Allanah Stewart is an artist from Aotearoa/New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as her work in various experimental music projects, she is the presenter of a monthly podcast radio programme called Enquiring Minds, hosted by Noods radio, which explores old and new, lesser known and well known sounds that loosely fit under the banner of experimental music.
Jen Callaway is a Melbourne musician, sound and performance artist, photographer, and community services worker raised in various parts of Tasmania. Current projects include bands Is There a Hotline?, Propolis, Snacks and Hi God People; and upcoming film Here at the End, by Campbell Walker, as actor/co-writer.
Isha Ram Das is a composer and sound artist primarily concerned with ecologies of environment and culture. He works with experimental sound techniques to produce performances, installations and recordings. He was the 2019 recipient of the Lionel Gell Award for Composition, and has scored feature-length films and nationally-touring theatre installations. He has performed at institutions such as the Sydney Opera House; Black Dot Gallery, Melbourne; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Metro Arts, Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and Boxcopy, Brisbane.
Dylan Robinson is a xwélméxw (Stó:lō) writer, artist, scholar and curator, He is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, and associate professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is author of Hungry Listening, Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies, published by University of Minnesota Press.
Megan Cope is a Quandamooka woman (North Stradbroke Island) in South East Queensland. Her site-specific sculptural installations, video work and paintings investigate issues relating to identity, the environment and mapping practices. Cope’s work often resists prescribed notions of Aboriginality and becomes psychogeographies across various material outcomes that challenge the grand narrative of ‘Australia’ as well as our sense of time and ownership in a settler colonial state.
Australian musician Sean Baxter died on 15 March 2020. Part of Melbourne's improv scene, he is described by musician Anthony Pateras as possessing “a unique aesthetic vision and intellectual depth, mixing highbrow philosophical concepts with punk sensibilities in how he lived, spoke and played. He was pure energy.”
Drumkit and percussionist, Sean was an Australian improviser who forged an international reputation as a bold explorer of percussive possibilities both as a soloist and through his work with the acclaimed avant-garde trio, Pateras/Baxter/Brown. Focusing on the use of extended techniques applied to the conventional drum kit, he utilised an arsenal of metallic junk and other percussive detritus to expand the sonic palette of the percussion tradition. In addition to Pateras/Baxter/Brown, he was involved in many collaborations and was drummer for groups The Throwaways, Bucketrider, Lazy, SxSxSx and Terminal Hz.
Thomas Ragnar is an artist based in Singapore. His work is often underpinned by collaborations, affinities and research with experiential methodologies.
Alessandro Bosetti is an Italian composer, performer and sound artist, currently based in Marseille. His work delves into the musicality of spoken language, utilising misunderstandings, translations and interviews as compositional tools. His works for voice and electronics blur the line between electro-acoustic composition, aural writing and performance.
Lin Chi-Wei is a legend of Taiwanese sonic art, whose practice incorporates folklore culture, noise, ritual, and audience participation.
Mat Dryhurst is an artist who releases music and artworks solo and in conjunction with Holly Herndon and the record label PAN. Dryhurst developed the decentralised publishing framework Saga, which enables creators to claim ownership of each space in which their work appears online, and a number of audio plays that derive their narrative from the personal information of listeners. He lectures on issues of music, technology, and ideology at NYU, and advises the blockchain-based platform co-operative Resonate.is.
Sean Dockray is an artist, writer, and programmer living in Melbourne whose work explores the politics of technology, with a particular emphasis on artificial intelligences and the algorithmic web. He is also the founding director of the Los Angeles non-profit Telic Arts Exchange, and initiator of knowledge-sharing platforms, The Public School and Aaaaarg.
Author of Hearing the Cloud (Zero Books), Emile Frankel is a writer and composer researching the changing conditions of online listening. In his spare time he runs the Sci-Fi and critical fantasy publisher Formling.
Bridget Chappell is a raver and theory bro currently living on the unceded nations of the Latji Latji and Nyeri Nyeri people. They make music as Hextape and organise parties in drains, observatories, and other natural amphitheatres. They founded and run Sound School, work with young musicians behind bars, and make experimental sound technologies to challenge police sirens.
Holly Herndon experiments at the outer reaches of dance music and pop. Born in Tennessee, Herndon spent her formative years in Berlin’s techno scene and repatriated to San Francisco, where she completed her PhD at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Her albums include Platform (2015) and Proto (2019).
Candice Hopkins is a curator, writer and researcher interested in history, art and indigeneity, and their intersections. Originally from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Hopkins is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation. She was senior curator for the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art, and worked on the curatorial teams for the Canadian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, and documenta 14.
Raven Chacon is a composer, performer and artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. His work ranges from chamber music to experimental noise, to large scale installations, produced solo and with the Indigenous art collective Postcommodity. At California Institute of the Arts, Chacon studied with James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Michael Pisaro and Wadada Leo Smith developing a compositional language steeped in both the modernist avant-garde and Indigenous cosmologies and subjectivities. He has written for ensembles, musicians and non-musicians, and for social and educational situations, and toured the world as a noise artist.
Lisa Lerkenfeldt is a multi-disciplinary artist working in sound, gesture and performance. Central to her practice is languages of improvisation and intimacy with technology. Traces of a personal discipline and form of graphic notation are introduced in the online exhibition 14 Gestures. The associated recorded work Collagen (Shelter Press, 2020) disrupts the role of the common hair comb through gesture and sound.
Haroon Mirza is an artist who intertwines his practice with the role of composer. Mirza considers electricity his main medium and creates atmospheric environments through the linking together of light, sound, music, videos and elements of architecture. Regularly showing internationally in group and solo exhibitions, Mirza’s work has also been included in the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, China (2012) and the 54th Venice Biennale, Italy (2011), where he was awarded the Silver Lion.
Shanghai native 33EMYBW (Wu Shanmin) has been an active member in the Chinese music scene for over a decade. She has also performed at CTM and Sinotronics in Germany, China Drifting Festival in Switzerland, and SXSW. Her 2018 album Golem, released on SVBKVLT, was met with critical acclaim and voted one of the best electronic albums of 2018 by Bandcamp. In 2019 she released DONG2 EP under Merrie Records Beijing, and will premiere her sophomore album Arthropods (SVBKVLT) at Unsound 2019.
Alexander Garsden is a Melbourne-based composer, guitarist and electroacoustic musician, working across multiple exploratory musical disciplines. Recent work includes commissions from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Speak Percussion, Michael Kieran Harvey and Eugene Ughetti; alongside performances with artists including Tetuzi Akiyama (Japan), Oren Ambarchi, Radu Malfatti (Austria), Julia Reidy, David Stackenäs (Sweden), and with Erkki Veltheim and Rohan Drape. From 2014 to 2019 Garsden was Co-Director of the INLAND Concert Series. He has taught through RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.
Annika Kristensen is Senior Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.
Arben Dzika is an artist whose practice involves working with various media including, but not limited to: sound, image, word, and performance. His work primarily seeks to reflect on, interrogate, and play with technologies, systems, and human senses. Within his practice, he works as a producer and DJ under the moniker, Dilae.
Audrey Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a regular contributor to Memo Review, co-editor the third issue of Dissect Journal, and has written for various publications including Art Monthly, Art + Australia and un Magazine. She co-founded Minority Report with Adam Hammad in 2018 and released one online issue that was available until the domain expired in 2019. Audrey sits on the FYTA (GR) Board of Advisors.
Autumn Royal is a poet, researcher, and educator based in Narrm/Melbourne. Autumn’s current research examines elegiac expression in contemporary poetry. Autumn is the interviews editor for Cordite Poetry Review, and author of the poetry collections She Woke & Rose (Cordite Books, 2016) and Liquidation (Incendium Radical Library, 2019).
