Úna Hamilton Helle

Copyright 2010-24



Becoming the Forest co-editor Lotte and I have recently returned from a trip to Sápmi/Northern Norway, as research for the next BTF issue and for my PhD. We first took part in an artist-run workshop led by Elin Már Øyen Vister and Katarina Skår Lisa in Varjjat/Varanger, in which deep listening and reciprocity were key approaches to engaging with the land. After this we traveled inland and visited different sieidi and háldi, Sámi sacred sites, hoping to learn something about how to relate to our local stones and landscapes in a more meaningful way. I dreamt about low horizons and mighty stones for days afterwards and am full of thoughts on a changing arctic climate, green colonialism, indigenous activism, but also animal soundscapes and reanimated spirituality. We are digesting and working through our experiences, pondering how to do this in the most respectful way. Otherwise, things are busy as I am working on my PhD and a video piece on speaking with stones. Hopefully soon I can write something more coherent about this.

This Weds marks the launch of the first of a three-part podcast series made by Verity Birt and myself as part of our project Beneath Clouded Hills and is a companion piece to our exhibition at Bloc Projects earlier this year. In the podcasts we will be looking at the term Deep England, what it means and where to find it. In it we speak to artists, geographers, folklorists and musicians to help us on our journey through the muddy prism of this green and pleasant land.

The podcasts are commissioned and hosted by Legion Projects as part of the audio series Ploughing Old Patterns, Raising New Ground. Listen here.

After a summer of Phd writing I have some talks coming up this autumn: Next Monday 11th I will be speaking to the current residency cohort at Praksis in Oslo about my practice, and around the topic of "touch", which is the theme of their residency, organised by Nina Sarnelle and Selwa Sweidan. Then on 19th Sep I will be in London speaking about Beneath Clouded Hills at a postgraduate research seminar in the Royal Holloway Geography Department. In the first week of November I will be in Portland, OR, to speak at the American Folklore Society Conference, also about Beneath Clouded Hills and its whole relationship to myth-time, enchantment and prehistory.

We are mid-install of Beneath Clouded Hills, an exhibition which is the result of mine and Verity Birt's research into the pastoral roots of 'Englishness' & the term 'deep England', as seen through the caverns of Creswell Crags where we did a residency last year. The exhibition will include film work and an immersive architectural sound installation and can be seen at Bloc Projects, Sheffield 19 May - 17 June.

Saturday 20 May we will also host a day of events to expand on the themes of the exhibition, with great help from harpist Manon McCoy, host of the 'My Albion' podcast Zakia Sewell, nature writer (and critiquer) Richard Smyth, sound ritualists CRONE (Freya Barlow, Blue Firth & Isabel Jones) and with a screening of various artist films and archival material themed around the day. More info on Bloc's website here.

We have just launched a new podcast series over at Legion Projects! Ploughing Old Patterns, Raising New Ground is a series of audiovisual commissions about British folk culture. Starting from next week we will be releasing works by Arianne Churchman & Benedict Drew, Paul Kindersley, Ox Art, Fourthland, Her Mother the Mountain & Matthew-Robert Hughes. Verity Birt & myself will also be making a few episodes, which will form part of our research on Deep England.

Becoming the Forest at Het Bos, Antwerp
For the first week of April we will (finally) celebrate BTF IV! On the 5th, together with black metal blog Addergebroed we will take over the radio station live in the Het Bos bar (& streamed through We Are Various): we will take listeners on a sonic journey through the issue, followed by a live performance by Iskandr. On the 7th we will be present with a zine stall at the Babylon Doom Cult gig together with Alexandra Uppman, who will be exhibiting her drawings from the issue. Come say hi!

I'm presenting a paper about the Deep England project tomorrow at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in Denver. This is part of two sessions called 'Thinking with more-than-human subsurfaces' that artist Flora Parrott and myself are organising. It's a great line up of speakers including artists who work with soil-songs, herbalist plant collaborators and geographers who work with waste water surveillance!

The beautifully produced death metal & art tome that is Buried Zine are publishing a compendium! The release party will take place 6-8pm, 14 March at Tender Books, London, and they will be showing my film Studs! Hellbent for Leather, as well as VR works, videos and readings by Tai Shani, Ruth Angel Edwards, David Steans and more

I was invited by the fantastic Berlin-based art+ecology bookshop Zabriskie Buchladen to contribute my favourite reads of last year for their Rewind 2022, which included books by Tyson Yunkaporta, William Hope Hodgson and Alan Garner. Lots of great end of year lists from others here too!

