Sticks and stones will break my bones, But words can totally destroy my mind!
6–23 Apr 2022
Sticks And Stones Will Break My Bones, But Words Can Totally Destroy My Mind! is a new exhibition by artist and writer Jenny Hickinbotham, staged as part of Liquid Architecture’s annual Sound Series program at Blindside.
Jenny Hickinbotham’s work encompasses writing, video, sculpture, and songs. This exhibition features a series of experimental song-poems, performed unaccompanied by the artist in her home, in Gisborne, regional Victoria, and presented in the form of a video, produced in collaboration with Joel Stern and Carmen-Sibha Keiso.
In these performances Hickinbotham inhabits multiple voices, perspectives and temporalities as she explores the epigenetic impacts of trauma, and the narratives of individuals swept up by the forces of history, institutions, and the places in which they live. Laced with humour, pathos, searing critique, and a powerful imagistic capacity, the songs are profoundly informed by the artist’s own childhood experiences, which resulted in diagnoses of developmental trauma, complex post traumatic stress culminating in the schizophrenia label in early adulthood. Jenny has ‘heard voices’ for most of her life and her work explores her ongoing struggle to challenge the institutional pathologising of these experiences. Understanding these internal voices, listening, giving meaning to them, singing them, and considering their relation to the ghosts of the past and present, is a preoccupation of Hickinbotham’s work.
Hickinbotham writes: “I really want to challenge the notion that ‘hearing voices’ is an illness, needing to be controlled, eradicated and sedated into oblivion, thereby reducing the person’s lived experience to denial and inner pain, forcing the person to live on/feed on that internal pain for the rest of their lives, unable to speak their truth or tell their story. My work pushes back against all this. It is a cathartic expression of exploratory story-telling, and in itself a form of recovery.”
An afternoon with Jenny Hickinbotham and Babs Rapeport
Saturday 9 April 4-6pm. All welcome.
Join artists Jenny Hickinbotham and Babs Rapeport for an afternoon of music and conversation at Blindside in celebration of their concurrent exhibitions across the gallery’s two spaces.
Hickinbotham will perform songs featured in her video work, ‘Sticks And Stones Will Break My Bones, But Words Can Totally Destroy My Mind!’ accompanied on double bass by one of Australia’s leading improvisors, Samuel Pankhurst. She invites audience members to sing along, following printed lyric sheets, ‘in support of everyone troubled and contained by trauma and experiences of emotional distress.’
Rapeport will riff on their exhibition ‘I didn’t go to art school but I did go to Socialist-Zionist summer camp’, sharing anecdotes of the informal education they received and taught on bi-annual Jewish youth Movement camps through song, video and text.
Jenny Hickinbotham would like to thank Joel Stern and Debris Facility at Liquid Architecture, Mikala Dwyer at RMIT, Martina Copley at Blindside, and Rudi Williams, Carmen-Sibha Keiso, James Rushford, Mish Szekelyhidi and Steph Treesea for their support in the production of this work.
This project is supported by the City of Melbourne, and Liquid Architecture's Experiments Fund.
Every year since 2014 Blindside has invited Liquid Architecture to organise an exhibition under the banner ‘Sound Series’ by artists working in experimental ways with sound and listening. There have been some incredible shows by Anthony Riddell, Félicia Atkinson, Gerard Crewdson, Matt Earle and Bridget Chappell among others.
This program takes place on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We recognise that sovereignty was never ceded - this land is stolen land. We pay respects to Wurundjeri Elders, past, present and emerging, to the Elders from other communities and to any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who might encounter or participate in the program.
Jenny Hickinbotham’s work encompasses writing, video, sculpture, and more recently, her unadorned singing voice, deployed with humour and pathos, in order to tell stories, and to channel and share the emotional experiences reflected in her life. Her art is informed by Hickinbotham’s own experience as someone diagnosed with schizophrenia, who has ‘heard voices’ for most of her life, and the institutional pathologization of these experiences. The struggle to understand these voices, listen and give meaning to them, and to consider their relation to the ghosts of our past and present, is a preoccupation of her work.
Active since 2000, Liquid Architecture is a Naarm (Melbourne) based organisation supporting experimental, interdisciplinary and critical work addressing sound and listening in context.
Joel Stern is a curator, researcher, and artist living and working on Wurundjeri land in Melbourne, Australia.
Stern’s work deals with a range of issues, themes and questions connected with theories and practises of sound and listening. Interests include: sound, power and control; covert listening and panacoustic surveillance; polyphony as social practice; experimental music and community ritual; speech, voice, subjectivity; eavesdropping and ventriloquism; techno-politics of machine listening; rhetorics of nonsense and bullshit; pandemic soundscapes; acoustic justice; silence as testimony; post, trans, and non-human listening.
Since 2013, Stern has been Artistic Director at Liquid Architecture, a leading Australian organisation that creates spaces for sonic experience and critical listening at the intersection of contemporary art and experimental music. In this capacity he has been responsible for hundreds of festivals, symposia, exhibitions, concerts and publications realised in Australia and internationally, with collaborators ranging from major museums and institutions through to community organisations and artist-led initiatives.
In addition to Liquid Architecture, Stern has led numerous independent organisations including: OtherFilm, a collective working with artists moving image and the legacy of avant-garde cinema; and Instrument Builders Project, a workshop, residency, exhibition series featuring artists, musicians and craftspeople from across Australia and Asia.
In 2018, with critical legal scholar James Parker, Stern curated Eavesdropping, an expansive project connecting Liquid Architecture, Melbourne Law School, Ian Potter Museum of Art, and City Gallery Wellington, which comprised exhibitions, public programs, working groups, tours, and a publication, addressing the ‘politics of listening’ through work by artists, researchers, writers, detainees and activists from Australia and around the world. Stern’s PhD thesis ‘Eavesdropping: The Politics, Ethics, and Art of Listening’ was completed through the Curatorial Practice program at Monash University, where he also teaches on sonic art.
Blindside SOUND SERIES 2021 is presented in partnership with LIQUID ARCHITECTURE.
Every year since 2014 BLINDSIDE has invited Liquid Architecture to organise an exhibition under the banner ‘Sound Series’ by artists working in experimental ways with sound and listening. There have been some incredible shows by Anthony Riddell, Félicia Atkinson, Gerard Crewdson, and Matt Earle among others.