Happy accidents, the bottom of the ocean, mental health and “an enduring sense of wonder”.
They are just some of the catalysts for the thought-provoking visual and sound installation duo Love Without Sound, who have been creating innovative and submersive public art pieces for over six years.
Members Abi Bliss and David Badger are now in the midst of creating a large installation for Wakefield’s Mental Health Museum, which will explore the experiences of those incarcerated in Wakefield Asylum.
They talked to the Examiner about their project.
When did you both began Love Without Sound project?
Abi: “David and I met in 2009 when he answered an ad that I put on a website for people to find band members.
“I wasn’t that keen on the idea of joining an existing band, especially as my main instrument is violin–I had something more experimental in mind.”
David: “I thought her listed influences (Robert Wyatt) had enough overlap with mine (Brian Eno) to get in touch. She said she would like to meet a theremin player; I didn’t have a theremin, but I did have a Moog, and I thought, ‘I could make theremin noises with that.”
What were your first steps?
Abi: “We discovered that we have a lot of shared interests and to start with we wrote some music.”
David: “We liked the idea of fusing film or moving image with music or sound art pieces. This idea of ‘band as installation’ appealed to us.”
Could you explain how everything has developed since then?
David: “We began to look for interesting sounds in the environment to use alongside our instruments. I play analogue synths, guitars, bass, and weird little bits of percussion; Abi plays violin, viola, synths, loop pedals.
“We liked the idea of fusing manipulated found sound with synthetic textures or unprocessed sounds.
“One thing that did emerge was that each track had to be inspired by a general mood.
“We also began to do gigs. One was a live soundtrack for a film screening at Holmfirth Film Festival, and we did a gig in Sheffield for the Audacious Art Experiment.
Abi: “In 2013 we made a film called ‘The Sum of All Knowledge’ which is inspired by a set of 1970s children’s science encyclopaedias that David was given as a child and how they functioned as a kind of proto-internet. It’s a mix of images, narration and music, inspired by all the old educational programming we had to watch at school.
“We might use samples from household objects, field recordings or sounds from a software instrument that David has built using Max/MSP – anything to introduce a slight element of the unexpected.”
You’ve been working for two years on an upcoming project with the Mental Health Museum in Wakefield, tell us more?
Abi: “Initially we were asked to make a film which would be projected onto a mortuary slab where patients of the former West Riding Asylum, later the Stanley Royd Hospital, may have ended up if they died there.
“We also spent a lot of time studying objects in the museum collection relating to life in the hospital.
“We found out it would no longer be possible to project onto the slab so adapted it to go on a wall in the padded cell.
The finished film is about 20 minutes long but divides up into four parts and runs on a loop, so people can come and go as they wish without having to watch the whole of it.”
What are your future plans for Love Without Sound?
David: At the moment we’re making a short visual inspired by our fascination with underwater sea creatures.
“We’re just trying to make something that looks beautiful without any deep message!
“The idea is we might be able to do a live improvised soundtrack to it in the future.”
Where can we next catch you live?
Abi: “We’re hoping to pick our instruments again in 2016 and play ideally as part of a live soundtracking event or installation.
“In the meantime, between us we organise and make music at Sound Events in the Syngenta Cellar bar at LBT around every month.”
For updates on the Mental Health Museum project and more, visit lovewithoutsound.wordpress.com