She’s Cuckoo!

She's Cuckoo!
Tamsin Williams in She’s Cuckoo, an experimental performance. Photograph: Nick Sayers.

Experimental Spaces, Hastings Museum, 21 Jan – 16 Feb 2003

“The mad often suffer from ‘hearing voices’ – other voices, often accusing voices, nagging and cajoling them; do, deaf people, if they go mad, suffer from ‘seeing voices’ too? And if so, how are these seen? As hands in mid-air making signs; or as whole-body visual apparitions making signs?”

Oliver Sacks, ‘Seeing Voices’

She’s Cuckoo was an investigation into the world of deafness, madness, birds and womanhood. I stuffed my clothes with feathers, and surreptitiously entered the building as a visitor obsessed by birds in the museum wild life room. Eventually overcome with irritation and discomfort, I pull off layers of clothes and flying feathers filled the gallery space.

The performance was inspired by the work of artist Liz Hall and the deaf actress Caroline Parker. As an artist with one deaf ear I have not yet found the opportunity or the courage to examine deaf issues in my work. I am currently learning British Sign Language level 2 and I experimented with signing songs. Experimental Spaces presented me with a safe place to look at these ideas for the first time and to publicly explore new ways of working.

Word And Body Game

Word And Body Game

The devising process also involved working directly with gallery visitors. I encouraged adults and young people to participate in Word and Body Play. Their movements were inspired from three lucky dips of words; words describing madness; words describing normality; words for different body parts. The participants then performed these phrases for the camera, for example ‘turbulent shoulders’, ‘moonstruck toes’ or ‘normal arms’.

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