This sound-piece was made specifically for 'Transfer: A Slade/Strang Collaboration' which invited students from the Slade to interact with works from the Strang Print Room Collection.

'Mermaid' is a 5-minute sound-piece inspired by the Bartlomeu dos Santos etching, 'Ameobic/Jelly Fish Forms Beneath Moon' (pictured below, courtesy of Strang Print Room Media Services).

Please click here to listen to the sound-piece:


bartlomeu dos santos


I felt an instant connection to this print as, sharing Bartolomeu’s nationality, I understand the way in which the Portuguese are irresistibly drawn to the sea. It is a symbol of power, of beauty, of passion and of terror. The Iberian peninsula is embraced by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean and therefore the sea is a multi-faceted symbol deeply embedded in the Lusitanian psyche, representing both life and death.
The mermaid-like form that features at the top of the print is of special interest to me, as it feeds into my research of female archetypes and their mythological variations.

From the visual starting-point of the etching, I developed a narrative with the flavour of a modern myth. I decided that this textual component would be recorded as a voice-over by Emma Connor. This choice was motivated by the natural gentleness of Emma's voice, which perfectly coveyed the dream-like imagery of the text. The story unfolds in Brazil and I used field recordings that I had previously made whilst travelling in Salvador da Bahia to create an aural landscape. I also included snatches of song from two tracks by Clara Nunes (a well-known Brazilian singer who released both singles in the 70s) 'Ternura Antiga' e 'Conto de Areia'. I interpreted these two songs and Emma's voice-over provides a translation of the Portugese lyrics. Her narration leads the listener through the different acoustic spaces of the story. Below is a transcription of the text:

She’s there
Down there

Head on the sand-pillow of the sea-bed
Cold undercurrents swirling through her hair
Water-snaking around her face
Fishes nibbling at her temples

She’s singing

The moon dark
The wind cold
This aching emptiness
This will to weep

Passers-by in the street could hear her song
Sometimes they would gather outside her window
Leaning against the peeling paint of the façade
Eyes closed

An only chest
Only full of promises
An only chest
Full of promise

That night
The pain of loss shook her bones
And swelled inside her throat

The mute underwater anaesthetic of the abyss

The man was the only one who noticed her
Dancing into the black waves
He ran to catch her
But it was as if her body had dissolved
Leaving only silver islands of froth
On the wet mirror of the shore

The following image documents the way in which the sound-piece was installed in the exhibition space (image courtesy of UCL Media Services):