Louisa Fairclough: A Song Cycle for the Ruins of a Psychiatric Unit

18 Nov 2017 – 9 Dec 2017

Event times

24 November, 9pm-12am: Debut performance of VOICE IMAGES at the Swiss Church in London. Part of Being and Appearing, a programme curated for the Swiss Church by Kirsty White. http://beingandappearing.org.uk/

9 December - Live tape loop and reel-to-reel performance on the last day of the exhibition, performed by Samuel Middleton and George McKenzie

Cost of entry

Admission free

Danielle Arnaud

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • 3,59,159,360
  • Lambeth North

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An exhibition of new film and audio works that takes the remains of a psychiatric hospital as a metaphor for psychic ruin.


A Song Cycle for the Ruins of a Psychiatric Unit is Louisa Fairclough’s third exhibition at Danielle Arnaud Gallery. It features a new expanded film installation and audio work, and takes the remains of a psychiatric hospital on the edge of a city as a simulacrum for psychic ruin.

Fairclough worked with composer Richard Glover to devise a series of compositions for voice and tape loop that were performed by singer Samuel Middleton and musician George McKenzie. Each piece was recorded as a ritual for one of the rooms at the former-hospital.

FEAR LIFE DEATH HOPE (2017) took as its starting point a found drawing from a sketchbook by the artist’s deceased sister which sampled words from an artwork by Gilbert & George. Interpreting the drawing as a sonic score, Samuel Middleton sung the words as glissandi in a derelict building on the site of the hospital, the words recorded layer upon layer as a composite on a series of tape loops. The recording materialises within the gallery as lengths of 16mm film that rise from four projectors creating a spatial and sonic drawing. Vocal harmonies emit from the bodies of the projectors, but the lamps cast no light - the film having been exposed with no image.

The audio work, A Rose (2017) was recorded in another building on the site, entangled in vegetation and open to the elements. An upturned shelving unit in the remains of the room provided a platform onto which a lament was performed. The repetition of a cluster of words creates a harmony in an evolving composite on a tape loop. The sound recording captures the song resonating through the space along with the incidental sounds of the rural environment. The end words - erase, erase, erase - arise above the rest.

An accompanying essay by Al Cameron will be available as part of the exhibition.

Louisa Fairclough's practice takes the form of film loops, performances, field recordings and drawings. Louisa was awarded the CMIR Arnolfini bursary 2016 for the sculptural film Awkward Relaxed (forthcoming). Sounding grief: The Severn Estuary as an emotional soundscape co-authored with Owain Jones led to drawings and field recordings from the Thames​ that was shown at Estuary Festival (2016). Can People See Me Swallowing showed at Contact Film Festival, Apiary Studios (2016), Absolute Pitch and Composition for a Low Tide were commissioned by Whitstable Biennale 2014, Jeannie commissioned by Bristol New Music in 2014, Song of Grief shown at Film in Space, Camden Art Centre (2013), Bore Song acquired by CAS for The Wilson (2013) and recently shown at Rojas + Rubensteen Projects in Miami (2017). Louisa is Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes and University of Falmouth. She is passionate about experimental film, and co-founded BEEF in Bristol in 2015.

Richard Glover is a composer and writer based in Birmingham, UK. His music explores gradual process, perception in reductionist sound environments, performer interaction, and experimental approaches to notation. His portrait cd Logical Harmonies was released by Another Timbre to widespread acclaim in 2013, and his music has been performed internationally by ensembles such as the Bozzini Quartet, musikFabrik, BBC Concert Orchestra, and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Glover co-authored the book Overcoming Form with Bryn Harrison, with whom he is currently working on a major publication with Bloomsbury on the temporal experience of experimental musics, due for release in 2018. He has published book chapters and articles on Phill Niblock, Minimalism and Technology, and the perception of sustained tone musics. He is currently Reader in Music at the University of Wolverhampton.

Al Cameron is a curator and writer based in Bristol, and a member of Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film. His ongoing doctorate research explores histories of delirious practice in the twentieth century.

George McKenzie is a musician. He started his solo project, Attacked by Wolves, in the early 1990s releasing several cassettes on his own DIY labels Spazoom and Destroy All Music. He first started experimenting with tape loops in the group Headfall and has since gone onto make them the basis of his performances.

Samuel Middleton is a tenor choral scholar from Bristol and a former-chorister at Bristol Cathedral. In 2012 he gained a place to study French Horn and voice at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Junior Dept. He was a choral scholar at Clifton Cathedral and is now studying French Horn and Historical Performance for his BMus at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. 

Friday 24 November  9pm-12am  - In conjunction with the exhibition Fairclough will present the performance VOICE IMAGES, a collaboration with composer Richard Glover at the Swiss Church in London. Part of Being and Appearing, a programme of contemporary art curated for the Swiss Church by Kirsty White. http://beingandappearing.org.uk/

Saturday 9 December - Fairclough and Glover will present a live tape loop and reel-to-reel performance on the last day of the exhibition, performed by Samuel Middleton and George McKenzie.

Exhibiting artists

Louisa Fairclough

Taking part

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