She was the universe – Hellen Burrough at Spill Festival

Hellen Burrough - She was the universe

“The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air, And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need of aid from them — She was the Universe.”

She was the universe – A new piece inspired by darkness, apocalypse and the connection between the artist and the audience is part of the National Platform at this year’s SPILL Festival.

THU 30 OCT 2014 – 3pm
FRI 31 OCT 2014 – 12pm

Police Station, Ipswich, IP1 2AW
Part of All-Seeing and Thursday & Friday Daytime Passes – Buy your pass here.

[img: Sam Gregory]

September news – Spill Festival and Tempting Failure

Suspension at The Double R Club

[Suspension performance at The Double R Club, photo by Sebastien Gracco de Lay]


Lots to announce this month –

+ She was the universe at Spill Festival, 30th and 31st October. – Absolutely thrilled to be showing this new work in the Spill Festival National Platform.

+ Also at Spill, I’ll also be performing in The Queen’s Boudoir by Lauren Jane Williams on 1st November.

+ Union at Tempting Failure, 7 November – I’m very happy to be returning to Tempting Failure for the third year running to present a piece devised and performed with my husband, Philip Bedwell.


+ This is what it’s like to be at war with your body – Fascinating article on Apotemnophilia, Body integrity identity disorder (BIID) and those who voluntarily amputate their limbs.

+ An open letter to everyone who has told women don’t get too muscular – I’m really interested in the messages women are given about their bodies and their behavior, especially when it comes to sport, strength and fitness. This is just a great article on how these messages reflect gender roles and expectations.

+ Instruments for operating on mutant women gallery – Dead Ringers is one of my favorite films, this gallery contains some close up shots of the beautiful bizarre surgical instruments created for the film.


+ Ghost in the machine (Blood robot selfie) by Ted Lawson. ‘Artist, Ted Lawson, creates a life-sized self-portrait drawing, in his own blood, using a robot.’

August news

The Double R Club performance - Juliet ShalamWork

+ Really thrilled to be showing a new piece involving suspension at The Double R Club this summer. It’s always interesting and risky creating work to show in a cabaret setting (admittedly Double R is a very strange kind of cabaret) and I’m enjoying how it takes me out of my comfort zone and of course, I’m enjoying performing in the gorgeous Spegeltent.

The show returns to London Wonderground on the 23rd August. You can get tickets here.


+ Is the woman who can’t cry stronger for it? In Aeon Magazine. Femininity, society and tears.

+ Without you I’m nothing – “The rock stars lover is public but powerless” I’m fascinated by the role of muse and it always feels like a very sexist set up to me (woman inspires, man creates) This article in The Believer looks specifically at the wives & girlfriends of famous male rock stars and their struggle to “stay whole in the great vortex of her lovers stardom”


+ Inside Flesh tumblr (NSFW) + Sideshow, freakshow and the carnivalesque + BME nostalgia & subdermal implants + drag +


July update


+ Plans are underway for new solo work to be shown this year, but there’s unfortunately nothing I can announce just yet.

+ Met with the super talented Lauren Jane Williams last night, whose work I’ve been a fan of for a while now, we’re going to be working together on something that I’m very excited about. More info coming soon, promise.


+ The Gaper/The Balcony by Ines von Bonhorst and Lauren Jane Williams. Just gorgeous. (Starring Ron Athey, Mouse, Empress Stah and Nina Davies)

+ Mountain by David O’Reilly – I love the short films by this guy so started ‘playing’ Mountain this week, i don’t think i’ve fully figured it out yet but its clearly an app like no other.


+ Defining a Vagenre – Categories of nudity in feminist performance – I guess I mostly work at Level 1.

+ 21 Life improvements from BJJ – Beautiful words from a female fighter, makes me very keen to get on the mats again.


+ broken glass + pearls (always) + suspension in performance + cosmetic surgery aesthetics + Nina Arsenault

New collaboration and upcoming performance dates

In October and November I’ll be performing a new piece, as yet untitled, in collaboration with my real-life partner Phil Bedwell.

