Hollie Miller

'I’m interested in non-linear time, the layering of imagery and circular narratives' (Hollie Miller)

Hollie Miller, ANIMUS (2020)
Hollie Miller, ANIMUS (2020)

Video still, courtesy of the artist. Materials: 100 litres of lubricant, stretch mesh, polyethylene pool. Technology: axolotl, sampler, modified echo-based delay, pre-recorded samples, hydrophones, granular sampler. Copyright: Hollie Miller & Craig Scott.

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Hollie Miller, ANIMUS (2020)
Hollie Miller, ANIMUS (2020)

Courtesy of the artist. Copyright: Hollie Miller & Craig Scott. Photo Credit: Yuichiro Noda.

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Hollie Miller, ANIMUS (2020)
Hollie Miller, ANIMUS (2020)

Video still, courtesy of the artist. Materials: 100 litres of lubricant, stretch mesh, polyethylene pool. Technology: axolotl, sampler, modified echo-based delay, pre-recorded samples, hydrophones, granular sampler. Copyright: Hollie Miller & Craig Scott.

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Hollie Miller (b. 1988, UK) is a British performance artist. She studied art at the Royal College of Art (MA 2016) and contemporary dance at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (BPA 2010). In her performances, films, photographs, installations and sculptures she combines artistic formats with bodywork.

 

Her work has been shown in the UK, Europe, Argentina and Japan in contemporary art galleries, museums and numerous festivals such as: Chalton Gallery (UK, 2020), MEM Experimental Festival Bilbao (Spain, 2019), NAIRS Contemporary Art Center (Switzerland, 2019), Airspace Gallery (UK, 2019), La Ira de Dios (Argentina, 2018), The NewBridge Project (UK, 2018), Revolve Performance Art Days (Sweden, 2018).

MADELEINE SCHWINGE:

To what extent does the principle of hope play a role in your work? From your point of view as an artist, can we ever dare to find a better world in the face of the catastrophes and crises of our epoch?

HOLLIE MILLER:

It’s interesting that you use this word ‘hope’ after discussing ‘Animus’, as this work responds to the current climate change emergency, in which my animalistic movements in a pool of slime are reminiscent of an animal caught in an oil spill. I attempt to overcome this by cultivating the materiality of the slime to form a second skin that instead of suffocating, nurtures, by forming an air tight seal that contains my body heat and becomes a substance for my voice to travel through. ‘Animus’ proposes an environmental provocation through portraying a co-dependency of the organic and synthetic. It suggests a pre or post human ‘in-vitro growth’ to imagine a mutually beneficial way of co-existing with new artificial materials.

MS:

What do you consider to be the calling of contemporary art and what should be the role of artists in society? Could artists be catalysts in the transformation process that is desperately needed?

HM:

Every artist is unique and plays a different and necessary part in society by creatively expressing something personal that contributes to positive political, cultural or social change. I believe that all small gestures that hold meaning for the artist have the capacity to transform how others perceive their own reality. In my work I seek to challenge the hyper sexualisation of young women by the commercial industries. In ‘Animus’ I use my body as a visceral material to reclaim the sensual as a political tactic to overcome normalized violence on women’s bodies. I use my own body to explore vulnerability as a form of resistance and engender empathy. I often explore ideas around metamorphosis and embody different animal archetypes to shape shift through restrictive gender norms and transgress ingrained oppressive socially conditioned behaviour.

MS:

In a time of crisis and great upheaval, which role does narrative play?

HM:

I’m more interested in non-linear time, the layering of imagery and circular narratives than linear storytelling. My live works are often endurance based over a long duration. You don’t see this in the film but ‘Animus’ has been performed live for 4 hours, in which I suffered from extreme cold and had to alter my movements and breathing pattern to maintain body heat. When I entered this alternate state there was a shift in my physicality that gave a more urgent and unruly reading to the work. The audience observes subtle changes such as the goose bumps on my skin and witnesses my psychological battle as I try to overcome this struggle. I hope that this direct and confrontational engagement with the limits of my own body relates to the human condition and how we problem solve in a crisis.   

MS:

How could a dialogue between art and other disciplines look like to shape the future? Dance and various technologies are embedded in your work. Which other disciplines would you like to exchange with as an artist? Which ideas or new concepts could then emerge?

HM:

My work sits between performance art, cinema and dance. I work with sound artist/ creative technologist Craig Scott to embed technology into my work. In ‘Animus’ I am making sounds with my voice and body that are captured by a hydrophone. Craig processes these live and mixes them with contrasting dry pre-recorded sounds such as crackling charcoal and breaking glass. I use my body as a biological specimen interweaved with technology that captures the visceral wetness of morphing and the guttural sounds of growth. I’m interested in psychology, you mentioned Jung earlier, and ways I can use performance to delve into the ‘hidden’ parts of my subconscious and embody my personal animus – anima psyche to merge both my masculine and feminine attributes into a less binary and more holistic way of being.

MS:

Assuming that a better world could be built on the ruins of the old one, what would such a scenario look like? What is your wish for a better tomorrow?

HM:

I’ve been thinking a lot about ruin-relation recently as I have an upcoming performance at Waverley Abbey Ruins and have worked in a lot of derelict buildings. I’m fascinated by how ruins are in a state of being and becoming that elude firm fixation, whilst enduring a poetic testimony to a forgotten community. Visiting them is an abyssal experience that reminds us of our own annihilation. I don't like the idea of building over ruins and instead prefer to spend time in them: rather than seeing ruins as mute forms I see them as durably present and alive with potent histories. In their plight ruins perform neediness, which makes me think that we need to tend and care for the wounds of our past as a way of creating a better tomorrow.

MS:

It is often said that the singular power of art lies in seeking the new (with courage and boldness), starting over again and again on a blank paper. Do you have personal rituals or strategies to find your way into a new artwork or artistic project?

HM:

My body is my primary material, to which I gradually introduce carefully sourced objects, clothes and raw materials to explore their properties in relation to the body. I start by physically playing in the studio or site often alone in front of a camera and then watch this and go back and forth until I find an image that I want to evolve. It’s often later that I try to verbalize ineffable instincts and start to understand what concepts I have been intuitively working through. I try to learn through doing and be free inside creation.

The interview was conducted in April 2020

www.holliemiller.co.uk