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Hanna Tuulikki - Air falbh leis na h-eòin / Away with the birds

The word that keeps coming back to me is connectivity,” says Hanna Tuulikki, the Glasgow-based sound artist and illustrator who puts her own voice at the centre of her practice. Tuulikki is talking about Air falbh leis na h-eòin, or Away With The Birds, an ambitious ongoing project based around Gaelic song and the vocal mimesis of the birds that circulate around the island of Canna, in the Inner Hebrides, where she has just returned from an intense development week working alongside the local community.

At the new work’s heart is a new vocal composition which has already been performed by Tuulikki in a three-voice version shared with Nerea Bello and Lucy Duncombe at assorted work-in-progress events. With the long-term aim of performing Air falbh leis na h-eòin / Away with the birds in a nine-voice site-specific extravaganza on Canna itself, as well as Tuulikki, Bello and Duncombe, the piece already involves sound recordist Geoff Sample, film-maker Daniel Warren, choreographer Rosalind Masson, textile artist Deirdre Nelson, environmental psychologist Eleanor Ratcliffe, anthropologist Andrew Whitehouse and Gaelic singer Mary Smith. All of which is overseen by Suzy Glass of left-field producers, Trigger.

“I’ve been interested in using mimesis to interact with the environment,” Tuulikki explains. “I’ve become immersed in folk music from around the world, specifically looking at mimesis as a root of music, particularly in environments dependent on land.”

Tuulikki cites Tuvan throat singing and Scots mouth music as examples of influences on a project that is a culmination of sorts of a long-standing interest in replicating bird-song and other natural sounds since the Anglo-Finnish artist graduated from Glasgow School of Art’s Environmental Art course.

In Call and Response (Polly Vaughan) (2005), Tuulikki interacted musically with wildfowl at a wetland sanctuary in Sussex. In Salutation to the Sun (Replica) (2006), Tuulikki reproduced field recordings of some thirty different bird sounds. In Alas, Alas, This Woeful Fate, Tuulikki sang to seals while on a boat trip. Airs of the Sea: 100 Breaths, 100 Waves recorded one hundred voices imitating the sound of the sea while Tuulikki was resident in Cromarty.

As an illustrator, Tuulikki has concentrated on images of wild birds, while as vocalist on three albums with spectral trio, Nalle (Finnish for ‘little bear’) and now with psych-folk quintet Two Wings, Tuulikki’s song-based work has looked to global folk traditions, channelling influences as seemingly diverse as Meredith Monk and Kate Bush.

In 2013, the development of Air falbh leis na h-eòin / Away with the birds will continue with further development with Bello and Duncombe, a screening of a film by Warren, and a performance as part of an exhibition at the RSA in Edinburgh.

“It’s about weaving something together,” Tuulikki says. “I suppose I’m exploring different forms of meaning and experience, and this is the space between. I don’t want to specialise. I like to connect other people’s specialisms to each other. I learn so much more from experiencing a diverse array of things. I’m pro-non-specialisation.”

Scottish Art News, January 2013




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