Lip-sync is a major new public artwork for Birmingham by Holly Hendry commissioned by Birmingham City University and curated by Eastside Projects.
Commissioned as part of the £70 million STEAMhouse project the large scale sculpture draws on both the history of the building as the headquarters of The Eccles Rubber and Cycle Company, and its new function as a centre for collaborative innovation where immersive technologies and digital fabrication meets hands-on making, research, business support and community building.
Made from rolled, formed and lasercut steel, with smaller hand-cast elements, Lip Sync’s surface features cartoonish, body-like shapes co-developed with students from Birmingham City University and pupils from Chandos Primary School in Highgate in a series of ‘exquisite corpse’ workshops where individual drawings lead from one to another to create a collective collage.
Details, marks and forms from the workshops were fed into computer software where they were simplified, and amalgamated into a colourful and apparently continuous ribbon, a fluid band which weaves through a series of industrial rollers, appearing from and disappearing into the ground – perhaps even flowing underneath the building, or the city. On closer inspection it becomes clear that Lip Sync’s surface is made up of a puzzle of individual elements that are rolled and fixed together, different parts engineered, coloured, stretched, and flattened by multiple industrial processes.
Lip-sync’s structure echoes the Jacquard Loom, a textile weaving machine in which thousands of punch cards were used to produce fabrics with patterns of almost unlimited size and complexity. The loom, and the Jacquard cards which it reads, is considered the earliest example of computer software. Its punch card system led to the binary system of ones and zeroes that underpins modern computing.
Hendry’s work uses the language of slapstick and cartoons to create joyful and materially rich sculptures which explore the role of the human body in industrialisation and encourage us to think about our current, and future, experiences of being human in relation to new and expanding digital technologies. This is her first permanent public artwork.
Holly Hendry’s sculptures look at the backs of things; cross-sections and open cracks through which you see the gooey insides. Hendry addresses ideas of permeability and morbidity through a visual language charged with cartoonish wit. Her works deal with internal and external in terms of the body, display and production, revealing what would otherwise be hidden. Architectural rear spaces and bodily activities or situations are brought into view using an array of materials, including steel, Jesmonite, charcoal, lipstick, soap, foam and grit.
Hendry’s first solo show in the USA will take place at SCAD Museum of Art, Georgia in 2024. She has exhibited internationally, with solo shows at institutions such as De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, UK (2021); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK (2019/20); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2017) and Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates (2014). She was part of the Liverpool Biennial, UK (2018) and Le Beinnale De Lyon, France (2019). Hendry was a Fellow in Contemporary Art at the British School at Rome in 2018 and was awarded the 2019 Arts Foundation Award for Experimental Architecture by Arts Foundation Futures Awards. Her work is held in the collections of The Arts Council, UK; FRAC Centre Collection, France; British Council Collection and Government Art Collection, UK. Hendry is represented by Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.