Studio Series: Mercy

Ahead of Mercy’s Electronic Voice Phenomena Biennial Weekend (kicking off tonight at Camp and Furnace), we talk ghosts, fanzines and Chicks on Speed with Creative Director Nathan Jones!

Hi Nathan! Please describe your space.

We’re on Hope Street, our office is at the top of an old Georgian house, but it has a church roof. It feels a bit like a church or a boat when it’s raining. It’s nice that Mercy is split across a design agency and arts organisation, we have a nice mix of people coming through the office, and a good work ethic. We have a kitchen, meeting room and an outdoor terrace which we use for having BBQs in the summer but also to test out paint work and things (usually used by the artists we commission).

What work do you do here?

Mercy are ten years old this week. We started out as a fanzine – I remember when the poetry events organisation that I used to run came together with the fanzine five Biennials ago. Since then, we’ve developed specialisms – one of those is designing for culture and lifestyle (that’s Joe and Doug), and as an organisation we’re funded to commission new work where language is touching other arts. We work with poets a lot, but we look at where language meets performance, poetry, fine arts and music.

Our Electronic Voice Phenomena Weekend for Liverpool Biennial is all about the voice and technology – the manifestation of language through the data stream, vocoder, auto tune and computer voice, how that’s influencing how we understand voices, and how artists interpret this. Tonight is our anniversary party with Chicks on Speed’s Anat Ben David (surround sound performance), writer Ross Sutherland (using looped tape footage to commune with the spirit of his grandfather), poet/vocalist Hannah Silva (mimics the workings and glitches of tech with her own voice) and Hive DJs.

Saturday sees chaos –projections and sounds, Sam Meech and Hannah Silva teaching you how to make weird noises with your voice. Then we have performance talks by two writers: the history of the vocoder with Dave Tompkins (‘one of the best music books ever written’ – LA Times), and Joe Banks on how we hallucinate voices in sound. And then there’s three really varied world premiers in the night! The next iteration of a collaboration between Steven Fowler and Ben Morris, new work from Scanner, and glitch-vocalist Iris Garrelfs. It’s all fitting in with this idea of The Unexpected Guest (Biennial theme) being the ghost in the machine.

“We feel really lucky that we can work with people that we like so much”

How many hours a week do you spend in the studio?

We’re always here, nine to five. We’ve all got families so we like to keep a normal working week. When events like this come round the hours are a bit longer! It’s always evolving, the relationship between the design agency and the arts organisation, they pull against each other sometimes but work together really well.

What helps you work?

The bottom line is that we’re really interested. I get really interested in areas of the arts I want to explore – gaps, things that aren’t getting explored, or things that aren’t getting a platform, artists that work ad hoc and need help to make commissions happen, things that are intriguing, and generally that would be about the operation of language and how that happens, artists and writers working together. As a team, we’ve been really good friends for ten years, we’ve grown up together as professionals, and we feel really lucky that we can work with people that we like so much.

What are your three favourite possessions in the studio?

My dog Kenny deserves a mention. The coffee maker – an air press, really important, nice coffee. Good headphones - because there’s so much different stuff going on sometimes its good to block stuff out.

If your studio could speak, what would it say?

It would say: “Who’s going to live in me next?” We’ve got an empty space, it and we are curious where the studio’s going to go and how that’s going to get driven by other people.

If you had one important piece of advice you could share with other creatives, what would that be?

We do get asked this quite a lot. A good bit of advice that I got really early on was not to say no to anything. Try to develop a specialty people come to you for, and that you know what your ‘thing’ is. That can change, but try to have one. We do lots and lots of different stuff but we’ve always had a language focus, and that has helped us grow and gain partners. Try to find out what’s needed, and get that! Work with really good artists and really like their work – if you do it you have to do it everyday, and if you don’t like their work, that sucks.

Mercy’s Electronic Voice Phenomena Weekend for Liverpool Biennial kicks off tonight at Camp and Furnace with a free party 8pm – 11pm!

Saturday 6th October:

At Camp and Furnace: Sam Meech and Hannah Silva host a workshop designed around feedback, sampling and vocal play from 1-3pm. Talks by David Tompkins and Joe Banks with Q+A 4-6pm

At Hifi 40 Seel Street: World Premiers: Scanner, Iris Garrelfs and Steven Fowler 8pm-1am

Posted on 05/10/2012 by thedoublenegative