I wrote a piece about Monica Sjöö for the latest issue of Enquiring Eye, the research journal of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, which is out now. Thanks to editor Rupert White for the invitation.

On the 23 Oct I will be showing a new film at Conjuring Creativity, a conference on esotericism and art in Stockholm. The film is a collaborative work by Verity Birt and myself and will form part of our exhibition at Bloc Projects next year. The project excavates the mythic and controversial notion of a "deep" and "authentic" England, untouched by industrial progress, modernity and globalisation. It explores how such mytho-pastoral images resonate today, and wishes to turn them into more experimental, inclusive and radically open propositions.

I contributed an essay called Voicing the Genius Loci – an ongoing process for the first issue of A Row of Trees, the online journal of The Sonic Art Research Unit at Oxford Brookes. The essay describes a research and making process I've been exploring inspired by how sound has been used to engage with the spirit of place.

Becoming the Forest issue IV launches today! As always, it took its time. The process started as soon as issue 3 was launched, but the real work started at a cabin in the Norwegian mountains last summer, where the web of wyrd converged under a full moon and ended with an otherworldly visit from the skies on our last day. A year later the issue has finally been birthed into the world. More info here.

On Sat 25 June I'll be taking part in a panel discussion as part of the Monica Sjöö: The time is NOW and it is overdue! exhibition at Beaconsfield, London. I will be speaking about my relationship to Monica's work and how I got to know about it, which started when Legion Projects curated Waking the Witch, and continued with the zine we published earlier this year. The exhibition is the first major solo retrospective of Sjöö's work and opens tomorrow.

Verity Birt and I are currently on a 1wk residency at the Creswell Crags caves on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border. The residency will inform our upcoming exhibition with Bloc Projects in Sheffield. We're exploring these archaeologically significant caves (rock art, 40.000 yr old hyena bones, Neanderthal habitation, witch marks!) as a portal into the myth of Deep England. You can see a residency diary on our take over of Bloc Projects' IG account.

Earlier in the month Matthew Hughes and I launched Monica Sjöö: artist, activist, writer, mother, warrior, a new zine we made about the visionary Swedish artist whose relationship to land and earth mysteries was both deeply spiritual and political. The zine was launched at Spike Island, is published by Legion Projects, and available to purchase here.

Workshopping Ogham divination techniques and speaking about journeying into the dark season for 'The Unquiet Veil', a seminar on Folk Magick, Resistance and Paranormal Ecologies of the Arts' at Stockholm University of the Arts today. The invitation to speak comes from Áron Birtalan, whose artistic research project 'Your Bones Hold the Shape of What's to Come' very much aligns with these topics and I look forward to presenting alongside him and Catalina Insignares, who will be leading a somatic session for communing with the dead. It's institution-only attendance, but should be up on vimeo shortly after.

Tomorrow marks the opening of GAMES: Untold Seats of Power, a group exhibition at the Roskilde Museum of Contemporary Art (DK), which has a piece of mine in it. 'Tune Into Plant Being' is a text and sound work I developed for the All Flesh is Grass show last year, and has been expanded into an installation where visitors can listen to (or read) a guided meditation which aims to facilitate an empathetic inter-species transformation, all in the presence of the Chamaedora Elegens, otherwise know as a parlour palm. The show is curated by UNION Group.

I've been working with a group of interdisciplinary academics led by Laura Op de Beke on developing a LARP-inspired project on Deep Time literacy and imagination, which we are ready to play test in Oslo as soon as it is allowed. The game will also be part of the After Progress digital exhibition organised by Unit of Play (a Goldsmiths University initiative) this autumn. In the meantime we have a new website for the project where one can sign up for updates and such.

I'll be taking part in Bloc Project's 'Harsh Light' webinar series on the 16th Dec. I'm looking forward to joining Verity Birt and Dr Edwin Coomasaru in thinking through notions of 'Englishness'. "The conversation will self-reflexively think through these English textures and their adoption in subcultural contexts, including white supremacist narratives of “blood and soil” nativism, as well as feminist and black metal reinscriptions of a more ecologically entangled landscape." More info on Bloc's website.

The online reading group that will run concurrently with All Flesh is Grass starts this Tuesday. All are welcome and you don't need to have read the texts beforehand. The first one is called On Monstrous Sentience and looks at plant horror - for more info & to sign up go here.

