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preparing for torture

in a few hours' time, i will start a new work that uses CIA interrogation techniques to experience what it's like to 'listen' under duress and as a way to interrogate my own listening practice.

the work is influenced by a work of mike parr's i saw years ago and i'm grateful to have recently been able to pore over the documentation from that performance, including his letters to the gallery director nick tsoutas (from artspace).

the letter gave me an indication of the process behind his performance and the level of preparation. i feel like i haven't prepared nearly enough - i don't quite know how to prepare for this, as it's the first time i've pushed myself to this level before. i've done 8-hour performances before, but not to this level of imprisonment (i'm in a booth, shackled, naked and strapped.

i've tried to follow a little of what i read about mike parr's process and hopefully i'll be able to have an outcome half as beautiful and powerful as his.



after 4 weeks and 3 days living in a warehouse art space in hackney wick, this thursday and friday we'll be throwing the doors open and showing our final work.

there isn't time and space to show everything in the gallery that i have made or learned during this residency (which is why i'll have to update the blog some more soon), but hopefully it will give you all an idea of the research done and and the direction of works heading into the future.

thursday 30th august 4pm - 10pm

Karolina Kubik
Noemi Lakmaier
Season Butler
Sergio Racanati
Jess Rose
Marta Frank & Ania Jochymek
Ian Whitford
Lauren Brown
Sergio Racanati
Alicia Radage & Sebastian Hau-Walker
Barnaby Lambert
Noemi Lakmaier
Arianna Ferrari
Alicia Radage
Marta Frank
Season Butler
Noemi Lakmaier
Barnaby Lambert
Jess Rose
Sergio Racanati

friday 31st august open studio: documentation and performances

Jess Rose
Marta Frank
Season Butler
Ania Jochymek

Come on down and check it out, say hello, propose. whatever takes your fancy.
My work is a durational piece that will be on all night and there'll be loads of other amazingness in store.


notting hill carnival

damn i love this party. whenever i'm in london, i try to be there. not only do i love the music, mostly love the vibe, but i get to disappear for a couple of days.

this will sound incredibly pompous, but in my day-to-day life, i get noticed. i have funny hair, tattoos and i have a swagger in my walk. strangers always have something to say to me. it's cool, it's kind of how i roll.

but during notting hill carnival, i'm completely invisible. i blend into the background as just another white face in the crowd. we all look the same in a sea of gorgeous african and afro-carribean men and women.

it's exciting and confronting to have my culture and skin colour toned down into ambient background noise, overshadowed by an amazingly strong and fabulous one - something that i wish was way more prevelant. i get a bit bored with white privilege - either privileged majority (in western cultures) or privilege minority (still in a lot of non-western cultures).

plus i get to dance for two days straight! that is amazing..


high volume: HIV women girls health AIDS african people new response

Bertil Lindblad, Director, UNAIDS New York Office
56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women

New York, USA
5 March 2012

 Michel SidibĂ©, Executive Director of UNAIDS
 26th Summit of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee

 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
 28 January 2012 


Give Me Something To Listen To (Hackney) Part I and II

Last week I planned a small, in-house version of Give Me Something To Listen To at ]performance space[ to try out a brand new, red booth i'm rocking at the Hackney Wick festival this weekend.

As I climbed into the booth at the entrance of the space, i spied a gate in the canal wall that surrounds the industrial estate and fantasised about doing a version there. It was a perfect spot and would have passing traffic as people walked and rode along the canal.

As I thought about it, one of the performance space studio artists - Marco Beradi - suggested we take the booth down there. Yes!

So we installed the new shiny red booth, balancing on a ledge, facing the canal path and a whole new performance took off.

It was fabulous!

"Hello!" I said about a thousand times.
Loads of people smiled or laughed.

Sometimes I scared a few peeps, or had to say a bit of an Alice In Wonderland-style "up here!" as people looked confoundedly around to an empty canal (because i was up slightly higher than regular eye height). They were happily relieved that it was just a slightly odd woman in a bright red booth.

It was a bit like fishing - casting out my headphone cable, hoping to grab a listening device on the way past. Perhaps I just thought of that analogy because I was overlooking the waterway.