Bianca Winataputri is a Melbourne-based independent curator and writer researching contemporary practice in Southeast Asia, and relationships between individuals and collectives in relation to history, globalisation, identity and community building. Currently working at Regional Arts Victoria, Bianca was previously Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGA. She holds a BA (University of Melbourne), and BA Honours from the ANU where she received the Janet Wilkie Prize for Art. In 2018 Bianca was selected for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s Curators’ Intensive.
Brian Hioe was one of the founding editors of New Bloom, an online magazine covering activism and youth politics in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, founded in 2014 in the wake of the Sunflower Movement. Hioe is a freelance writer on social movements and politics, as well as an occasional translator.
Chi Tran is a writer, editor, and an artist who makes poems that may be text, video, object, sound, or drawing. Chi is primarily interested in working with language as a means of coming-to-terms. Their work has been published by Incendium Radical Library Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry and Liminal Magazine and exhibited at galleries including Firstdraft, Sydney; Punk Café, Melbourne; and ACCA, Melbourne. In 2019, as a recipient of The Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund, Chi spent three months in New York developing their practice with renowned poets including Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Fred Moten, and Jackie Wang.
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is a Hong Kong–Australian artist, living in Sydney. Working across music, performance and installation, Rainbow is interested in the copy and how the ways in which it can disrupt Western notions of ownership. Central to Rainbow's work is the circulation of knock-off objects, sounds and images in global media. Her work positions the counterfeit as a complex sign that shapes new myths, values and contemporary commodity production.
Dale Gorfinkel is a musician-artist whose stylefree improvisational approach informs his performances, instrument-building, and kinetic sound installations. Aiming to reflect an awareness of the dynamic nature of culture and the value of listening as a mode of knowing people and places, Dale is interested in bringing creative communities together and shifting perceived boundaries. Current projects include Prophets, Sounds Like Movement, and Music Yared as well as facilitating Art Day South, an inclusive arts studio with Arts Access Victoria.
Danni Zuvela is a curator and writer based in Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Her research is informed by interests in feminism, activism, ecology, language and performance. With Joel Stern, Danni has led Liquid Architecture as Artistic Director, and continues to develop curatorial projects for the organisation.
Eric Avery is a Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist. As part of his practice Eric plays the violin, dances and composes music. Working with his family’s custodial songs he seeks to revive and continue on an age old legacy – continuing the tradition of singing in his tribe – utilising his talents to combine and create an experience of his peoples culture.
Fjorn Butler is an artist, researcher, and event organiser. As an artist, she works primarily in sound and performance under the name Papaphilia. As a researcher, she interrogates how biological discourses are used in neoliberal/colonial governance structures to shape the political. Fjorn's research informs her writing on sound-poetics and the challenges this framework poses to anglophone notions of property. She is also co-director of Future Tense and co-curator of Writing and Concepts.
Freya Schack-Arnott is an Australian/Danish cellist who enjoys a multi-faceted career as a soloist and ensemble performer of classical and contemporary repertoire, curator and improviser within experimental music, electronics, popular and cross-disciplinary art forms. Schack-Arnott regularly performs with Australia's leading new music ensembles, including ELISION Ensemble (as core member) and Ensemble Offspring. Her curatorial roles include co-curator/founder of the regular 'Opus Now' music series and previous curator of the NOW Now festival and Rosenberg Museum.
Gooooose (Han Han) is an electronic music producer, visual artist and software developer based in Shanghai, China. His current releases include They (D Force, 2017), Dong 1 (D Force, 2018), Pro Rata (ANTE-RASA, 2019). Gooooose's 2019 SVBKVLT–released RUSTED SILICON received positive reviews from media including boomkat, Resident Advisor, Dusted Magazine, and The Wire. Gooooose has performed live at CTM (Berlin, 2018), Nyege Nyege (Kampala, 2019), Soft Centre (Sydney, 2019), Unsound (Kraków, 2019) and Recombinant (San Francisco, 2019).
Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues, Hollywood Forever, and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.
James Rushford is an Australian composer-performer who holds a doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts, and was a 2018 fellow at Academy Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. His work is drawn from a familiarity with specific concrète, improvised, avant-garde and collagist languages. Currently, his work deals with the aesthetic concept of musical shadow. James has been commissioned as a composer by ensembles including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Glasgow), and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and regularly performs in Australia and internationally.
Jessica Aszodi is an Australian-born, London-based vocalist who has premiered many new pieces, performed work that has lain dormant for centuries, and sung roles ranging from standard operatic repertoire to artistic collaborations. She has been a soloist with ensembles including ICE; the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras; and San Diego and Chicago Symphony Orchestras’ chamber series. Aszodi can be heard on numerous recordings and has sung in festivals around the world. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Queensland Conservatorium, an MFA from the University of California, and is co-director of the Resonant Bodies Festival (Australia), and artistic associate of BIFEM.
Kt Spit (Katie Collins) is an artist and musician based in Narrm (Melbourne). Lyrically and visually her work explores subcultural narratives and challenges dominant representations of loss, grief, and true love. In 2015 Kt independently released her debut album, Combluotion, and in 2019 will release a visual album entitled Kill the King.
The Convoy conjure illustrious soundscapes from the abyss of chaos, revealing hidden worlds of the imagination as the performance takes form and infuses with subjective experience. Using instruments of sound, light and smell, The Convoy enchant space with themes of tension, evolution, entropy and regeneration. Sensorial immersion transports audiences through highly dynamic environments that shift and blend into one single, breathing moment. As entity, rather than singular, Immy Chuah is a guest within The Convoy on unceded land.
I’m interested in what can be done with one’s identity and the space around it. Both my body and mind, touching everyday feelings between the rational, the playful and the political. Of course, this is often to do with my disability and my sexuality. My work has been focused on access, and the lack of it — to places, people’s minds and opportunities. I find plasticine is a great subverter of space and potentially of people’s minds. And the continued flexibility of it is something I am really enjoying — covering or filling up gaps and playing with crevices. But I’m finding that my work is drawing more and more to spoken word as a powerful format.
Sarah McCauley is a Melbourne-based music producer, editor and writer.
Neil Morris is a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung man. He is well known in Narrm/Birraranga for his musical project DRMNGNOW, a project built on subject matter tackling the colonial nature of the Australian construct and how that affects contemporary society upon this land. The work is unapologetic, clear, and deeply poetic. It hints toward Morris's extensive experience as a spoken word artist in Narrm since 2015. Morris's work is triumphant in the face of severe adversity often imbued in a quite fortified melancholy, a powerful marker of the survival of First Nations peoples in the now.
Natasha Tontey is an artist and graphic designer based in Yogyakarta. She is interested in exploring the concept of fiction as a method of speculative thinking. Through her artistic practice she investigates the idea of how fear, horror, and terror could be manifested in order to control the public and how fictional accounts of the history and myth surrounding ‘manufactured fear’ might operate as a method of speculative fiction that determines expectations for the future.
Mat Spisbah is a New Media curator with a unique portfolio of programming that seeks to integrate non-traditional artistic methods and emerging technologies. Having lived in Hong Kong for 14 years, he is connected to the region’s art and culture, and has created professional networks with artists, curators, galleries, promoters and industry professionals across Australasia. Portfolio highlights include the debut Australian performances of north Asian artists including: Howie Lee, Rui Ho, Meuko Meuko, Pan Daijing, Alex Zhang Hungtai, Tzusing, and Gabber Modus Operandi.
Mandy Nicholson is a Wurundjeri-willam (Wurundjeri-baluk patriline) artist and Traditional Custodian of Melbourne and surrounds. Mandy also has connections to the Dja Dja wurrung and Ngurai illam wurrung language groups of the Central/Eastern Kulin Nation. Mandy gained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Aboriginal Archaeology in 2011, worked for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages for six years and is now a PhD candidate studying how Aboriginal people connect to Country, Off Country.
Lucreccia Quintanilla is an artist, writer, DJ and PhD candidate researcher at Monash University. Her writing and art have been published and exhibited both within Australia and internationally. Quintanilla’s practice is a collaborative one that manifests into outcomes within galleries and also as events and performances outside of that context. She regularly speaks at panels and symposiums on themes within her research, has received grants for her projects and residencies, and has taught at university level.
Amanda Stewart is a poet, author, and vocal artist. She has created a diverse range of publications, performances, film and radio productions in Australia, Europe, Japan, and the USA, working in literature, new music, broadcasting, theatre, dance, and new media environments. Amanda collaborated with Chris Mann for many years in the Australian ensemble, Machine For Making Sense (with Jim Denley, Rik Rue, and Stevie Wishart), as well as in other contexts. Her poem ‘ta’ was written in honour of Chris Mann’s extraordinary vision and work.
Holly Childs is an artist and writer. Her research involves filtering stories of computation through frames of ecology, earth, memory, poetry, and light. She is the author of two books: No Limit (Hologram, Melbourne) and Danklands (Arcadia Missa, London), and she collaborates with Gediminas Žygus on ‘Hydrangea’. She is currently writing her third book, What Causes Flowers Not to Bloom?.
Ivy Alvarez’s poetry collections include The Everyday English Dictionary, Disturbance, and Mortal. Her latest is Diaspora: Volume L (Paloma Press, 2019). A Fellow of MacDowell Colony (US), and Hawthornden (UK), her work is widely published and anthologised (twice in Best Australian Poems), with poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she lived in Wales for almost a decade, before arriving in New Zealand in 2014.
Nick Ashwood is a guitarist, composer, improviser and performer from Nipaluna/Tasmania now residing in Sydney. His focuses have been exploring deep listening, harmonic space and the possibilities of the steel-string acoustic guitar by means of preparations, just intonation, objects and bowing.
Berlin-based composer-performer Johnny Chang engages in extended explorations surrounding the relationships of sound/listening and the in-between areas of improvisation, composition and performance. Johnny is part of the Wandelweiser composers collective and currently collaborates with: Catherine Lamb (Viola Torros project), Mike Majkowski (illogical harmonies), Phill Niblock, Samuel Dunscombe, Derek Shirley and others.
Megan Alice Clune shifts between musician, composer and artist. Primarily, her work explores both the concept and aesthetics of ambient music through sound installation, collaboration and performance. Megan is the founding member of the Alaska Orchestra, and has presented work and undertaken residencies across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, including the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (MA), Next Wave Festival, Underbelly Arts Festival, Performa 15 (NYC) and VividLIVE at the Sydney Opera House.
Andrew Fedorovitch is compos mentis. Andrew Fedorovitch embodies professionalism in every aspect of his life, including music.
Shota is an artist working in Australia. He makes sound-based works for varying contexts. He has had the opportunity to collaborate with a multitude of artists from varying disciplines. Shota is currently an honours student who is associated with the Plant ecophysiology and Ecosystem processes lab at the University of Sydney.
Sonya Holowell is a Dharawal woman, vocalist, composer and writer working across new and experimental genres. The contexts for her work, and the forms they take, are diverse and deeply questioning. Her practice comprises interdisciplinary collaboration, improvisation, multi-form writing and conceptual composition. She is also a workshop facilitator; a curator of the Now Now Festival; lecturer in experimental vocal practice; and a co-founder/editor of online arts publication ADSR Zine.
Alexandra Spence is an artist and musician living on Gadigal country in Sydney, Australia. She makes installations, compositions and performances based on (everyday) sound and listening. Through her practice she attempts to reimagine the intricate relationships between the listener, the object, and the surrounding environment as a kind of communion or conversation. She has a current, near-spiritual, obsession with the animation of material and object through sound. Alex has performed and presented work on radio, in concerts, festivals, symposiums and galleries worldwide, and has two releases: Waking, She Heard The Fluttering, with Room40, and Immaterial, with Longform Editions.
MP Hopkins is an artist based in Sydney, Australia, that is concerned with how to record voices that are not really there, and ways to make voices that are there not sound like voices. He makes audio recordings, performances, and texts.
Joel Stern is a curator, researcher, and artist living and working on Wurundjeri land in Melbourne, Australia. He has been Artistic Director of Liquid Architecture since 2013. In 2018, with critical legal scholar James Parker, Stern curated Eavesdropping, an expansive project addressing the ‘politics of listening’ through work by artists, researchers, writers, detainees and activists from Australia and around the world.
Georgia Hutchison is a cultural development practitioner and arts executive in Naarm/Melbourne, and Executive Director/CEO of Liquid Architecture. Her practice as an artist, educator, organiser and strategist crosses contemporary art, music, design and social justice.
Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) is a new and original voice in the evolving journey of Taonga Puoro. His debut album Whāia te Māramatanga (Rattle Records) is a deeply felt and highly concentrated conversation between the past and the present—a musical passage of identity and connection. Using modern loop technology and traditional Māori flutes and horns made from stone, bone, shell and wood, Thorne creates a transcendent aural experience that touches the soul with timeless beauty. Every performance of Whāia te Māramatanga is a stunning and very personal exploration of the spiritual and healing qualities of an ancient practice.
Michiko Ogawa is a performer-composer specialising in the clarinet, born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She performs not only classical repertoire but also contemporary and experimental music, including free improvisation and film soundtrack work. In 2019 she was awarded a doctorate (DMA) from the University of California San Diego, with a dissertation focusing on the film music of Teiji Ito. She is in the beginning stages of writing a biography of Ito’s life.
Curious about the tender intersections between art, life and friendships, Emma Nixon is an emerging curator and writer. In 2018 she completed a Bachelor of Art History and Curating at Monash University and co-founded Cathedral Cabinet ARI in the Nicholas Building. In Melbourne she has curated and written about exhibitions that investigate subjects such as abstraction, the domestic, care and collage within contemporary art.
Fayen d’Evie is an artist and writer, based in Muckleford, Australia. Her projects are often conversational and collaborative, and resist spectatorship by inviting audiences into sensorial readings of artworks. Fayen advocates the radical potential for blindness, arguing that blindness offers critical positions and methods attuned to sensory translations, ephemerality, the tangible and the intangible, concealment, uncertainty, the precarious, and the invisible. With artist Katie West, Fayen co-founded the Museum Incognita, which revisits neglected or obscured histories through scores that activate embodied readings. Fayen is also the founder of 3-ply, which investigates artist-led publishing as an experimental site for the creation, dispersal, translation, and archiving of texts.
Debris Facility Pty Ltd is a para-corporate entity who engages im/material contexts with the view to highlight and disrupt administrative forms and their embedded power relations. Deploying print, design, installation, and wearables as the most visible parts of operations, they also work in experimental pedagogy and perforated performance of labour. They are a white-settler parasite with theft and dispossession as the implicated ground from which they work. They currently hold contracts with Liquid Architecture, Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University and Debris Facility Pty Ltd.
Timmah Ball is a writer and urban researcher of Ballardong Noongar descent. She has written for The Griffith Review, Right Now, Meanjin, Overland, Westerly, Art Guide Australia, Assemble Papers, The Big Issue, The Lifted Brow, the Victorian Writer magazine and won the Westerly Patricia Hackett Prize for writing.
Jessie Scott is a practising video artist, writer, programmer and producer who works across the spectrum of screen culture in Melbourne. She is a founding member of audiovisual art collective Tape Projects, and co-directed and founded the inaugural Channels Video Art Festival in 2013.
Christopher L G Hill is an artist, poet, anarchist, collaborator, facilitator, lover, friend, DJ, performer, sound pervader, publisher of Endless Lonely Planet, co-label boss; Bunyip trax, traveller, homebody, dancer, considerate participator, dishwasher, writer, bencher, eater, exhibitor: Sydney, Physics Room, Westspace, TCB, BUS, Punk Cafe,100 Grand street, Lismore Regional Gallery, Good Press, Gambia Castle, Conical, GCAS, NGV, VCA, Mission Comics, Slopes, Art Beat, Papakura Gallery, Neon Parc, UQ Gallery, Tate Modern, Connors Connors, Glasgow International, Sandy Brown, OFLUXO, New Scenarios, Margaret Lawrence, Flake, Utopian Slumps, World Food Books, Sutton, Rearview, Joint Hassles, a basement, a tree, Innen publications, SAM, Chateau 2F, etc, and tweeter, twitcher, sleeper, Biennale director (‘Melbourne Artist initiated’ 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018-20), DJ, retired gallerist Y3K, conversationalist who represents them self and others, born Melbourne/Narrm 1980c.e, lives World.
Iliass Saoud was born in Halba, Lebanon in 1960 as the sixth of eight children of Wakim and Nadima Saoud. Escaping the Lebanese Civil War in 1977, Iliass migrated to Canada pursued a BA in Mathematics from Dalhouse University in 1982. In 1987 he married Janice Joseph (Fakhry) before settling in Australia to raise his family in 1997, owning a variety of small businesses including the Gaffney Street post office across from the Lincoln Mill’s Centre in Coburg from 2005-2011. Currently, Iliass works part time at a local newsagency and is an avid Bridge player and a dedicated grandfather of one.
Dimitri Troaditis works in the Greek-Australian media. As a poet he has been extensively published in Greece and in Australia in numerous literary journals, websites, blogs and anthologies. He has published six poetry collections and two social history books so far. He has organised poetry readings in Melbourne for years and translates others’ poetry. He runs poetry website To Koskino and was a resident of Coburg for 19 years.
Luisa Lana was born in Australia in 1953. Her mother Nannina had arrived in Australia in 1950 with a 3 month old son, and worked for many years on the sewing room floors and her father Angelo worked on the docks where he helped unionise the Italian workforce. Luisa and her brother were latchkey kids, as they looked after themselves in the morning and ran the ‘Continental’ deli in the evenings. Luisa attained a teaching degree, then a postgrad in Social Sciences, and twice studied Italian at The University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy. Luisa married Luigino Lana, a Venetian migrant who operated a mechanic business in Brunswick for over 30 years. She devoted her life to being an educator and a mother, teaching Italian to English speakers and English to generations of migrants from around the world. Currently Luisa is translating her father's memoirs from Italian to English, and enjoying being a Nonna.
Anabelle Lacroix is a French-Australian curator, writer and radio contributor. Working independently in Paris, she is based at Fondation Fiminco for a year-long residency focused on the politics of sleeplessness (2020). She has a broad practice, and a current interest in experimental practice, working with performance, sound, discourse and publishing. She is a PhD candidate at UNSW Art & Design.
Geoff Robinson is a Melbourne-based artist working on Wurundjeri country. Robinson creates event-based artworks that utilise the temporal qualities of sound and performance and the spatial conditions of physical sites to unravel the durational layers of place. Robinson has presented projects with Titanik, Turku; Bus Projects, Melbourne; Liquid Architecture, Melbourne; and MoKS, Mooste, Estonia. He was awarded the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014 and completed the PhD project Durational Situation at MADA, Monash University, Melbourne, 2018.
Mattin is a cross disciplinary artist working with noise, improvisation and dissonance. His work Social Dissonance was presented at documenta 14 in 2017 in Kassel and Athens.
Elena Biserna is a scholar and independent curator based in Marseille (France), working at the intersection of social, political and public spheres.
Tobi Maier is the director of Lisbon’s Municipal Galleries, and recently presented Mattin’s Expanding Concert (2019–2023) a four year long concert distributed in time and space through different media: 5 public interventions in 5 different galleries in Lisbon, and 5 texts published within the city.
Clare Milledge is an artist and academic, she lives and works between the lands of the Arakwal people in Bundjalung country (Broken Head, Northern NSW) and the lands of the Bidjigal and Gadigal people (Paddington, Sydney). She is a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design and is represented by STATION gallery.
Alexander Powers is a choreographer, performer and DJ from Naarm. In 2019 they premiered their first full length choreographic work Time Loop at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, receiving the Temperance Hall Award at the Fringe Awards. Under the moniker Female Wizard, they are known internationally for their forward-thinking DJ sets. They’ve performed at Golden Plains, Dark Mofo, Boiler Room, Hybrid Festival and Soft Centre and held a four year residency at Le Fag.
Zoe Scoglio’s (often collaborative) practice explores the space of art as a site of study and sociality to engage the radical imagination towards alternative ways of being, knowing and relating. Current research takes critical and collective somatic approaches towards response-ability in these times of ecological collapse, within settler colonial conditions. Past projects have taken place within varied contexts, on top of mountains and under full moons, as large collective choreographies and intimate encounters.
Tricky Walsh is a non-binary artist working in New Norfolk, Tasmania, who works both collaboratively and in a solo capacity. Their projects focus on both spatial and communication concerns in an increasingly speculative manner and while they use a diversity of media (architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, sound, film, comics, radio) it is foremost the concept at hand that determines which form of material experimentation occurs within these broader themes.
Kengné Téguia is a Black Deaf HIV+ cyborg artist, who works with sound deafinitely. #TheBLACKRevolutionwillbeDEAFinitelyLoud
Angela Goh is a dancer and choreographer. Her work poses possibilities for disruption and transformation inside the aesthetics and conditions of technocapitalism, planetarity, and the post-anthropocene. She lives and works in Sydney, and has toured her work across Australia, Europe, the UK, the USA and Asia. She received the 2020 Keir Choreographic Award and the inaugural Sydney Dance Company Beyond the Studio Fellowship 2020-21.
Jannah Quill’s deconstructive exploration of electronic instruments and technologies manifests in sound production and experimental audio-visual performance and installation. Cracked electronics wrangle with club beats; modified solar panels sonify pulsing frequencies of light. Central to Intervention Blue is the relationship of circadian rhythms and artificial screen light; it’s an experiment in re-syncing screen time with our biological rest patterns and mapping a global sonic signature of light and time.
Tom Smith is a Melbourne-based artist, musician and researcher whose work combines video assemblages, experimental performance, speculative fiction, electronic music, websites and critical writing. Tom’s work is concerned with the politics and poetics of computational systems, the contradictions of creative economies, generic digital aesthetics and music as a mode of critical inquiry. Tom is also one half of music production duo Utility, and runs an independent record label called Sumactrac with Jarred Beeler (DJ Plead) and Jon Watts.
Pris Roos grew up in Rhenen, the Netherlands. Her family migrated from Bogor, Indonesia, to start their own toko in the Netherlands. Toko is the Indonesian word for shop, and they sell non-Western food (products). Roos grew up in the toko, a space of being together, and full of colours, smells, food, stories and images of immigrants. The toko is a source of inspiration for her artistic practices. Stories that are normally not heard find their way in her works. Roos makes portraits of immigrants that she meets in the toko, on the streets or in her surroundings of the South of Rotterdam. She visits them at home or invites them to her atelier. The stories are translated into painted portraits, videos, installations and spoken word performances.
Winnie Dunn is a Tongan-Australian writer and arts worker from Mt Druitt. She is the general manager of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Sydney University. Winnie’s work has been published in the HuffPost Australia, The Saturday Paper, Griffith Review, Meanjin Quarterly, SBS Voices and Cordite. She is the editor of several anthologies including Sweatshop Women, The Big Black Thing and Bent Not Broken. Winnie is currently completing her debut novel as the recipient of a 2019 CAL Ignite Grant.
Jon Watts is a Melbourne/Naarm based musician, designer, 3D artist and animator. His music has been released through cult labels SUMAC and Butter Sessions, and he is currently Senior Multimedia Installer at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Jason De Santolo (Garrwa and Barunggam) is a researcher & creative producer based in the School of Design, University of Technology Sydney, Australia. He has worked with his own communities as an activist and advocate using film and performance, protest and education to bring attention to injustices and design solutions using Indigenous knowledge.
Kynan Tan is an artist interested in the relations and conditions of computational systems, with a focus on data, algorithm, networks, materiality, control, and affect. These areas are explored using computer-generated artworks that take the form of simulations, video, sound, 3d prints, text, code, and generative algorithms.