Coming up: I'm in a collaborative exhibition with Uma Breakdown, Eltons Kuns and curator Erik Martinson at Kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, Latvia. Running from 4th June - 23rd August, All Flesh is Grass will showcase the group's research-in-progress & culminate in a game space that looks at plant consciousness, LARP, interspecies communication and 1970s (pseudo) science. There will also be an online reading group led by Of Animacy & film screenings related to the exhibition's prompter, 70's botany murder mystery The Plants Are Watching.

The sound installation from the Becoming the Forest commission for Epping Forest/Waltham Forest Borough of Culture is now available to listen to online - link on the project's page.

Next Saturday I will be hosting a screening and panel discussion for London Short Film Festival that delves into the influences and surroundings that have shaped the musical subculture of black metal. Through music videos, archive interviews and documentary outtakes, we will journey through landscapes both natural and fantastical, followed by a discussion on the genre’s early interest in ecology, myth, heritage, and the darker sides of humanity. Panelists include Hord (Occvlta), Charlie Woolley (Crypt of the Wizard) and Dayal Patterson (Cult Never Dies). The event is in partnership with The Quietus. Tickets and more info is here.

Becoming the Forest #3 is now available online through Antenne Books, Cult Never Dies and Crypt of the Wizard. Waltham Forest Borough of Culture have also produced a nice video of the People's Forest programme, in which there are some beautiful shots from the All Hallow's Eve ceremony I performed with a group of caped figures at the edge of Epping Forest.

Tomorrow I start a three-day research residency at Croydon's Whitgift Shopping Centre with artist and choreographer Hamish McPherson. The residency is organised by Croydon Arts Store:

SHADOWS OVER CROYDON: A Roleplaying Research Adventure

We will be using fantasy horror roleplaying games as a method and metaphor to engage with the presence of the shopping centre in contemporary life, for example as a space policed against outsiders/”undesirables” or as an engine of dark social forces.We will spend three days at CAS mapping the centre, making drawings, researching events in the news, and talking to people within it. From this we will create basic resources for a (real or imagined) fantasy roleplay game relating to the Whitgift Centre and its denizens including maps, lore, non-player characters and random encounters.

On All Hallow’s Eve, when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, Becoming the Forest invites you to take part in an audio journey populated by the voices of previous forest dwellers and visitors. At the threshold of London’s Epping Forest, a tree-clad land filled with stories, rumours and non-human beings, Becoming the Forest presents a sound installation at Queen Elizabeth’s Tudor Hunting Lodge, celebrating the oncoming winter.

Join past forest dwellers including Boudicca, Jacob Epstein and Algernon Blackwood, as well as the voices of the trees themselves, and expect incantations made up of Ogham and tree DNA sequences, dark folk, beech tree divination, tree-biologists and forest historians, black metal screeches and field recordings of the forest. A special commission by artist Una Hamilton Helle, with a soundtrack by Primitive Knot and Crown of Asteria, and voices from the forest.

The installation will mark the launch of Becoming the Forest #3, an independent zine which looks at how the aesthetic and philosophy of the musical subculture of black metal has become entangled with the topography of the forest.

Thursday 31 October, 7.30pm
On this evening of thresholds the artist and a cloaked group of figures will lead a short ceremony for the opening of the installation and to transition into the dark period. Please join us at the edge of the forest, where we will look to the trees to celebrate that which has passed and that which is yet to come.

More info here and a facebook event here.

My film Nekrosus from 2010 is part of an evening of film screenings on the theme of Folk Horror at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo on the 16th October. Curator Erik Martinson will be in conversation with author and music journalist Rob Young afterwards - it looks to be a really interesting evening. More info here.

Bonington Gallery in Nottingham is the final venue to host the Waking the Witch exhibition, which I curated with Matthew Hughes as Legion Projects. The exhibition opening is on Thursday 26th Sep, 5.30-7.30pm - all welcome. The exhibition will also close its run on the 16th November with a Day of Ritual led by Blue Firth, Hawthonn, Fourthland and more. More info here.

Before the weekend Janina Totzauer and I arrived for an artist residency at PLATZprojekt, an autonomous zone in Hannover, which hosts social and cultural enterprises, a community garden, a gig and film space, sauna and Europe's largest DIY skatepark! Here till 2 Sep and really looking forward to engaging with the local community and see what we come up with in these inspiring surroundings.

