Winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, Helen Cammock is a visual poet whose drawings, prints, photographs and films juxtapose word and image.
What do jazz and the blues have in common with 17th-century Baroque music? Helen Cammock (b1970) sensed that lament, the expression of loss and mourning, is central to the history of vocal music and embarked on a six-month journey across Italy to find out.
Travelling from Bologna to Florence, Venice, Rome, Palermo and Reggio Emilia, Cammock met historians, musicians and singers who opened their archives, shared their lives and research – and gave her singing lessons. The title of her project Che si può fare (What can be done) is taken from a 1664 aria by Italian composer Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677). It is her music and that of Francesca Caccini (1587–1641) that Cammock performs as a duet with a jazz trumpeter in a live event and on a vinyl recording, reviving their legacy through her own voice.
Through her residency, she collected the testimonies of activists, migrants and refugees, witnessing the transformation of lament into the expression of survival and resilience. Their stories emerge in a body of new works: a split screen film; a triptych of vinyl cut prints; a group performance and a screen printed frieze that captures the power of women’s voices from the Baroque period to Italy today.