There was so much smiling, so much good will. I could count on just one hand the grumpy, grouchy, hunchy types. Everyone else was a bit in love with the idea.

Even when people didn't stop and give me something to listen to, they wanted to: "oh, I'm sorry, but i would if i did", and some great chats about what I was doing and why.

And then there were the 20-odd people who stopped and did give me something to listen to. A really great mix of music - nothing shit and always an interesting, or enlightening conversation afterwards.

I'll post the playlist on site in the next few days, but here's a pic of the notes i made on the inside of the booth.

I'm taking the booth into a festival environment this weekend - the Hackney Wicked Weekend at Shoreditch.
If you're in the hood, come on down!




i'm writing this blog having bowed out almost halfway through a 5-hour performance organised with boni cairncross at alaska projects. that's a performance quit and a fail within 3 days*.

this morning i had already fucked up the beginning (thanks to my 5:30am alarm not going off) and after 90 minutes of skype connection/internet awfulness, i pulled my end of it.

within half a second of the last skype drop-out, i realised a few things that prompted me to pull the plug:

- i was not actually performing to anyone - thanks to the live connect to sydney dropping out, and the rest of my fellow residents at performance space still trying asleep and hating me.

- the sound of my own voice over and over again (without an audience) is the complete antithesis of my work. i needed boni or others to make this perfomance worthwhile for me - i believe that a speaker needs a listener, and a listener needs a speaker.

- the tech wasn't ever going to work and the performance was supposed to be about the endurance of speaking and listening, rather than the endurance of tech.

- it just wasn't right.

i texted boni:

"i'm going to have to log a DNF. the tech is not happening and the listening isn't either. go forth and i'll see you at the end"

i had quit.

"it'll be alright on the night"

today's performance was something we'd been planning for months, actually. we had talked about the score, discussed what we'd wear, done a tech run two days earlier that ran really nicely and i set up everything perfectly last night before i went to bed.

after a terrible night's sleep and waking up too early, i woke up properly to a phone call from boni, 30 minutes after our start time. 45 minutes after i was supposed to first call in. FUCK.

i got dressed very quickly, sans underwear, basic make-up, deodorant, that's it.

i connected everything quickly (thanks to said preparation), but the sound from sydney was awful. i couldn't hear boni at all and i just had to start somewhere in the middle of a 15-page score.

we were out of sync, but i just read and read, recording and struggling with trying to just ignore the drop-outs and barely hearing boni.

when skype flaked out again and again, i just played the recording in the space. my PA system was popping loudly - scaring the shit out of residents here in performance space. when skype connected again, i kept reading. i don't think i was actually live for all that long. i don't know. but it was awful. all of it.

and it was awful with the only "audience" being two pissed off artists who had been woken up and frightened. and a stack of other people trying desperately to not hear me so that they could sleep until a reasonable hour on sunday morning (it was 7am BST). i couldn't even redeem the performance by having it be witnessed.

we called a 5-minute interval at 8 so that we could start again and synchronise. skype and/or the internet failed again. it was after that i decided to quit.

like a marathon runner who quits after 10 miles. like sally robbins.

so what do you do when it's not alright on the night?
when, despite the best preparation, it fucks up completely and you make a godawful mess of it? when even the salvage is not really worth salvaging? how much do you suffer needlessly?

when do you quit? if you're an australian, you never quit. marina abramovic never quits.
perhaps this means i don't have what it takes to make great work. i'm not willing to suffer enough.

must live art be experienced live?

this question is part of the ongoing investigation that boni and i have been part of. it's also something that, due to programs like Skype and the proliferation of documentation, is a question that is crucial to live arts practice.

unlike boni, i had no audience when my tech failed. i had a room full of sleeping bodies and two artists sitting outside trying to not listen: no one to experience the work, to witness the struggle, to find meaning in the expression of sound and words. and in fact, i was too conscious of the lack. of their turned backs.

perhaps i didn't think far enough outside the box.

perhaps the idea of an antagonistic audience could have been enough to sustain the work.
but at the time, in the moment, it wasn't. and the place of 'live-ness' - witness, became more important to my performance practice than i thought.

either way, it has been another difficult opportunity for me to learn more about performing. i don't like not winning, even when i know that it's good for me.

and i do wish that i had been able to support boni in her marathon, in her quest to investigate relay and liveness. perhaps i still have.

