tangles at plug’n’play


this week is pretty crazy with Next Wave Festival opening: lots of shows, performances, launches and gigs to go to.

One that you should all come to is the Plug’n’Play night at Horse Bazaar. After you’ve been to the Next Wave opening at the Meat Market and then the Festival Club at £1000 Bend, wander up the hill a little and have a chill/dance/looksy at the DJ/VJ stuff going on there. I have a video work there – an extension of the work at Seventh Gallery.

Here’s the official blurb:

Anyone who owns a technogadget knows that process of having to disentangle the mess of cords. On a daily basis we unravel our headphone cables, untwist the laptop power cord, separate the printer from the scanner from the ethernet cable from the toaster. It is the modern condition of having to sort out our bloody technology.

Ariadne’s tangled bloody mess reflects this frustrating process, and sets it up as a metaphor for other kinds of disentanglement. It is a slow tracking projection, the unravelling and undoing a knot of red cable. In greek mythology Ariadne gave Theseus a length of red thread to find his way back from the Minotaur’s labyrinth. The term has become a way to describe the methodical process by which we solve problems – a way to talk about logic and order, integral to technology design

And the deets

where: Horse Bazaar
379 Little Lonsdale St

when: Thursday 13th May, from 8:30pm

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death, silence, performance and architecture

Abracadaver_Bus2 Web

For some absurd reason, i’m reading Michel Foucault‘s Spectacle of the Scaffold.

Morbidity by the French philosopher seemed a fitting chaser to the sexual introspection and feminist meanderings of Erica Jong‘s Fear of Flying. Suffice to say, i’m having some weird dreams at the moment.

Anyway, Foucault speaks about the public changes of death-as-punishment and they appear to coincide with political changes of modern democracy. It seems that one man, one vote, also inspired the idea of one man, one death – that the punishment of torture by a thousand deaths (first drawn and quartered, flayed, then dragged along behind a horse and cart before being burnt at the stake and ashes scattered to the wind, etc) was barbaric (!) and not fitting a system that sought equality and civilisation. He describes the history of penal changes in which punishment is gradually separated from a corporal act into that of the soul (or at least the mind) – a concept which is well-known by the legal peeps, but i found it disturbingly fascinating.

All of this has got me thinking again about death.

Death as the ultimate silence – a true absence of sound.

Death as a political consideration – one necessarily built into the public system of governance, law and order and infrastructure. In terms of death-as-punishment, it is the absolute removal of a citizen’s place in society: the removal of one voice. And such a lack of voice is in fact the only silence in the public realm. It is primarily an undesirable one. Not this utopian, desired, i-just-need-some-peace-and-quiet silence, but the true absence of sound.

Death as an act to be performed– that the performance associated with capital punishment – in all its forms across the centuries – have been a performance of creating death and silence.

Architecture of death – the gallows, the guillotine, the dungeon and the death row prison ward – all architectural types for the creation of silence. Foucault speaks of the ever-lengthening distance between The Executioner and the prisoner – no longer does he even touch the body, but now presses a button. Has the designer who is charged with the task of designing these spaces begun to take on these roles?

These are just a few loose ideas, but something which has been an unexpected aside to my research into sound/listening/silence in public.

I know you think it’s too morbid a subject for a Sunday morning, but how’s this for timing:

– Yesterday was the Melbourne Zombie Shuffle
– Daniel Mudie Cunningham resurrected his Funeral Songs blog and
Elvis Richardson and Claire Lambe have opened a new space called Death be Kind which opens on 29 June with The Memorial.

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camp pell lecture

a couple of days before leaving for my lightening fast sydney/brisbane escapade, lucas (the great connector) emailed me about tony birch/tom nicholson‘s work at artspace, which needed some [artist-as-]participants. i can’t remember lucas’ description exactly, but it mentioned a lecture, tom nicholson, a building in carlton and a spare spot on the 26th february.

lock me in!

i have been really interested in tom‘s work for a while and his sound/performance/list collaboration ‘lines toward another century’ with andrew byrne with had me hopping from side to side.

thanks to a bit of a crazy schedule, i didn’t have time to do any research into the project, which worked in my favour i think. i just rocked up, said hello to the gals at artspace, got instructions and launched into it. no time for over-analysing – plenty of time for that during the performance.

the darkened room featured included 5 desks, with a desk lamp and a series of projections behind the ‘stations’. each participant/artist read the lecture aloud and to themselves, according to the instructions, as we were giving a paper to a room of 30 students. easy. kinda.

the inbuilt difficulties (and points of interest) included reading at the same time as everyone else, the combination of reading internally and aloud whilst maintaining the same timing and the slight physical duress of sitting in the high-contrast environment for 40 minutes at a time. i always forget how quickly my body is affected by durational work.

despite having to concentrate quite heavily, i found myself thinking A LOT about the work in a variety of ways. so much so that it has taken me about a week to work out what the hell i need to say about it.

camp pell is based in and around royal park, melbourne, and the lectures are about a series of images from the state library of victoria. the idea behind tom’s research of the imagery was to not just imagine the context for the photos in question, but to catalogue and corroborate the stories and history of the time/place. unsurprisingly, the complex relationship to imagery, history and colonialisation comes up very early in the piece.

