Spotlight: Hannah Pratt
This week we’ll be exploring the work of artist Hannah Pratt. Hannah recently graduated from an MA in Art and Science at UAL’s Central Saint Martins, her work was selected by the 2019 judging panel to be represented by Made in Arts London.
What themes or ideas are behind your current collection ‘Neutron Star Song Cycle’, which was successfully selected by this year’s judging panel?
The work I am showcasing with Made in Arts London is a culmination of 18 months of research into the history of Astronomy and the nature of scientific discovery. Through collaborations with scientists and other creatives (in particular musicians) I have created a series of graphic scores based on the sounds of radio pulsars discovered by Jocelyn Bell Burnell in the 1960’s.
You often collaborate with other people, particularly with musicians, what influences or significance does this have for you and your practice?
My relationships with other creatives in a collaborative sense developed over time throughout my career as an artist. I am always so surprised at the outcomes that are produced when collaborating with creatives outside my chosen medium as these new working relationships keep producing challenges which develop the work. Working with musicians in particular, I have found has created a new ways of thinking and how my work can grow to achieve unexpected results. I was initially drawn to musicians because the data I was working with at the time was sound based and I felt it was a logical step to experiment with musicians to give the data a different interpretation. Now it has become my favorite way of working!
In the descriptions of your pieces you mention that the three works are graphic notations created using the sounds of Radio Pulsars, does this mean they can be played by musicians?
As I was working with data that was sound based from radio telescopes I thought it would be exciting to working with musicians to explore the data in different ways. I have been a fan of graphic scores/notation from a design point of view for many years as they represent to me more of a creative relationship between the composer and the musician. Graphic scores in their most basic sense are a visual representation of music, using symbols and lines for musicians to follow and interpret. I created these scores from data visualizations of the sound waves received by the radio telescopes from the deep space pulsars. The colours were an aesthetic choice taken from my night sky photography.
The work of women in science is often visually interpreted throughout your practice, why is this important to you and are there specific artists who you feel have had some influence on your work?
I am constantly inspired by women in science and how their discoveries changed our lives, quite often these women where overlooked by history because of their gender or ethnicity. From DNA to Dark Matter women have been a part of scientific advancement for more than 200 years and only a hand full have ever won noble prizes or gotten any recognition.
Aesthetically I am inspired by the works of Anni Albers, Cornelius Cardew and Katie Paterson to name a few. Paterson in particular to me represents the pinochle of art and science collaboration inspired by the cosmos.
Paterson’s work with deep space and how we view the cosmos is a huge influence on my practice due to the sublime and poetic nature of her work. Her piece entitled ‘All The Dead Stars’ is a particular inspiration to me as the artist collaborated with scientists all over the globe to gather the most update information regarding all the stars that have been recorded dead throughout scientific history, the piece contains over 20,000 laser etched dots to represent the stars.
What would you like to achieve through your work?
I would very much like to continue to collaborate with musicians and scientists to create work based on the most up-to-date scientific data then use my practise combined with music to change perceptions of the data I am working with.
You have mentioned using scientific data as the foundation for your work, what appeals to you about using data and its interpretation?
Data is a very interesting and complex beast to work with, and has the potential to tell us so much about the work around us and to change our daily lives. Data is being used more readily in society for a multitude of reasons and sometimes not always good ones, it can also be used as a tool to analyse society and history. For me as a person who has quite frankly been obsessed with starts and science fiction for most of her life using astronomical data brings me closer to the cosmos in a why I am not physically able to. We can do amazing things with scientific data such as seeing the first light of the universe and data allows us to look further then we ever thought possible.
Earlier this year you had a solo exhibition in the Arts Student’ Union gallery space at UAL’s London College of Fashion called ‘LUNER; Craters, Landscapes, Landings’and more recently exhibited work at Ugly Duck in an exhibition called ‘Through the Looking Glass’ which looked at “how technology has influenced our collective view of the Universe” with Lumen Studios. What in particular about the cosmos and the exploration of space and its effect on humanity appeals to you?
Ironically, astronomy for me makes me more aware of our planet and our place within the universe then any other science. We are alone and small, but that’s fine. I don’t think I could write a more poignant way of describing astronomy then the great Carl Sagan when describing the furthest ever photograph taken of the earth by the Voyager 1 space probe :
“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
What do you hope your audience will take away from your work?
I want my audience to be inspired to look more into scientific history and the voices that have been quashed by prejudice. I also want my audience to be transported by the musical performance interpreting the sounds of the cosmos.