Snack Syndicate, two rats (Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange) living on unceded Wangal land; texts, objects, events, meals, and publics.
Spence Messih is an artist living and working on Gadigal land. Their practice speaks broadly to sites of pressure, power structures, materiality, and language, and more specifically about these things in relation to their own trans experience.
Tom Melick is the co-editor of Slug and part of the Rosa Press Collective and Stolon Press.
Trisha Low is a writer living in the East Bay. She is the author of The Compleat Purge (Kenning Editions, 2013) and Socialist Realism (Emily Books/Coffee House Press, 2019).
A selected excerpt of a book-long work of speculative fiction that situates a possible future in a world governed by corporations, and built game theory’s systems of labour and reward. The protagonist is undertaking a ‘treatment’ because of anti-social behaviour. The treatment called Equinox, enhances a desire-states for those suffering from consumer-exhausted anhedonia. Part augmented reality, it is grounded in the deconstructed world of dreams, pharmaceutical advertisement or even psychotropic trips.
Frost flurries drift from the dark branches of trees. Somewhere in the distance a muffled thud after a sharp crack in the air. A distant smell of smoke, further off, some tinged with sulphur.
There is snow beneath my feet (although I cannot see them, even when I look for them, all I see is the fleshy cylinders of my legs tapering into infinity, eventually disappearing into white. The white. It is encompassing, it coats the ground in thick crunching blankets; the air into impenetrable clouds which swallow the distant hills and in this low-lying fog which strokes the surface of the nearby river.
I breathe white. My thin plume is absorbed into the flowing mist, and I feel a little of myself dissipate within, to be replaced by the frosted air around me. I walk. It seems this is the thing I do mostly. It interests me for a second, that here, I am in a state of active loitering — as if it is my job merely to experience the landscape. It is a change from my daily routine of A-to-B-to-C-to-A.
I am free, within the boundaries of this world — to do as I please.
And so, I walk. More branches crack and thud around me. The snow is thick and getting thicker. I feel the cold both as a barrier and a penetrating force. Like an invading bubble whose surface tensions adhere and consume. Again, I feel the space between my particles, that wavering adhesive that attracts and repels is now torn by the wind. I feel myself flurry with the snow, and I am floating far above the white and the white and the white and into the blue far above.
From here the ice and snow branches across mountain ranges and rivers indiscriminately. It thickens on the peaks and in the valleys alike. It reconfigures the land in ways that I cannot read. The glaciers shift slowly towards their calving baths. They crack, like the branches — labouring with the weight of centuries, releasing time itself into the brine.
I watch them for some time before I feel a presence nearby.
Those same kinds of blurred flesh features dissolve into her face. Her smile. I feel like I know it better than I do.
What are you doing here? I ask, surprised.
I thought we should talk. She replies.
You needed to come here for a conversation?
You keep avoiding me. But some things are easier to discuss in an altered state.
I’m not avoiding you. I avoid everyone, don’t take it personally. Like what?
Pfft. There is no revolution. Don’t you wonder about that sometimes, about our apathy, or our complicity? I do.
Maybe we’re just fundamentally bad people.
Maybe we’re just largely ambivalent people making a choice to do nothing. The truth is that there is no great tragedy here. No great betrayal. It’s just people working for their own interests.
But isn’t that in itself a betrayal?
I think it’s just human nature. She says thoughtfully. We pause to watch a hunk of ice slip into the water before bobbing up again with a prolonged groan.
It’s not my nature.
Perhaps not, but that’s why you’re strapped to a chair debating with a voice in your head. This shouldn’t be happening, you know that? You’re not meant to be able to access a rational state here. It’s meant to be all sensations to help trigger that little dopamine deficiency. Get you back on the road to consumer recovery.
You’re kind of a smart-arse here.
I’m kind of a smart-arse everywhere. Is it helping?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s helping me.
Then perhaps it is your nature. Self-interest, what not. Perhaps this is just what your self-interest looks like. Kind of sad and lacking quality homewares.
You could go start your revolution you know, instead of trying to piss me off.
She moves her hand in the sky and a thin drawing appears, composed of electricity and stars. Random lines that seem familiar.
I enjoy pissing you off. What should piss you off more is how terrible your life is.
Do you have an alternative?
That’s for me to know and you to find out.
I roll my eyes.
Another hunk of ice falls. It makes no sound. I look at her, but she is slipping away, like time itself.
I wish I could remember.
She is not here any longer and I no longer have a reason to stay.
I am walking. Steps that stagger between volcanic vents and fissures. The smell of sulphur grows stronger, and the breath of the earth plumes far into the darkening sky.
I climb higher.
Each shadow-strapped step folding over the landscape in bruise streamers deepening to atmosphere. There are stars forming between each footprint. Each whoosh whoosh a dwarf imploding into light and then darkness. The afterimage fighting with the scene before me.
Coloured shadows moving in their own synchronised choreography, the umbra and penumbra falling away from each starsun.
Gases pink and green and red. An aurora hissing, wavering between my fingers when I reach out to touch it. Weaving magnetic ribbons. Cat’s cradle. I wonder for a second about who else is holding the strings. I wonder what will form when I let them go.
The room is slow in returning. Or perhaps I am slow to return. In either case the nurse is standing, writing something on a clipboard by the time I can make sense of my surrounds.
Winter takes longer. She tells me cryptically, although it could be the drugs.
It is night-time. My walk back from the train to my apartment building is subdued. The fluorescent lights flickering and humming in their way. I remember toying with magnetic fields and wonder that I cannot see these ones. Only concrete, cables and pipes.
A sorry substitute.
I’m not sure why, but I stop at the fourth floor. It is also quiet, but I suppose it is late. In that same place Waters sits at the bar, toying with a (half-full) half-empty glass. The bartender nods at me as I enter, and she looks up when I sit down next to her on a stool.
A drink? He asks me, cleaning a glass with a clean white towel.
I shake my head. Just water? I add, as an afterthought.
He nods and slides one over and I discover how thirsty I am.
Best line up another of those. She tells him and he obliges.
How are you? She asks me.
I made a tapestry from the aurora and listened to it sing to the stars. I tell her.
That’s quite a skill. She smiles.
I also bought new shoes. I add and show her one red-clad foot.
She laughs at that. Even more impressive.
I know right?
How are the side effects?
I pause. I don’t have any side effects.
You sure as hell do, I made sure of it. She smiles charmingly.
I glance around the bar briefly.
It’s ok. He has us covered. She nods at the bartender who smiles briefly before moving out of earshot.
What do you mean you made sure I did? I stop. The powder?
Well, not just the powder at any rate.
I’m not ever going to get a straight answer out of you, am I?
The problem with straight answers is that they can’t address the kind of questions you should be asking.
Where was I before this?
You were in the southern continents. I nod, taking it. Who was I before this?
She smiles. That’s a better question.
I’m not sure I can answer.
I sigh, reaching for the bench to stand up.
Not because I don’t want to. I’m not being intentionally obtuse.
You’re much more transparent in the Equinox.
She raises an eyebrow. I’m there??
Increasingly. I admit. I start to tell her in detail, but she stops me and quickly scrambles for her phone.
What is it? I ask her, slightly alarmed.
They record the sessions. They might see that in your files. Wait a second. She tells me distractedly and sends a message to someone.
She is frowning while she waits. Her phone buzzes and she reads the returning message quickly. Ok. She nods.
It’s sorted. She tells me, but that’s all she tells me.
How many of you are there?
Not many. A handful.
That’s your revolution? A handful?
You can demolish a wall with a single hammer. How many would you like us to be?
Enough to take down all the walls at once.
We have a handful.
That’s not enough.
You used to think it was.
This stops me. I look at her, but she bears it patiently. I give up eventually and leave the bar.
Something about the treatment denies me sleep. Perhaps they are restful, although I often find them exhausting afterwards. Perhaps it is that they are indeed awakening something in my memory, or rewiring pathways in the physiology of my brain, whichever is the cause, the effect is that I remain awake long past the hours that I should be.