For the last half year I’ve been working on a video commission for Home of Metal, a cultural project which looks at the origins of Heavy Metal in the Midlands. My work will be included in Alan Kane’s exhibition '4 Bed Detached Home of Metal' at New Art Gallery Walsall, which is part of a series of exhibitions in the region that celebrate the project’s tenth anniversary. Other artists in the exhibition include Jeremy Deller, Des Hughes, Jim Lambie, Sarah Lucas, Jessica Mallock, Mike Nelson, Simon Periton, David Shrigley, Mark Titchner, Hayley Tompkins, Cathy Ward, Charlie Woolley, Eric Wright and the collections of metal fans from the area.

The video focuses on the links between the historic leather trade in Walsall, local band Judas Priest, who introduced the leather look to heavy metal and queer leather culture. It’s been a really enjoyable research project with plenty of fan interviews, trips to the UK Leather Archive and Walsall's Leather Museum and it’s been such a joy working on the subject matter of one of my favourite bands. If you find yourself in the area do pop along to check it out - it opens this Saturday 22nd June - 1st September.

On behalf of Hal Silver, Joshua Bilton and I have been running workshops for recent graduates for the photography festival pic.london. We've been using storytelling games to construct a collective origin myth for the group and explored Pauline Oliveiros' Sound Meditations. Saturday is the last workshop and also see's us try pull together some of the work from Hal's archive at a talk which is open to all. More info here.

I have some work in Sorcery Press' first zine. The theme is Glossolalia. Check it out here.

The remaining dates for Waking the Witch, the touring exhibition I curated for Legion Projects, have been confirmed. The exhibition opens at Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury 10h May - 15th June and will tour to its final venue, Bonington Gallery in Nottingham, 27th September - 16th November. For more information and to watch & listen to some of the work, keep an eye on www.wakingthewitch.uk for updates.

Super excited to announce that I am part of a stellar line up of artists, poets and musicians that make up the People's Forest strand of programming for Waltham Forest Borough of Culture. Taking place on All Hallow's Eve, when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, Becoming the Forest will invite people to take part in an audio journey populated by the voices of previous forest dwellers and visitors. Taking place at the threshold to Epping Forest, the tree-clad piece of land filled with stories, rumours and non-human beings, Becoming The Forest presents a sound-based installation at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, celebrating the oncoming winter. Expect incantations made up of dark folk, beech tree divination, tree-biologists and forest historians, black metal screeches and field recordings of the forest. More info here.

Next month I'm taking part in ALEA, a group exhibition at Celsius Projects in Malmö, Sweden. The exhibition looks at Chance, Randomness and Determinism in play and is part of a their PLAY FORMS exhibition series. I'll be exhibiting my text-based adventure game installation Lair of the Neo-Diggers. The exhibition opens 29th March and will also feature the work of Filip Vest, Ívar Glói and Karin Granstrand.

Two Becoming the Forest-related events are coming up in the next few weeks. The first will be a gig I am organising with black metal publishers Cult Never Dies & Zero Tolerance Magazine, which sees Belgian doomsters Alkerdeel and eldritch black metallers Turia from the Netherlands play the Black Heart in Camden. That's on the 1st February - more info here. I'm also doing a reading of some of my writing from the BTF zine at a performance evening organised by Movement/Possession at SET in Dalston, the theme of which is the forest. That's on 6th Feb and more info here.

I wrote some more blog posts for a-n on a project I have been working on which looks at the relationship between coding and caving, gaming and the underground. Touching on board games, escape rooms, Larp and screen-based 3D graphics I've been trying to grapple with different game formats in which to fictionalise space and build a narrative journey through the subterranean. The blogs can be read here.

If you missed the OSE exhibition last weekend, The Anthro-Cephalopodic Amalgamation Institute's guided meditation is now available to download!

I'm just back from the Netherlands where I was commissioned by Baracca to create a piece for The Hague's monthly arts tour programme. Baracca is a roaming gallery space, with their current setup being a moveable 'lunch wagon'. The result was Heksenkeet, a voice-based sound installation which invoked the figure of the crone, the hag and the witch when a figure of fear. The voices were recorded during an improvised ritual I performed in a remote cabin under a full moon last winter. The garbled spells, glossolalia and cackling incantations could only be heard from outside of the wagon and provided both an absurd and creepy component in the middle of the city.

Next weekend it is back to Margate for the last time as Gut Feelings, the Open School East end of year show will be taking place. I will be exhibiting an installation room and guided meditation in which you can temporarily align your