Melissa Henderson

Born 1977 in Hels­ing­borg, Sweden. Lives and works in Malmö, Sweden.

76 Melissa Henderson_2

Say It Out Loud
As I Begin to Speak
The Speech

0:44 min (loop), audio // video, 4:07 min // 6x0,35 m metal sheet, paint

Say It Out Loud! is a monument for the open society, the multiplicity of voices, the power and importance of words and art for democracy. Five large-scale reproductions of pens are placed in the square outside the city library in Örebro. The square is an architectonic in-between space; the first forms of democracy used it as a meeting place. In numerous squares around the world are monuments of power, kings and warlords.

Instead of representing power, Say It Out Loud! stands as a pillar for the shared. Perhaps one can claim that the richer and freer the art and cultural life of a country, the healthier and more civilized it is. Lately in Sweden threats have been made towards individuals who have expressed themselves publicly and this reminds us of how fragile the democratic structure is. It is through a continuous defense of the ideals of an open society we can protect democracy. It should not be dangerous to make one’s voice heard, to investigate our complex world, question ethics and ideals, express that which makes us similar and different, so Say It Out Loud!

In the video The Speech, the artist sits in front of the camera. She looks at the viewer. Slowly, tridimensional letters come out of her mouth. They glide over her lips and drop down one by one, as saliva drips down the chin. The letters do not form words. Together they are nonsense. Reminiscent of Dada poems, the letters randomly add up, in a seemingly endless supply from inside of the mouth. The seriousness and the effort implies a struggle to express something. The Speech attempts to articulate how meaning is created not only by the speaker but also by the viewers in their interpretation. We formulate ideas by doing, by exchanging ideas. The physicality of the tridimensional letters and the presence of the bodily elements – the mouth, the saliva and the eyes staring back at you, reinforces the material. Here, language has become matter, something physical. That which is between us is what Karen Barad calls intra-action – a continuous reciprocal interplay. Even your thoughts are aspects of matter, as Nietzsche claimed.

The sound work As I Begin to Speak consists of different repeated attempts at translating the art work´s English title “As I Begin to Speak” into Swedish. The artist persistently proclaims variations of the translation into Swedish such as “as I begin to speak”, “I now begin to speak”, “whilst I begin to speak” and so on. The audience listens and waits, but nothing more can be heard except this annoying repeated declaration over and over ad absurdum.

Who can express themselves? Who is listened to?

Artist Statement

Melissa Henderson is a Swedish/British artist based in Malmö, Sweden, where she also works as a curator at Gallery CC. Henderson makes sculptures, paintings, videos and installations. Her work is influenced by the history of ideas and particularly New Materialism. The relation between ideas and materialities, shared knowledge and the personal are in focus in her practice. She is fascinated by the interrelation between theory and practice and how physical materials become agents and thereby have transformative capacities.