhibition Falling Birds highlights the alarming decline of bird species around the world and is currently on show at the Horniman Museum 19 Sept 2020 – 10 Oct 2021. The display features larger-than-life X-ray images of extinct and endangered bird specimens from the Horniman’s Natural History collection with fragments of poetic text. The artworks question natural history, authorship, ethics and hidden narratives entangled in the lives of birds. A film containing the images and poems in the exhibition will be screened online as part of the Aerial Festival on the 26thSept 2020. I have a collaborative practice Matterlurgy with sound artist Mark Peter Wright and our project Air Morphologies is part of the group show Beyond the Headset 5 at Gazelli Art House London until 17 Oct 2020.
What are your plans for the future?
I have an exciting project about river ecologies coming up next year with my collaboration Matterlurgy, we will be working with Arts Catalyst, I am looking forward to that. Given the current context of COVID-19 it is difficult to plan too far ahead, but I remain hopeful and look forward to a time when fieldwork and physical sociality become very much a part of life again.
What are your favourite #SELondon spots?
Greenwich Park has been to great visit over these past months, and provided a much-needed break from being indoors! It’s been a relief to get up high to the observatory and see London from a distance.
And just for fun, who would be your ideal fantasy dinner guests?
It would be more a séance than a dinner party, but my guests would be:
Alice Coltrane, Lynn Margulis, Rachel Carson and Octavia E. Butler.