the area in question is very “local” to me – i ride across, around, through there regularly and is a permanent fixture in my psychogeography. reading about this place and its history/image-history was instantly transportive. rather than imagining the events or the landscape of the images, it was like i was remembering those places. the works, for me, were quite different to enacting an arbitrary narrative. they were infused with a sense of my own experience. which, as any good installation artist knows, is the stuff you want people to take from a work.

the sound elements to the work were also interesting to me – the syncopation of vocal relay and the differing tones was amazing. not to mention the randomness of timing. having to share the soundscape with others at times was amusing – another aspect to the territorial nature of the work – but also the sense of authority with which we all projected our voices. in a way, it homogenised the pitch and weight of our ranges. in the way that i guess memory will desaturate imagery, a lecture format desaturated our vocal contrasts. i think this is an area that my vocologist friend tim noonan would have been fascinated by.

reading aloud is physically exausting too, and i think that this shared effort required to communicate the work is another interesting point of connection with other artists and the work itself. it became a visceral task, which has become physical memory, as well as a mental one. something infinitely bound with psychogeography and a relationship with the indigenous manner of remembering ones place.

as well as remembering and listening, i learned a lot. despite the line in my lecture about ‘only the most demonstrative student could have gotten away with not hearing about this history of the ill-fated [burke and wills] trip’ i actually knew hardly any detail about the crazy hair-brained voyage up the guts of the place. in history lessons i only ever remember wondering why the hell they started the trip in the first place and thought it was blatantly obvious to trust the local indigenous kids to help you survive. but i guess, at 15 i hadn’t really discovered the true nature of the proud white colonial male.

as an aside, the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the burke and wills trip is on the 20th august this year and no doubt, there will be commemorations of some kind. it will be interesting to see what, exactly. given that its place as a valuable point in our history has become an uncomfortable indication of our true colonial history (ie bumbling idiots with too much money kill the only help they get and are survived by the only member of their trip who is humble enough to follow guidance from local aboriginal tribe). i’m almost intrigued enough to go along. almost.

other points of goodness in the work are the obvious conceptual links between art and text, art and language, language and meaning, text and meaning. not to mention tom’s regular investigation into publication/archive/library/reading-as-political-action and the contemporary nature of artist-as-participant/audience-as-participant in performative works. i can’t even begin to digest all that stuff today, i’m glad that i was able to participate – it gave me a burst of food for thought and reminded me why i make the kind of work i do, and to follow the lead of artists like these guys.

image credits:
burke wills.net

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longevity and endurance

humanity's genetic history

This Saturday (14th November, 2009) i’m going to embark on my first endurance/durational art work. i’m a bit nervous and excited all at the same time. i’m nervous because i don’t know a whole lot about this kind of performance work. i know a few key artists who do this kind of work – mostly from sydney**, really – but apart from that, i’m kind of flying blind. heading into this realm has evolved from prior conceptual works i’ve done about listening in the city and i thought it would be worthwhile to try it and see.

i’m also nervous because it’s going to be 35ºC on Saturday and the Myer Christmas Parade will be marching straight past me. For those who aren’t in Melbourne, the MCP is a huge commercial venture that takes up a ridiculous amount of time, energy, space and noise in the centre of town, heralding all things Myer. And Santa. And kids. It’s prime fodder for The Small Paper and various limp broadcasters.

I’m nervous because, even on a regular day, i’m exhausted after attending to the sounds of the city by not drowning them out, or sublimating them. Add to that extra heat, time and sound and i’m expecting to be brain-dead by 9pm.

However, i’m excited because the outcome, for me, is still largely unknown. It’s an area that i’m looking forward to venturing into and i’m looking forward to being part of the anode festival in the crazy way that I am. This work also provides some opportunities for me to discover ways to present conceptual and time-based work without video* and to continue investigating ways that i can convey what i’m interested in to others. It’s the first work i’ll have made post-post-grad, so the pressure to document the bejesus out of it has, thankfully, been reduced.

I’m also excited because it feels like the need for work that takes time, that isn’t quite so 2.0, is returning and that process, as opposed to ‘taddah!’ outcome needs to be nutured again.

And perhaps there’s also something personal about the relationship between pain and art, politics and suffering that is attractive or curious to me at the moment. It feels ernest (although i’ll have that with a pinch of salt, please). Perhaps this is how marathon runners, or 24-hour cyclists feel before their race.

I wonder why we feel the need to do pursue these things in this way? What is the attraction of stamina when it comes to our pursuits? Is it a basic need to overcome? Or something more symptomatic than that?

Anyway, if you’re around, i’ll be on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Sts, Melbourne between 1pm and 9pm. Come and hang out with me. Listen with me if you want – i’ll have a ‘guest’ notebook you can record into – and of course I’ll be twittering, probably doing a blog on the day and uploading pics once an hour (on my toilet break). Stay tuned.

** Mike Parr, Todd McMillan, Marley Dawson and Kate Mitchell have all done endurance works that i really admire. And of course Marina Abramovic who is not from Sydney, but is a big influence.
*although i’m still umming and ah-ing about that.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx