Shirley Harris & Seni Seneviratne

Lady of Situations

We are currently working towards an installation and immersive performance exploring themes of power and control, containment and punishment, gender identity, language and silence, trauma and recovery using ancient myths, which resonate with contemporary themes.

Our ‘Lady of Situations’ (working title) project explores central themes through two mythical characters, Philomel and Tiresias. Delivered in a Vanitas style, and will comprise of photographs, video, performance, written and spoken word/poems, soundtrack.

 The piece will be delivered through two central mythical figures: Philomel and Tiresias.

 We encounter Philomel as a half bird, half human character who, after enduring rape and having her tongue removed to prevent her from communicating her violation and injustices is enslaved to the forest floor. Her shapeshifting existence means she is sometimes nightingale, sometimes crow and sometimes neither. Through Philomel we discover that despite her anguish and inability to change her strength and resolve endures, offering insight and vision through her woven versions of her life as a metaphor for women everywhere.

 Tiresias delivers truth and wisdom to us and, though blinded, has foresight and shows how those with sight do not see the truth. We meet her at the point when she is living as a woman, having previously lived as a man. She now holds the experience and learning of both genders. Tiresias has the capacity to understand bird song and can enable us to encounter Philomel and decipher the messages she communicates.

About the Artists

Seni is a writer, poet, performer, singer and multidisciplinary creative artist of English and Sri Lankan heritage. She works with words, voice, cameras, clay and crafts. She has given readings, performances and workshops in UK, US, Canada, South Africa, Egypt and Kuwait. She currently works as a freelance writer, mentor, trainer and creative artist. She has collaborated with film-makers, visual artists, musicians and digital artists. In November 2013 she worked with photographer Bill Jackson at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, creating poetry in response to his exhibition entitled Dark Light.

A graduate of Central St Martin’s (CSM), Shirley has worked in arts and media since graduation. Initially using video and music in youth work, as a public campaign manager for the NHS in a public health capacity and for the last 18 years has built up an award winning commercial campaigns company in the city. As the business has become more self-sustaining, she is now able to return to a more fine arts based practice. As a member of No Limits arts collective she has been developing photographic and paint based work for the last three years, moving to Exchange Place studios this summer. She is also part of a women’s photography collaboration who regularly meet to critique work and support initiatives being developed.

Shirley and Seni have developed collaborative work through combining video and poetry as a way of exploring some key issues that they have a strong connection to. These include:

Gogo’s Clock film and poetry response for World Aids Day

Sitting for The Mistress – film and poetry response in the voice of a Black Child Slave. The fillm, based on a section of Seni’s poem. “Sitting for the Mistress”, was shortlisted in the Southbank’s ‘Shot Through the Heart Poetry Film Competition’ and showcased at the Southbank in July 2014.