Aileen Campbell

Aileen Campbell's contribution to Nought to Sixty

The works of Aileen Campbell (born Greenock, 1968, lives in Glasgow) span performance, sound and video. Central to her practice across these modes of presentation is the human voice - both its live presence and its manipulation through documentation and structured film works.

Campbell is herself an experienced chorister, and her work demonstrates an investigation into the voice's connection to the body, and how this relationship is disrupted through training, experimentation and amplification. Whilst her works can refer to music, the processes of disconnection and manipulation that she uses create a more primordial sound - a sound which originates with the body and is intrinsically linked to its restrictions. Early live performances involved Campbell synchronising and combining her own vocal sounds with those of domestic appliances, such as a popcorn machine and a hairdryer. Performed on a podium, the theatrical manner of these experiments is often humorous, but also suggests a fundamental form of communication through mimicry.

The framing of Campbell's performances, and the importance of their subsequent presentation through video, is indicative of her position between visual art and experimental music. The artist is a member of the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, a band of musicians who pursue improvisational techniques via experiments in musical structures within large group contexts. Campbell draws links between her own musical practice and that of the pioneers of vocal techniques from the sixties, including Meredith Monk and Joan La Barbara. Whilst exploring similar territories of sound-making that ground the female voice, she also utilises the structures of performance to play with the visual expectations of an audience.

In her 2005 work As Jane Edwards and Geoffrey Rush, Campbell presents a performance that relates to a dramatic section of footage from the 1996 film Shine. The sequence shows the character of pianist David Helfgott bouncing on a trampoline whilst listening to a Vivaldi aria, and Campbell replicates this sequence live, herself bouncing on a trampoline whilst singing the soprano part. Accompanied by a string quartet, her feat both echoes the conventional arrangement of a classical recital and disturbs it through the absurd and drawn-out endurance exercise. The work plays on a perception of the female voice as transcendental, creating a version of the uplifting soundtrack that is re-formed around guttural and unmanageable bodily sounds.

Campbell's project for Nought to Sixty develops these concerns around the conventional parameters of a musical performance, and the awareness of physicality within it. In a progression from an earlier work entitled Rehearsal Room (2006), the piece engages an audience as a choral mechanism that creates a live soundtrack. This element of group participation activates the role of the viewer, yet also reduces it to a common action. This commonality only achieves purpose through the eyes and ears of a second audience group, creating across the two different spaces both a seemingly random noise performance and a simultaneous audio/visual accompaniment.

Richard Birkett