*i did a work the other night that failed because it was naff. very naff. i'll write about failure soon.


you know you're in the right place when people hate you

alicia radage, one of the residents here, has been making work about landscape, soil, action, place, space, etc.

whilst reading middlemarch in bed last night, i was half-thinking about belonging and 'introduced species'. i realised that a weed (and its animal equivalent of infestation) is something that has no natural predators and therefore free to spread like wildfire, taking over the whole of the countryside.
it doesn't belong.

which means that the mark of 'belonging', of being in exactly the right environment, is that, as well as fertile soil, you have enemies: people who will eat you alive, keep your vastly spreading ego in check.

bring it on, bitchez. i have arrived.


works in progress

I came to performance space to make two new works and to continue an existing work. i came to push myself a little - be a bit braver, hurt myself a little more, challenge my process.

after being challenged a few times in the last few days, i'm feeling a bit unsure about it all. but i'm still just taking steps forward and making inroads each time i do it.

it seems i have three new works, plus Give Me Something To Listen To and now feels like the right time to talk about them. especially when i feel a bit bruised.

Give Me Something To Listen To (Festival)

OK, so you all know about this work by now.

It has a shiny new booth i've made whilst i've been here and I'm going to take it out into the festival environment.

sitting with artists/arts-friendly peeps in a gallery, talking about music and why what i do might be art is pretty easy. But this work needs to be in a variety of spaces and situations, so it's time to take it to the streets. A festival is so joyous and open and usually has a great link to music (and booths), so GMSTLT is going to join the Hackney Wicked festival in Shoreditch on the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August. I've also asked Notting Hill Carnival if I might join their fun on the same weekend (although I'll go on the Monday), so fingers' crossed I might have some fun there too.

it won't be as intense or physically intimate as the gallery style, but i'm hoping that the sentiment of sharing music and talking about it with strangers will still resonate.

artists i'm looking at: adrian piper, pvi collective, reckless sleepers.

Action of Making Ways (working title)

last week Huw Hallam, a musicologist, started an interesting conversation on his facebook wall about his difficulty finding ways to describe hearing things that weren't "visually oriented metaphores".

i joined in the task of coming up with words and enjoyed the group exercise so much that i decided to bring it into the space and make something of it. I didn't really know what it was going to achieve, if anything, but i think it has become a work. almost.

likely more dance/choreography than anything else, but there's something there.

i initially invited season butler to help with this work, as she is a writer as well as a performance artist and has an amazing command of the english language. she also understands the structure of writing and developing text (which i do not), so it was great to have her around to flesh words out.

it started with lists of ways of hearing, just like on the facebook page. although it involving all the residents in the discussion about language and the lists were hand written on a painted black board (a lot like the sound walls i've made before).

i enjoyed that process and quickly wished to extend it: season suggested neologisms, to create new words. excellent. so on another side of black box, a second list was developed - in conjunction with the writers on site. this time: practical tools for dealing with verbs (prefixes and suffixes) and a list of vessels. the vessels have partly come from the descriptions i made of what kind of listening i was talking about - reception and recepticals, partly influenced by a reading by gregory whitehead that arianna ferrari shared during the week.

now, with these means, tools and ways of hearing, i'm making a work about the action of new hearing - literally grouping the words from the object, extending them out into physical space and creating new actions for these words.

some of the actions i'll be pushing into quasi-dance include the aslan sign for hearing (which ends up in the action of gathering our existing words), my own peculiar ways of gesticulating whislt talking about ways of hearing (gathering and internal-types of gestures), and some that i'll likely workshop with arianna from now on.

arianna is a great artist to be speaking about these with, as she uses action to hear all the time in her work. it has been suggested that this work is the same old shit i've always done, which it might be, but it still interests me, so i'll just have to subject you all to it and see what you think.

artists i'm looking at: andrea fraser, pena bausch, paea leach and reckless sleepers. i could do with some more suggestions, actually

