Abigail Hammond is part of our exhibition Sheroes-Revoluciones, taking place this 22-24 November in London.
As a creative/artist, I have to test my work, much as a chef tests their dishes. My intentions are one thing, but if they are not visible to an audience, I haven’t achieved what I set out to do. I know this is only one approach. It is perfectly valid for an artist to present their work and let an audience make of it what they will. However, as my work is activist, I have specific messages, provocations or experiences that I wish to convey or offer.
I had an opportunity to test my first installation piece, Stillness, at a multi disciplinary scratch event last January. There was a very positive response to the work but the language used to describe it – ‘beautiful’, ‘cathartic’ and ‘meditative’, surprised me. My work is about menopause, and Stillness sought to convey nights disturbed by hot flushes and sweats, which is none of those. I needed to rethink.
A glass of wine in the brisk night air later and I announced to my partner and collaborator Greg, aka musician and composer Latenites, that I was going to make a piece to show what it is like to ‘be hit by a bus’ and could we please write a punk song called Fuck the Menopause. During the longish Uber ride home lyrics started to formulate in my head and in an hour, sat up in bed with a notebook I scrawled down pretty much all the potential lyrics. Subsequently Greg and I researched 1970’s British women punk bands as I felt strongly about authenticity – the genre of punk was socio-political, as is my desire to break the taboo that surrounds menopause. We found the appropriate rawness in The Bags and The Avengers. As Greg started laying down the track we collaborated on the structure of the song, with his suggestion of borrowing Kim Wilde’s ‘We’re the kids in America’ restyled to ‘We’re the girls in the menopause’ for the bridge, genius! Greg also suggested how one of the verses suggested a rap style, a contemporary urban form of expression.
In researching menopause chat forums, particularly American, I had been astonished and relieved to discover that other women were using that same language as myself to describe how menopause had suddenly invaded their lives – ‘hit by a truck’, ‘hit by a ton of bricks’. I was struck by the shared expression of violence and the physical messiness of what this real and metaphorical impact was. In further consolidating my thoughts for the work I wanted to consider the abuse that menopausal women are suffering, not only from their own natural process of transition, but also at the hands of medical practitioners. There are too many stories of women being dismissed by doctors, wrongly diagnosed or prescribed dangerous medications. Sadly, that is by women as well as men doctors. A lack of knowledge leads to a lack of respect and a failure in duty of care.
Roadkill was simple in concept, my naked form, as if struck down, bloodied, bruised and flayed. The production of it began with a painful process of lying still on the floor while having a silicon cast taken of my body. Over a period of weeks I gradually built up layers of Jesmonite (an acrylic based plaster) inside it. Thanks to two special Brightwell men, my partner, Greg, and son, Gene for undertaking the casting.
Following a fantastic response to the punk song, we made a music video which can be seen on Youtube
If you are interested to hear more about my creative journey, you can listen to this podcast