Installation / Radio Hush Hush / Middelheim Museum

Summer installation Middelheim Museum

Radio Hush Hush was accompanied to het huis pavilion at Middelheim Museum by the Procession on June 24th. The form of this sound installation of female voices whispering contraceptive and abortive recipes references clandestine radio broadcasts. Comprising six finch cages each fitted with a speaker the work features the voices of Mariske Broeckmeyer, Michele Burgers, Renée Turner, Nora El Arbi, Hendrike Scharmann and Theresa Ferreiro.

Composed together with singer and composer Mariske Broeckmeyer.

Radio Hush Hush narrates and performs fragmented knowledge of plant-based anti-fertility remedies, knowledge that has been disappearing through the ages due to broken chains of vocal transmission. Part of the larger project of investigating a herball for a 17th century midwife, the work investigates what still circulates in the form of folksongs, poems and hearsay, or is published in the pages of ancient herbals. 

First shown at Netwerk Aalst in 2020, Radio Hush Hush has been recomposed for the 2023 installation at Middelheim. Each box contains the voice of a woman singing, chanting or whispering ancient plant contraceptive knowledge. As one piece ends another begins. Visitors need to move from birdcage to birdcage to hear the voices. The title refers to the clandestine nature of transmission of anti-fertility plant remedies as well as to the framing of the sound-work that references the format of clandestine numbers station. In Flanders these wooden finch cages are used in the ‘sport’ of vinkenzetting. In competition the finches must sing as frequently as possible and the number of calls is chalked onto a stick. Foreign birds, trapped or traded, must learn the local variant before they can compete. Adapted to the Nothing of Importance Occurred project the cages and their histories become metaphorically rich with ideas of entrapment, forced assimilation and lost language, issues investigated in the larger project.

Concept, writing, composing: Wendy Morris, Mariske Broekmeyer. Curator: Pieter Boons. Installation: Pieter Nys Productions. Photo’s TimTheo Deceuninck, Wendy Morris