Throughout their journey Hannah and Rachel have put community and audience at the heart of their work, which often features a participatory element.
HANNAH ROSE: “We met on our Fine Art degree on the first night. We studied at Exeter School of Art & Design – which was part of Plymouth University – and lived together throughout our whole degree experience.
“We ended up making a single work together at the end of our third year, which wasn’t assessed or done with any intention of forming a long-term collaboration. Following that, I went straight on to a Fine Art MA at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam.”
Rachel and Hannah stayed in touch regularly throughout that time, sharing ideas by email and having conversations on the phone.
Through that frequent communication they developed the starting point that would lead to their ongoing creative collaboration.
RACHEL DOBBS: “After our degrees, I had been living in Plymouth again for about a year while Hannah was in Rotterdam, and we were thinking about which city in the UK we could live and work in.
“Plymouth was a place where you could make stuff happen quite easily – and that’s something that really continues.
HR: “Yeah, it was partly a decision around how we could earn a living alongside being artists, but also seeing an opportunity to really be actively involved in shaping and contributing to developing culture in a place.
“Once I finished my MA, we spent the following 10 years making live work together – presenting at art festivals in the UK and Europe. We enjoyed doing that but in 2013 decided to take ourselves physically out of the work and think about other ways of making work.”
That decision coincided with being offered a solo show at Exeter Phoenix by Matt Burrows.
“It was great timing, this opportunity to reframe a new direction whilst also presenting work we’d made over those 10 years within a gallery context. Since then we’ve continued to make work that takes different shapes and forms.
“We design for the audience, they’re at the heart of everything that we do. How the work comes into contact with them and what their experience of it is. And I think that comes from those 10 years of making life performances.”
Would You Like this Badge? was a project LOW PROFILE made in 2011 as their own love letter to Plymouth.
RD: “We wanted to get people thinking differently about this place that we’d moved to, fallen in love with, and wanted to celebrate. So we made a series of badges that had factual slogans about Plymouth.
“The badges said things like ‘Plymouth Twinned with Plymouth’, ‘Plymouth, Bigger than Reykjavik’ – stuff like that. The way we distributed them was by making friends with the landlords of five of our favorite pubs in Plymouth and providing them with these badges. Each badge would also have a map with it that showed you where the other four pubs were so you could get the other badges.
“You could only get the sixth badge in the series if you signed up to a special pub crawl. That badge said ‘Plymouth, the Spirit of Disco’ which we named after the signs being taken down at the time that said, ‘Plymouth, the spirit of discovery’.
“People would graffiti out the ‘very’ and just leave ‘disco’. We thought that that was a really joyful assessment of what Plymouth could be and made a special badge to commemorate that.”
The badges were a way of sparking interesting conversations with wearers and they ended up in lots of different places.
“Somebody got in touch to let us know that they had bought one of the ‘Plymouth, Bigger than Reykjavik’ badges to send to their friends who lived in Reykjavik,” says Rachel.
“A copy of the badges was bought by the museum, too. So then it becomes a historical event that can be redisplayed, or makes a comment about a certain moment in time.
“They’re a relatively disposable thing, and that’s another part of our work and our approach.
“We’re not making bronze statues or massive paintings that you then have to look after for a really long time. We’re making things that are temporal, they’re happening in time with other people.”
HR: ‘Often we’re thinking about how the work meets people within a real world context, outside of a constructed space for art.”
DRUMROLL is an audio artwork LOW PROFILE made with drummer Richard Sharpe, who also composed the work. It was released on New Year’s Eve 2020 as a shared but distant listening experience.
‘The idea for DRUMROLL goes back to 2015. We made this work called Impromptu with a Freddie Mercury impersonator called Gary Mullen. We were interested in the call and response that Freddie would do at Queen concerts, where he would sing and the crowd would sing back to him. We spent a long time researching footage and made a score from that,” adds Hannah.
Rachel and Hannah were interested in what it meant to come together to make a voice louder or work in unison.
“We were also watching videos of people at football matches and stadium concerts doing different types of percussive noise-making through voice or drum, or sending waves through the crowd.
“In about 2017 we came up with the idea of a simple drum roll – which is usually something that’s performed solo, it’s not a thing that’s done en masse.
“So we were thinking, what if we take that one small musical flourish and amplify it to where that becomes something that is group effort, where people work together.”