HD video with rare and honest sound, 5 minutes 2 seconds

Sardonic Harmony, 2021

Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, England


Exhibition Text

Sardonic Harmony is a collaborative lyric video featuring writing and sound by artists Hardeep Pandhal, Roy Claire Potter, Stefan Sadler and David Steans. Pandhal was invited by Castlefield Gallery to make a work in response to the Manchester Hip Hop Archive, a heritage project that preserves and celebrates the history of Manchester-based rap music and hip-hop culture.

The artists are friends who all share interests in many things, such as fictioning, or the summoning of counter-narratives and subjectivities through storytelling. Roy Claire Potter works between performance and experimental writing to think through the production of subtext in speaker-listener interactions, which they extend to encounters with ‘voice’ on both the page and recordings. David Steans’ specific interests/ambitions include conjuring a sense of (genre) horror in and around the technologies, media and processes of cultural production (such as writing and filmmaking). Likewise, the work of cartoonist Stefan Sadler deals with political topics such as war and death, issues fraught with social complexities and humour. Applying practices of associative thinking, often through the visual language of ‘gutter media’ such as comics and video games, Pandhal’s research-led projects exhibit what he describes as ‘syncretic strains of post-brown weirdness’.

Pandhal asked his collaborators to respond to the loose themes of ‘mutation’, ‘change’ and ‘untapped potential’, which he suggestively outlined in his opening, elliptical verse. Pandhal believes his go-to preference to work with suggestive or elliptical text and voice in his work has arisen from the lack of direct verbal and textual communication he is able to have with his mother. He believes his method assists him in identifying more confidently who his allies are and those willing to engage with him ’on a level’. The first step, he says, ‘is to ask thoughtful and considerate questions, to be an active receiver of my work, to risk filling in the gaps’.

It could be said that these artists are equally fuelled by an unspoken force that propels them to think for themselves and question authority. What could it be? They complain a lot about issues that annoy them, such as the constitution of social status. They want to send a message to the gatekeepers of taste and conformity. Sardonic Harmony is but one nugget of their burgeoning global message.

The resulting work embraces inexplicable forms of alterity, such as the cosmic macabre, through deep, empowering word-based play, sonic re-storying and limited animation. Sardonic Harmony is a rare and honest work that testifies to the artists’ faith in practices of mutative thinking and collaboration.