Sensory Overload 

this was the first work i wanted to bring to the space. i noted during the performance space symposium that most of the work about pain, body, illness, torture, etc, was focused on physical distress.

during my listening works, i usually finish them oversensitized and overloaded. i decided that i'd like to make work about sensory distress - to overpower myself with sound.

since then, i've seen this great video about prisoners' auditory torture and have decided to re-enact that enforced listening. the idea that headphones are strapped on really intrigued me, and then of course the insidiousness of the army and CIA's use of sound as a weapon and tool for abusing people's basic human rights.

i'm still developing the work, but at the moment, i'll be 'incarcerated' and have the same sounds plugged into my system as those guantanemo prisoners. i'm also trying to set up a catch-22 situation, influenced by mike parr's works, in which the audience can participate and stop one pain but only by inflicting another.

this one will be performed live at the end of the residency, whilst the others will be either enacted or recorded for display.

artists i'm looking at: mike parr, stellarc (interesting the australian influence on torture), tracey emin, lennie lee, deborah kelly. 

This cup is the new promise made of my blood 

i'm not sure how this performance is going to look now.

my initial idea was about appropriating blood-based performance art from the 80s as a reaction to HIV, as a way of reacting against the plight of HIV in african women being a very quiet issue on the artist front.

the motivation to make the work about this issue, though, has shifted from a desire to say 'fuck you' to the art world avoiders and more to say 'i hear you' to african women and and 'why is this still an issue?' the rest of the world (as well as a bit of an 'ahem. excuse me' to the art world).

but, i've been in contact with a couple of people who are working medically with treatment and prevention of the disease, with a focus on african woman (native and those part of the diaspora) and it might become a different work that focuses on the action of treatment and the duration of clinical trial.

i did a test performance in the space the other day, one in which i was naked and subjected myself to a slightly awkward action as a way to test the idea. i don't know whether it works as an action or not, but it was interesting to push myself in that way.

i realise that i'm not really telling you anything about that work at the moment, but i will. i promise. i'm just being coy.

artists i'm looking at: carolee schneeman, robert mappelthorpe, general idea, judy chicago, valie export, alfredo jaar, mike kelley, shigeko kubota, lerato shadi. (although i also want to look at artists who perform intimate every day actions over a long period of time like morgan spurlock, vito acconci, rebecca breitmore).

fireworks, baby


systems and depravity: sarah sze, the white room, grayson perry and candice tripp.

i've been quite ingrained in the residency - not really leaving the 'compound' of hackney wick much. but i have tried to at least check out a couple of exhibitions every couple of days - get out of my head a bit.

systems: sarah sze and crystal world

i'm a sucker for a moving system in artwork. 

hany armanious' worm castings piece bubble jet earth work was the first time i discovered the beauty of watching organic and mechanic process come together in an art gallery.

of course fischli and weiss' der lauf der dinge is a seminal systemic work that is beautiful and progressive and subtly performative that has become my desert island piece for this kind art.

i recently loved pip stafford's crystal work - all my world is a scaffold in hatched at PICA. i thought i wrote about it here, but it turns out i was too busy getting busy in perth to bother actually blogging about it.

and in the last week or so, i've seen two more works that really tickled my fancy, making me think that there's some of spooky connect happening at the moment:

crystal world at [space] in the white building. it's across the road from performance space, so i could literally pop in and check it out, watching it grow and change. 

based on JG Ballard's novel of the same name, it is an exhibition that is the result of an open lab reconfiguring old circuit boards and apple power macs. using rock ores, water pumps and baths, acid solutions, high voltage and electrolysis, the work is developing new forms and chemical muckery. there is a section using the live culture from natural yoghurt (to do what, i'm not sure yet) and mimesis of neuroscientific circuits using natural and commercial electronic elements.

it's quite intriguing to watch and i always like work that has me looking and analysing the way of things in a beautiful way.

sarah sze is someone who does this super well. i've always liked her work and i was quite excited to see her show at victoria miro - especially as i usually only see painting in that gallery. she took over the whole of the ground and first floor galleries with a series of systemic installations.

the ground floor contained about 5 smaller works - from simple linear extensions, to complex and tenuous balancing pieces, some with movement, most with light. they are so exquisite and beautiful.