This is new for me. I start wandering the hallways of the building, and even around the compound itself.
We are surprisingly lacking in security, although I did come across a pair at one stage sitting in a tiny cubicle, watching a relentless cable channel while drinking lurid hyper-caffeinated drinks. They are not bothered by me; my night-time antics are too benign to be considered threatening.
I walk the grounds. They are mostly dark.
There is no need to keep a landscape lit that is not used.
My shuffles through the soft powder leave dark pathways, not unlike those on the moon, although when the winds rise with the sun they will be gone. One evening I see a bat, or a bird. I’m not sure. Either is kind of surprising.
Another night I wander far from the compound and stand to look up at the stars. There are so many it almost hurts to be alone here with them. So vast. So close, and so out of reach. Again, I am remembering that winter treatment when they were at the edge of my touch.
It is a physical kind of pain, missing something, and feeling like you don’t belong any longer. Work has determined so much of my place in the world. I am struggling to define myself without it, struggling to concede to rest without the effort of labour.
And so, like in the treatments, I walk.
I’ve started chewing my nails. I’m not sure this warrants notice, but I catch myself doing it as I stare into the far distance. My building sits at the edge of the compound, sitting solidly against the relative emptiness beyond.
Even in the darkness I can see the flat horizon. The slightly lighter shade against the night. Something shifts in the distant darkness, but we have been conditioned not to fear nature, little there is left of it. Whatever it is comes no closer to me, but it takes my measure, out here in the late hours.
I am wavering lightly, and so I squat down into the dust. It has stained the bottom of my cuffs, coated them in a whitish powder. There is an old nail near my shoe, and I pick it up absently, tracing lines in the dust.
Random lines become a series of distracted cubes. It’s one of Belvedere’s subsidiary logos — the one for the arm that developed Equinox. Theirs is an impossible cube though, if I remember correctly, and brush off some of the lines of the cube in front of me. So many illusions.
It’s funny. We don’t really handle these kinds of basic tools anymore — pens, pencils, things that you can make or leave a mark with. The nurses and factory supervisors of course use digital versions, but that’s more to check the boxes of pre-filled suggestions. They even stopped leaving space for individual notes since our collective experiences reached a kind of predictable plateau. Or perhaps we started forming ourselves to the available options.
Even the Social Construction is mostly a series of checkable boxes. It helps them target their algorithms. You can pick as many as you like but they recommend a half dozen or less, otherwise the target is less focused. Like with my work-station music. I just ticked all the boxes and favourited nothing, so now the machine works keenly to intuit my preferences in vain. I almost feel sorry for it.
One of the only places that text proliferates is in the detention system, so it’s taken on a sort of base quality — to impose yourself on anything. To complain, or even state things, to leave your name somewhere. Once upon a time they had informed critical voices. These they silenced by turning up the volume on the peripheral voices of everyone else.
Everyone was allowed to express thoughts and opinions, finally freed from the constraints of fact. This was a peak period for the corporations, and they remember the time with some degree of nostalgia. They see it as a kind of equalisation. A moment in history where hyper personalisation truly came into its own. They even have a parade, once a year.
The amplification of the individual and the elevation of a personality-based hierarchy where everyone belongs to one group or another. It’s one of the patches on my sleeve.
The one with the selection of five coloured shapes.
That was an interesting time, because it apparently freed us from education and socio-economic inequities and allowed people the right to be content. It stated that some people were just not fit for some things. It allowed everyone to settle and it rewarded them for doing so. This was part of The Settlement.
And once everyone finally had a voice (not everyone got one, one of the fine print parts of The Settlement) they ran out of things to say. Or perhaps they were just saying the same things over and over. In any case the dialogue drip-dried and the corporation stepped in to keep a narrative repeating.
Good to see you having some quality thinking time. Boredom is good for the soul.
I drop the nail out of surprise. It makes a tiny puff sound.
She is sitting behind me on the dust.
You’re not really here, I comment, picking up the nail and turning it over thoughtfully in my fingers. Feeling its rusty coating.
Nah, I’m asleep inside. She agrees.
I guess this is probably an official hallucination then.
I guess so. What do you think we should do about that?
I don’t think I’m going to do anything about it. I reply thoughtfully and am rewarded with a smile.
I think that’s a great option.
I thought you might.
I was expecting autumn. I don’t know why.
We randomise the order. It’s more effective if it is less predictable.
She’s chatty today. Comparatively. I have to undertake a review before they will allow the treatments to continue. They have finally noticed my insomniac hours.
Are you experiencing any other symptoms?
The nurse eyes me silently for some seconds.
It makes me nervous about what they might have seen. Maybe Waters’ friend didn’t manage to erase the file. I breathe slowly and feel my heart rate return to normal while maintaining a blank expression. She seems convinced.
We have noticed an increase in your social and market activities. This is very promising. She tells me thoughtfully I have also noticed these new inclinations. I say agreeably.
The insomnia is troubling, however. We wonder if it might not be best to resume your work placements alongside treatment.
Whatever you think best.
Perhaps at a reduced level. We do understand that the process of treatment can be tiring. Say, we resume you on half days. Perhaps starting later in the day each day?
That sounds fine.
Good. Are you able to continue treatment today?
The darkest of blue skies with the fluffiest cumulus clouds drifting lazily. Cotton balls, trailing wisps and wefts behind them. Beneath that, a meadow full of flowers. Infinite colours moving side by side, opening to the sun and the air. A cloud of pollen floats above, as if the flowers are bleeding pigments.
So they’re going to put you back to work.
How do you know that?
She rolls her eyes. I’m not me, you know. I’m you.
I don’t know you well enough to put these words in your mouth.
You do actually, or you did. Perhaps this is just some sort of hyper-cognition. You’ve managed to bypass the erasure and tap directly into your long-term memories. You’re basically just constructing me from everything you can ever remember me saying.
Kind of like the scrambler. So theoretically, it is my voice. It’s just you are remembering it in an assemblage I haven’t personally constructed.
Is that even a thing?
Do I seriously look like I know the answer to that? Wait. Look over there, this is your favourite part.
Over past the meadow is a cultivated field, thick with green follicles waving in the gentle breeze. Each one opens in a flurry of petals, pinks, reds, whites, pale yellows. Their heads bending and following the path of a continually rising and setting sun. Like an audience applauding a show.
This is time passing again, with each rotation fewer colours remain, instead alighting in the wind, a column of petals drifting lazily over the shrinking foliage below. Fat green round heads slowly shrivel and collapse under their own weight. The sound of seeds shifting as loud as a sudden waterfall rushing. Pods exploding, sending tiny black seeds into the air around me.
The air is thick with seeds and petals and pollen and insects and I have never seen it like this, ever. Unless I have. She seems to think so. She is sitting on a rock, the mass of particulate circles around her but does not land. I can barely see her, but I can still hear her voice.
They modified the nature of them. Just a little at first. Just to see what would happen if they could embed a sense of purpose in the reward pathway. If they could construct a self-fulfilling pleasure response to productivity. It worked mostly, but it also started inhibiting the already established pathways. Sleep became problematic for some. Others simply stopped doing anything. Moving altogether. Boredom and lethargy became an overwhelming state. That was the start of the Yearning.
Is that what this is? A poppy dream?
Partially. The poppies grown now are only loosely related to their origins. This is a cocktail still being tested. They’re interested to see how you manage. Sort of like fighting fire with fire. You were already bored half to death and ignoring all the more subtle treatments for your discontent. You already had the Yearning; you just hadn’t figured out what you were yearning for.
I still haven’t.
No, it’s a shame.
The sunlight filtering through all this matter in the air is gentle. The air itself is gentle, warm without being overwhelming. There is a kindness to it, even as the air continues to fill with more and more pollen and spores and seeds. The earth opens up to swallow them, horribly receptive for a moment. Dark and luxurious.
