Artist, composer and performer Hanna Tuulikki (b. 1982) works primarily with voice and gesture, creating immersive spaces that unearth an essential relationship with the lore of places. Performances and films combine costume, staging, and sculptural objects, often within unconventional settings. Photography, drawing, text, and innovative visual-scores extend the work, illustrating subject-matter, creative process, and narrative. Recent projects explored mnemonic topographies: the land encoded in the song, the lore embedded in the land; mimetic protolanguage: a lexicon of signing voice and singing body; and vocal androgyny: experiments in extended voice technique.
Her largest project to date, Air falbh leis na h-eòin | Away with the Birds (2010-2015) is a body of work investigating the mimesis of birds in Scottish Gaelic song. At the heart of the project is a vocal composition Guth an Eòin | Voice of the Bird, written for a female vocal ensemble, reinterpreting archive, fragmenting and then re-weaving extracts of songs into an extended soundscape. In August 2014 it was performed in the harbour on the Isle of Canna, as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme. A digital, interactive iteration of the work, commissioned by The Space, was launched in August 2015.
Other recent works and exhibitions include Women of the Hill (2015), live performance and film commissioned by ATLAS for High Pasture Cave on the Isle of Skye – a song-cycle for three female vocalists, responding to the archaeology and topography of an iron-age, matrifocal, sacred site; SING SIGN: a close duet (2015), live performance and film installation commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival for historic ‘closes’ – a vocal and gestural suite, with a baroque-inspired, score for a male and female duo derived from a 1765 map of the city; heart-to-heart (2014), bronze bells cast from a heart-shaped stone, made and performed as part of Alec Finlay’s Taigh: a wilding garden, a National Memorial for Organ and Tissue Donors in Scotland, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh; A Rose in the Dawn | A Wake to the Dream (2014) lithographs of two pictorial alphabets commissioned by GSA Exhibitions for Spheres of Influence II at the Reid Gallery; spinning-in-stereo, a composition for two voices, based on a traditional Gaelic spinning song, presented as a visual score and vinyl LP for GENERATION at The Travelling Gallery (2014); Guth an Eòin | Voice of the Bird, pen & ink visual score at Cape Farewell’s Sea Change exhibition, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, (2013-2014) and Between the Late and Early, RSA (2013); sea saw the circle (2012), a composition for string quartet and musical saw, using conventional notation resolved into an innovative visual score, commissioned by The Red Note Ensemble; High-slack-low-slack-high (2012), a site-specific composition and performance for four voices and megaphones, using tidal data for the River Clyde and performed on Bell’s Bridge as part of Glasgow International.
Her work has been featured in The Wire magazine; BBC Radio 4’s The Echo Chamber, a series about new poetries; BBC Radio 3’s Composers’ Rooms, a series of conversations with composers in their workspaces; and BBC Radio 3’s The Verb. She studied at Glasgow School of Art’s Environmental Art department and graduated in 2006. She moved to Edinburgh in the autumn of 2014, where she lives with her partner and their books, near her studio at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, returning often to Glasgow, to play with her band Two Wings.
Hanna Tuulikki uses the voice to build words out of sound, immersive ethereal spaces that attempt to unearth an essential relationship with the lore of places. While recent projects have focused on the natural world, this performance plays with the acoustic possibilities of architecture.
SING SIGN: a close duet is a vocal and gestural suite devised for the historic ’closes’ of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. In these confined medieval spaces, two performers presented a playful Baroque scenario. Their face-to-face encounter was also relayed in a film installation at Gladstone’s Land.
Composed and choreographed in response to a street-map dating from 1765, the street layout provided a visual score. The music takes the form of a wordless hocket (a musical device where the melody is split between two voices), divided between the singers in accordance with the closes, as they branch off from the arterial high street. The choreography spells out street names in a back-and-forth progression, weaving together British Sign Language, mimetic hand gesture and exaggerated body language.
Reflecting on the nature of dialogue and bringing together the seemingly opposed forms of singing and signing, Tuulikki explores the diverse, non-sensical ways in which we experience the city, immersed in sensory data, and mediated by the language(s) we have access to.
Commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival it received its premiere performance on 30 July 2015. Performed by Hanna Tuulikki and Daniel Padden as part of Edinburgh Art Festival at Fountain Close, Edinburgh.