the whole gallery upstairs is darkened to host a large-scale work in the round that reminded me of a solar system, but also of the camp map of burning man (and image that went around a while ago). a pendulum swings around and across the installation, tracking form, light, connection and space. as well as her sticks and clips and string and paper - there are replicas of contemporary and natural objects, which is something that i noticed (wondering why she didn't use a real show and/or mice).

you could get lost in following each overlapping track and path that the works make.

depravity: grayson perry and candice tripp

grayson perry is famous here.

i only know that because when i walked into the gallery to see the sarah sze show, it was crowded - full of old women and couples checking out the show. not that sze isn't entitled to that kind of crowd, but it's not what i usually see when i go to a show at that gallery. turns out grayson perry is on the telly and now draws massive crowds.

which is great. he has some important things to say about class  - a particularly white english thing that still really exists. and his tapestries in this show are quite amazing. based on rake's progress, vanity of small differences documents the social mobility of contemporary life - made possible through the technological revolution (following on from the last movement made possible by the industrial revolution). it follows tim rakewell, a kid raised by a single mum and his grandmother, who marries into more money, makes it big as a geek, becomes a classic middle class smartypants, rich nouveau riche twat then ends up in the gutter. grayson's style is garish and graphic, perfect for tapestry and ceramic vases. he uses symbols, codes and behaviours of contemporary life, so the works are easy to 'read'.

whilst he doesn't go into intense depravity, he scratches at the facile and unpalatable pursuit of 'progress' and our vapid desires. the courseness of human motivation and relationships vibrates in all those pinks, yellows, bright blues and clashed combinations of colour. they're quite fabulous.

as a compliment, candice tripp's painting show at black rat projects is a stark and dark exhibition of humanity's fight for survival with similarly depraved means. actually, both shows reveal humans' mean-ness and shallowness.

children, masked in animals and tribal symbols appear to 'play', yet leave each other ostracised, dying, diseased, scarred and discarded. the competition and territorial nature of humanity, especially faced with scarcity comes through.

and maybe because i'm doing a bit of research towards HIV in southern africa, but the dynamics between the young girls in these works and the creepy beautiful titles reminded me of the social messages coming out around the disease: promiscuity, judgement, privilege and ignorance.

all of these shows had a nice balance between the way of things and the way of being. i like it when that happens.


from black to red


performance space residency

this is unlike any residency i've been on before.

it's part creative lab, part school and/or refugee camp and wacky party time.

i've been here just under a week and i feel like i've finally settled into some kind of routine. which is kind of difficult when you are sharing a room with at least 10 other people, in facilities that aren't really residential.

it's also a bit of a compound. because i've got access to social, food and artistic inspiration and influence all in the one place, i've hardly left the 'wick. which is hilarious, given how close i am to loads of amazing work.

the group dynamics have actually been OK. and the focus on group cooking, cleaning and archaic showering rituals is an unexpected challenge that is making the time a very interesting one.

last night we had a cracker of a party, playing with costume and dancing and cabaret - partly to help develop costume for another artists' work, but also to just have a good time. it's amazing what you can do with a shithot pair of vivienne westwood heels and some facepaint.

i've also got lots of works that i'd like to work on: some new, some existing, so i've been a bit manic. flitting from one to the other, some research, some practical bits'n'pieces, some frustrating roadblocks and yet loads of interesting conversations.

from 8pm (BST), i'll be one of the first peeps to lead a 12-hour research, reading, ritual  - a regular feature of the residency (and a whole lot like the how to do things with words event that leigh robb and i run yearly). we'll be using an online documentation format, so if anyone wants to tune in: or #rrresearch tag on twitter.


low visibility workwear

this kind of hi-visibility workwear is popular in the high-litigation contemporary workplace - half of Perth was covered in it.

but i'm interested in developing a uniform for a listener. 
what might be low-visibility workwear?


sesame street

some of the research into some new work related to sensory overload has actually lead me back to sesame street.

here are some beautiful videos from their youtube channel. this is what the internet is for - able to be nostalgic and also pass on these great learning/singing/watching tools for the kids.