An intense exploration of the intimacies of lust and aggression, utilising jiu jitsu techniques and the text of A Futurist Manifesto of Lust by Valentine De Saint-Point.
Phil and Hellen began collaborating last year when they worked on Marisa Carnesky’s Tarot Drome, their work together has combined Phil’s background in wrestling and martial arts with Hellen’s experience in live art to create highly physical pieces examining gestures of loving and fighting and the parallels between them.
This new performance has developed from a workshop run by Kira O’Reilly as part of DIY10. Over the three days of ‘Combative Manifestos’ they learnt techniques for both grappling and writing, and this performance evolved from those experiments with words and bodies.
This performance will be shown at:

“She displayed an ‘other’ femininity, both carnal and strong.”

An incredible review of my Achillia performance at Tempting Failure 2013 by Natalie Raven for Total Theatre magazine.

Traumata’s Achillia was a set-time piece, performed in the Isolation Block, an empty, whitewashed room with flaky floors and peeling paint. A circle of spilt milk gently trickled across the dirty floor. It glistened poetically in artificial light. The female performer entered, half clothed in a long white gown which trailed the floor. Scar tissue on the performer’s exposed upper torso bore the marks of performances past; a body in trauma which lived to tell the tale. Milk began to bleed upwards into the fabric as faint drops of crimson blood spotted the robe, hinting at an underlying injury.

Slowly, and with conviction, she bound her wrists. The skirt was gradually lifted to expose needles which pierced her skin above each knee. After mental preparation, the performer walked to her left. She squatted, back straight against the wall in a seated position, arms above the head. The position was held for an extended period, during which the physical manifestations of a body struggling against exhaustion begun to take form. Skin reddened, thighs shook, face contorted; signals of a body in pain, desperate to resist its own weakness.

I was transfixed. I felt an almost sadistic pleasure in watching her muscles begin to weaken and shake, violently. Internally, I screamed over and over for her to continue: ‘don’t give up!’ I longed for her to win the battle against herself. Inevitably, she slumped to the floor having lost. Standing up, she walked to the centre of the space, stood within the milk once more and removed a needle. Blood tickled down the leg and swirled itself into the white liquid at her feet; a moment of visual pleasure, abject horror and corporeal transgression.

For me, Traumata’s performance was about the feminine struggle against a history of patriarchal tradition and virtue. I saw the performer as an ideological feminine figure, both maternal and virtuous. Draping herself in white linen and surrounding herself with milk, she was both Mother and Virgin. What I enjoyed the most about this performance was the complete deconstruction of these socially fashioned feminine roles. She displayed an ‘other’ femininity, both carnal and strong.

Achillia at Tempting Failure, reviewed

/Traumata/Bobby Whittaker

Image by Bobby Whittaker

Hellen performed in the white isolation space; harsh unsympathetic light and blistering sound preempted her arrival into the space. Through a door marked “no entry” she walked in, stood in the space and carefully wrapped her wrists in white bandages. Her torso was naked and she lifted the long white skirt, already showing traces of blood, revealing eight long pins penetrating the flesh above each knee. No one moved or looked away. She walked to a wall in the space; I could see her back against the wall, arms raised and legs bent in a seated position. Her muscles began to shake as she exposed her body’s inability to sustain the pose. At the point of exhaustion she fell and returned to the centre, removing a pin from her flesh and dropping it into a metal bowl containing a white liquid. This sequence of physical endurance was repeated until all the pins were removed. I found it hard to watch. The piercings were brutal, muscular and un-cosmetic. I could imagine the unseen encounter and force required to push the sliver of metal through her tissue. However, I was compelled by her strength, determination and presence, the power in her body her refusal to stop. Commanding the audience to watch, to witness and support her through until the end and she left the space.

Looking Back: Tempting Failure 2013, Helena Sands for Exeunt Magazine.