I dig my fingers in and feel it, damp and wriggling with earthworms. It sticks together in a way I am not accustomed to, and I crumble it curiously for some moments, placing one particularly wriggling worm back into the soil, and placing the rest of the handful on top of it gently.
Where are we going now?
You’re coming with me?
Sure. Why not. It’s not like I’m doing anything.
So, they medicate us.
She rolls her eyes. Oh, come on. Of course, they medicate us. They medicate us with the food and the water and the bloody air and the algorithms and the work practices and the shit they want you to buy. And that’s not even including the obvious medications.
They don’t want you to actually feel anything.
Or, more accurately, they want to be able to predict what and how you will feel. That’s more useful. That and being able to soothe the savage beast inside.
I haven’t noticed many savage beasts.
You should come rock climbing with me.
I’d be terrible at it.
That’s kind of the point. Come on, I’ll show you.
We cross fields scattered with trees blooming bright yellow pollen clouds into the air, crickets and other insects jump out of the way as we bend the heavy grasses underfoot. Birdsong comes from everywhere, from the air itself but oddly, I don’t see any, only the shadow of one circling overhead as we near the cliffs.
She takes hold of an outcrop of rock and swings easily from handhold to handhold, as if they appear exactly where she thinks they should be, as if they grow to accommodate her leaping form.
COME ON she shouts, receding.
I try to follow her lead, but I forget the places she has touched, and struggle to find alternatives. I progress, but at a much slower pace. I make the mistake of glancing away from the wall out into the world early on and now can only study its detailed fractures and hollows for fear of falling.
Are you having fun yet? She calls down.
Not really. Can I die here?
I don’t hear her response, which is not much comfort, but I do eventually manage to drag myself over the edge and onto the top of the cliff near to where she is sitting casually staring out at the view.
I wasn’t sure, so I thought I shouldn’t guess.
I sit next to her and look out across the valley to the faraway mountains. They are growing blue in the setting sunlight. The air is cooling, a light wind picking up. The dust and petals and pollen far below blow in a thick stream out of sight beneath a copse of trees.
Where is it going?
She shrugs. Somewhere else.
Are there still places like this out there?
Like this? Probably not quite like this, but I’m fairly sure there are pockets left. We can’t grow everything underground.
What’s that? I point.
A mist has started growing in the meadows, it looks like the pollen but white, or transparent. It looks like water, like rain, but instead of falling to the ground, it is rising up into the sky from all of the plants and trees.
I guess that’s oxygen. She tells me.
Really? That’s what it looks like?
Kind of looks like life itself doesn’t it?
I nod. It does.
I feel like I’ve been asleep for a week. The nurse is staring at me with some concern.
They unhook me from various tubes and show me to the door, and the large male nurse takes me outside to the road car and gives them my address. The sun is up.
How long was I out? I ask him.
I couldn’t say. He replies and closes the door.
I am taken back to my living quarters. The hallways are empty.
When I get inside my breakfast is sitting on the table, and I sit automatically and start to eat. There is a chime and a message comes through on the screen near the table.
You are expected at work in one hour. It tells me. Scan your card at the station and you will be reassigned.
I sigh. I finish my breakfast and place the dishes in the compost slot, picking up a clean set of clothes on the way to the shower.
The elevator seems even larger alone. The train is even stranger. A moving capsule rocking gently for my benefit only.
The factory floor is busy. A few people nod, and there are a couple of glances. I have been reassigned to a different job. An easy one; cleaning scrap metal before it goes to the recycling. I have a new workmate, Van der Berg, who shows me how to work the sandblaster.
We have full face masks and built in earphones, the sound of sand on metal is explosively loud.
I stand behind a screen and aim the stream at the passing conveyor of metal, watching it strip the paint and oil and crud off and temporarily make it gleam under the factory lights before it disappears into the chute.
Van der Berg and I do this for four hours and then take our allocated break. I am not hungry, so I stay on the floor and sit in my chair waiting for work to start again.
This factory is part of the old building. It is made mostly of glass, heavily darkened out with carbon. The light filters in patches, one of them near my chair. It eventually crosses closer and I stretch a foot out to rest it in the golden puddle on the floor.
A soft plunk sound makes me open my eyes. There is a wet patch near my foot. I frown and squint up to the roof to see if there is a leak, and suddenly I notice another drop, then another, then half a dozen more.
Before I know it, it is raining inside the factory. Each drop striking something metal or glass and making tinks and plunks. I look around the factory floor but there is no one else around, no one to wonder with.
I lie back on my chair, each drop making cool spots on my face and body. In a few minutes, the floor is a foot deep in rain, the surface broken by a monsoon of drops, a continually shifting topography of volcanic looking crests and hollows. The sound is deafening, louder than the sandblasting. My chair sinks into the water, which solidifies like an island of pumice around me, full of holes. From each hole a tiny green shoot emerges, unfurling into its thick stem and hairy pod.
I close my eyes against a carpet of bright red petals, the rain slowing until I can no longer hear any drops at all. I open my eyes.
Van der Berg and Waters are standing, thigh high in water and red petals.
Hey! I exclaim. How weird is this?
Waters wades over to the chair and checks my pulse.
You’re hallucinating. She whispers.
You think? I reply, smiling over at Van der Berg. Do you ever miss the rain? I ask her.
She just stares at me uncomprehendingly, or else, is just not in the mood for any kind of conversation.
Have you got this? We’re at 146 days here. She tells Waters, who nods.
I got it.
Waters? What are you doing on this floor?
Keeping an eye on you. You disappeared for three days. I think you overdosed. I haven’t been able to access all the files yet, but it looks like that from the initial report.
The sun was up when I got out.
I’m sure. We need to get you up and conscious. Take this.
She hands me a capsule. What is it? I whisper-ask.
You have to trust me. She replies.
I sigh and swallow the capsule. I’m thirsty, but the water has started to retreat already. Even the tidelines on Waters’ trousers are starting to dry.
I don’t feel well. I admit.
I’m not surprised. We need a diversion. She frowns. She takes her phone out of her pocket and sends a message to someone. Hold tight. She tells me.
A few minutes later, the magenta light on the wall starts up, and everyone freezes. It takes with it the last grain of my disorientation.
Van der Berg leaves the room after glancing at us briefly.
Fair call. I comment. We’ve only just met. As if you’d want to be quarantined with the crazy one on the factory floor.
Waters smiles briefly.
Is this you? I ask quietly.
She shakes her head. I wanted a diversion, not a possible pandemic. How are you feeling?
Better. And embarrassed. I admit. Increasingly concerned, after glancing at the flashing light.
She is distracted and looking across the factory floor. The virus. She comments thoughtfully. She doesn’t need to explain which one, since although there have been so many since the first (well, not the first, but the first to remind us of our fragility. The one that closed the world down. The one that dissolved politics and grew the corporations because they distributed services and goods when governments failed).
Since that one, there really would only ever be one first one.
This possible contagion was clearly not that one because the lights were magenta, not red, and the sirens were silent.
I sigh as the floor is called for isolation. Doors start closing around my work section and as I turn to tell her that she should leave, she quickly leans over, takes my face in her hands, and sticks her tongue up my nose.
I stare at her wolfish smile as the guard comes around.
We’ve been intimate. She tells him, stepping closer to me just as I sneeze.
He backs out of the room and the doors slide fully closed and two sterile suits drop from the mail tube into the centre of the room.
Well really, a kiss would have been a bit familiar.
More than sticking your tongue in my nose??
Statistically if you actually had the virus that would be the best place for me to extract it in a timely manner.
I can only look at her with narrowed eyes.
You know the exciting part?
I can’t even imagine.
I finally get to see your dismal apartment.
You really could have just asked.
We walk single file to the elevators after funnelling through the decontamination corridor. Inside is all misty, and we — head to toe in white and clear plastic suits, waver between opaque and transparent; shadows in a fog marching steadily back to the trains.
The shutdown is out of your control. You will not be penalised for the stop work.
