Acme, supporting artists since 1972

Acme Project Space


The Acme Project Space ran from June 2009 to December 2015. It provided an opportunity for those artists who are part of our Residency & Awards Programme and our International Residencies Programme with a public space within which to develop projects, show new work and engage in a critical dialogue with a wider audience.


Sarah Duffy

‘Breathless’ 3.10.2014 - 19.10.2014

Sarah Duffy
Sarah Duffy
'Come on in' by Sarah Duffy (2014)
'Marilyn Upset' by Sarah Duffy (2014)
'Teeth' by Sarah Duffy (2014)


Thursday to Sunday 1pm to 6pm

Private View: Thursday 2 October, 6pm to 9pm. Live ventriloquism performed by the artist at 7pm & 8pm at the Private View


Sarah Duffy, the current recipient of the inaugural Goldsmiths MFA Studio Award, presents her first solo show at the Acme Project Space. The exhibition features a series of Duffy’s recent works across text, sculpture, video and performance.

Key to Duffy’s current practice is a fascination with the art of ventriloquism, particularly with ventriloquism’s beginnings away from its modern incarnation as a variety act that makes use of a dummy. Instead, Duffy is concerned with the practice of belly speaking, or speaking without movement of the lips, which extends far back throughout various religions and spiritual practices, chronicling the complex relationship humans have had with the voice over time.

Woman were particularly associated with the practice at its beginnings. Like The Pythia, The Oracle of Delphi, many women who were engaged in spiritual and necromantic practices utilised illusion, cunning and trickery alongside the practice of belly speaking. Their bodies were seen as supernatural vessels, a view that obscured the fact that these women were employing their beings as powerful performative instruments, capable of manipulating those around them. However, this history of female cunning is not without tragedy, ambiguity and horror; starlet ventriloquist of her day and likely epileptic, Elizabeth Barton, ended up with her head on a spike after she tried to use her powers of prophesy and ventriloquial utterances to prevent the marriage of Henry Viii and Anne Boleyn.

Fascinated with the history of these lauded and yet often vilified female performative figures, Duffy set out a year ago to learn this discipline for herself. In particular it was her goal to learn how to sing the song 'I wanna be loved by you' without moving her lips, made famous by Marilyn Monroe. Duffy saw that Monroe had something in common with these female ventriloquists; she was electric and wild, a master of her body, but also somehow vulnerable and subject to the gaze of others. She was at once a puppet and a puppeteer. Duffy will perform Monroe's famous song twice at the private view. This work will be shown alongside other video and sculptural pieces that further probe the connections between Marilyn and the art of ventriloquism.

The Goldsmiths MFA Studio Award is a partnership funded by Jane Hamlyn, Acme Studios and ISA Charity and is one of Acme’s growing number of studio awards managed under its Residency & Awards Programme, aimed specifically at recent graduates. These awards have been carefully developed with Acme’s partners to provide a valuable and effective bridge between college and professional practice. Each award provides a rent-free studio for 12 months plus a stipend, and in addition mentoring and exhibiting opportunities.


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