The scrolling messages along the hallway coat us all in a red glow, on the tiny beads of disinfectant that coat us all. Tiny red beads. I can feel myself slipping, like the world is tilting on a different axis. I reach out for Waters who is walking in front of me.
Breathe. She says, squeezing my hand. It’s enough of an anchor to keep me in the hallway, in the queue waiting for the train, in the gently rocking carriage filled with silent and resentful shifting. We will be tested once we arrive back at our living quarters.
The results will take 24 hours. The majority of workers are on floor 6 and 7 of our building. Inhabitants outside these floors will be billeted on them for the next two days during isolation.
She leads me to my room and lifts my card to the scanner. The door beeps. The lock clicks then opens. We walk inside. She pushes me gently down onto the chair and then rifles through my wardrobe for a couple of clean suits.
Hope you don’t mind. She tells me.
I don’t mind. But I’m not really capable of speech yet.
I’m going to shower and then you can. Just keep your eyes open until I get back. OK? She tells me. She glances around the apartment
quickly, taking it all in. By the way, I can see how augmentation would really cramp your style.
I smile but she is in the bathroom already and I can hear the water running. I feel so incredibly tired. I count the A’s that encircle the room. There are a hundred and twelve- and one-half capital A’s etched into the wall. Waters is still in the shower, so I do it again and then a third time, just to make sure.
She catches me on my knees against the wall, counting them out. They’re blurring into trails, so it’s harder from the table.
I was having trouble. I say, by way of explanation.
Let’s get you changed.
I don’t know if I can deal with the shower. I tell her.
I know, but you’re going to have to. The alarm wasn’t us.
I nod. Okay. Make yourself at home. I wander into the
bathroom, closing it behind me and strip off, throwing my clothes into a contamination bag and into the chute.
The water is hot, and I let it wash over me for longer than usual. I expect most of this floor and the one above are doing the same thing. Our water and power usage must be going through the roof today. When I’m finished, I’m pink and the clean clothes feel comforting.
Back out in the living room Waters is sitting drinking a cup of something hot and staring at the pile of boxes near the door. There is a second cup on the table for me. I sit across from her and sniff it.
She nods. You’re supposed to open the boxes and use the things inside them. You know that, right?
Sure. I just couldn’t be bothered. I agree.
I guess they’d interrupt your currently streamlined aesthetic. She adds, a small smile into the cup.
So this wasn’t you? You think there actually is a virus?
I guess so. She puts down her cup and walks over to the pile.
I’m sorry, I can’t look at these and not open them.
Be my guest. I tell her. Do I have to stay awake?
No. I’ll check on you.
When I open my eyes again, I almost don’t recognise my own apartment. There are soft furnishings on the chairs and appliances on the bench, and random objects on the shelves. I didn’t pick those; they were free things the people in the shops gave me to reward me for my purchases. She is sitting on the kitchen bench waiting, legs swinging slowly. There are a couple of open boxes on the counter next to her. The rest have been cleared away already.
Hey! Great. I’m so bored. She picks something up and walks over to the bed, and checks my pulse, looks into my eyes briefly. Open up. She says cheerfully with a swab.
Yep. Let’s see if you’re infected. She swabs the inside of my cheek and the top of my tongue and puts it into the tube and gives it a shake, then sets it aside on the bench.
I’m guessing you’re not.
She shakes her head. Sadly no, I could have done with a two-week holiday. How are you feeling?
Better. I’m also pleasantly surprised to realise this is the truth. Even the trails and double images have gone.
She nods. Good. It’s pretty normal to get those side effects after the treatments. But it’s good that they’ve stopped. How did you know I was hallucinating?
You were swimming on the floor.
I could just have a quirky personality.
She laughs at that. That’s true. But I’ve seen it before. And I’ve been there myself. We all have.
I sit up a little. I have a slight headache, but that’s about it. The tube on the table buzzes and we both look at it. It’s blue. The same as hers on the counter.
Guess not. I tell her.
Lucky for me. She agrees.
What are you doing with the recordings from my sessions? I ask suddenly.
She nods thoughtfully. I don’t know the exact tech details, so bear with me, but we have access to their system so we’re introducing a virus that slowly degrades them over time. It begins with anything remotely contentious and eventually erases the entire file.
Are you keeping a copy?
We haven’t so far. Would you like us to?
Okay then. She sends a message to whoever cleans up the
problems. Anything else?
Yes. Who are ‘We?’ I ask her.
She exhales slowly. We are a small group of people who have found each other because of similar abilities, or similar thinking. We all met in the southern continents, in the agricultural division. You were growing new varieties of poppies. I was a chemist. Some of the others worked with us, some we found afterwards. You developed two strains; one they now use in Equinox treatments. They’re a modified hallucinogenic opioid. The idea for that was actually therapeutic. Using synthesised experiences in order to treat our inherent dislocation from nature.
Are everyone the same?
No. That’s actually a really interesting part. Everyone in the initial tests reported completely different experiences. Experiences of things they had no empirical knowledge of. It was like the drugs activated this inner, inherited information system to build their experience from. Like collective unconscious, or spooky action or something that sounds a lot less speculative. We didn’t ever have time to do proper research. I mean, we never did — if something could not be immediately monetised of course, it served no perceivable function. This would have been worth it, but they wouldn’t even hear the case for it.
And The Yearning? That’s actually the dislocation?
Yes. Well, it’s the side effect from over-using it, I suppose. It was meant to be micro-dosed. Too much exposure to things we can never possibly have just tend to activate more euphoria, more dislocation. Holes that shiny new toasters can’t fill.
Thanks for unpacking my shiny new toaster by the way.
You’re welcome. Look, you almost live in a home now. The other variant was a non-addictive pain reliever that reconfigures neural pathways to treat pain without the addictive properties and side effects. They buried that one.
I can see how that would be undesirable. That’s one of the things I know?
Yes. You and no-one else apparently.
That’s why you’re here?
Well. I’m here for a lot of reasons. One of them is that one morning I woke up and you weren’t there, and neither was anyone else. I wasn’t even there. But for some reason, I could remember. I had been using myself as a guinea pig, and I often wonder if I made myself immune to some things. At any rate, it’s not easy to find like-minded people. She shook the tube with the sample in it thoughtfully. I tend to value them. You weren’t easy to find though. We’ve been looking for five years. I’d almost given up, but we matched your genetic code. And here you are. She paused, glancing at the tube again.
They’re going to be coming soon to collect that and check this. And send me on my way.
What else do I need to know?
So much. I was hoping that you might have regained your memories before you have to go back to Equinox. She looks at me. I don’t know anyone who has managed to… well, to survive an entire treatment.
I’m guessing you’re not an optimist. I tell her with a forced smile.
I have my moments. She tells me. I just need you to know something. The truth is, that they don’t care if you die. I mean, any of us, but definitely you at this moment. I’m not sure what they’re testing for.
What was the white powder?
She stares at me blankly for a second before laughing. Sugar.
Sugar? What do you mean? What was in the sugar?
Nothing. It’s just sugar.
But I started having side effects before I even started Equinox.
No, you stopped having side effects from the Good morning.
That can’t just be it.
Well, we started talking. With the talking comes the thinking.
Tricky Walsh is a non-binary artist working in New Norfolk, Tasmania, who works both collaboratively and in a solo capacity. Their projects focus on both spatial and communication concerns in an increasingly speculative manner and while they use a diversity of media (architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, sound, film, comics, radio) it is foremost the concept at hand that determines which form of material experimentation occurs within these broader themes.
This work is published within From Wakefulness to Consciousness. With contributions from artists, curators and researchers, the collection focuses on the politics of sleeplessness, and is framed by a broader, and longer, inquiry into the desynchronisation between bodies and society, and a wish to reclaim night-time and its energies, whether natural, cosmic, sonic or otherwise.
Curated by Anabelle Lacroix and commissioned by Liquid Architecture. Supported by City of Melbourne Triennial Arts Grants.