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 from 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 electronic music production and experimental audio-visual performance and installation. Jannah modifies existing technologies (such as solar panels) into innovative light-to-audio systems, used with software/hardware experimentation and modular synthesis to carve a distinct voice in electronic music and art.
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.
Pan-Pan Kolektiva was established in March 2020, as a research group on listening. Pan-Pan is a standard emergency call based on the acronym Pan which stands for Pay Attention Now.
Nathan Gray is an artist whose recent works use voice as their medium, taking form as lecture-performances, radio-plays and documentaries, DJ sets, narrative and rumour.
makik markie yammamoroto
Leighton Craig is an artist living in Meanjin/Brisbane. He has been in a number of bands (The Lost Domain, G55, The Deadnotes et al) and is currently a member of the duo Primitive Motion with Sandra Selig.
Anne Zeitz is associate professor at University Rennes 2. Her research focuses on aural attention, the inaudible, the unheard, and the polyphony in contemporary art. She directed the research project 'Sound Unheard' and she co-organised the eponymous exhibition at the Goethe-Institut Paris, Paris and exhibition 'Échos magnétiques” at the MBA Rennes, Rennes in 2019.
Melissa Johnson is Associate Professor of Art History & Visual Culture at Illinois State University (Normal, IL). Her scholarly research focuses on the histories of craft and its intersections with modern and contemporary art. She is currently working on a project that explores artists making work in response to the writings of Virginia Woolf. She’s deeply interested in situating her academic writing and her textile-based work as parallel practices, and is working on two writing and textile projects, “Woolf Words” and “Haptic Investigations,” and a project on mending and repair.
Diego Ramirez makes art, writes about culture, and labours in the arts. In 2018, he showed his video work in a solo screening by ACCA x ACMI and he performed in Lifenessless at West Space x Gertrude Contemporary in 2019. His work has been shown locally and internationally at MARS Gallery, ACMI, Westspace, Torrance Art Museum, Hong-Gah Museum, Careof Milan, Buxton Cotntemporary, WRO Media Art Biennale, Human Resources LA, Art Central HK, Sydney Contemporary, and Deslave. His words feature in Art and Australia, NECSUS, un Projects, Runway Journal, Art Collector, and Australian Book Review. He is represented by MARS Gallery, Editor-at-large at Running Dog and Gallery Manager at SEVENTH.
Noemie Cecilia Huttner-Koros is a queer Jewish performance-maker, writer, dramaturg, poet, teaching artist and community organiser living and working on Whadjuk Noongar country in Boorloo (Perth). Her practice is driven by a deep belief in the social, political and communal role of art and performance and in engaging with sites and histories where queer culture, composting and ecological crisis occur.
Josten Myburgh is a musician based on Whadjuk Noongar boodja country who plays with techniques from the worlds of electro-acoustic music, radio art, free improvisation, field recording and experimental composition. He co-directs exploratory music label Tone List and the Audible Edge festival. He has performed in South Africa, the United States, and throughout South East Asia, Europe and Australia. He is a Schenberg Fellow and a student of Antoine Beuger and Michael Pisaro.
Aisyah Aaqil Sumito is an artist and writer living near Derbarl Yerrigan on Whadjuk Noongar Bibbulmun lands. Their work reflects mostly on personal intersections of disability, queerness and diasporic ancestry in so-called 'australia'. They have recently made text-based contributions to Runway Journal and HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.
Michael Terren is a musician and educator from Boorloo/Perth. Grounded in experimental studio-based practice, his work explores the social construction of the technologies of music’s creation and distribution. He is a sessional academic teaching music at two Boorloo universities, and in 2019 finished a PhD thesis entitled 'The grain of the digital audio workstation'.
Joee Mejias is a musician and video artist from Manila. She is co-producer of WSK, the first and only international festival of digital arts and new media in the Philippines and co-founder of HERESY, a new platform for women in sound and multimedia. She performs as Joee & I: her avant-pop electronica solo project.
Myriad Sun are an experimental audio/visual/rap trio from Walyalup (Fremantle), Australia, composed of electronic producer Ben Aguero, Mc POW! Negro, and Limit Bashr. Additional performers: Mali Jose, Billy Jack Narkle and Polly-Pearl Greenhalgh.
Jasmine Guffond is an artist and composer working at the interface of social, political, and technical infrastructures. Focused on electronic composition across music and art contexts her practice spans live performance, recording, installation and custom made browser add-ons. Through the sonification of data she addresses the potential of sound to engage with contemporary political questions and engages listening as a situated-knowledge practice.
Sounding Together comprise of the following performers: Rhys Butler (alto saxophone); Simon Charles (soprano saxophone, shakuhachi); Eduardo Cossio (electronics, writing); Luke Cuerel (alto saxophone); Jim Denley (flute, writing); Julia Drouhin (voice, electronics, objects, images); Jameson Feakes (mandolin); Be Gosper (voice, objects); Noemie Huttner-Koros (voice, writing); Lenny Jacobs (percussion); Annette Krebs (amplified string instrument); Annika Moses (voice, images); Josten Myburgh (clarinet, alto saxophone, editing); Dan O’Connor (mastering); Stuart Orchard (guitar, objects, editing); Daisy Sanders (voice, movement).
Yan Jun, a musician based in Beijing uses a wide range of materials such as field recording, body, noise and concept. Yan Jun: “I wish I was a piece of field recording.”
Katie West is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives on Noongar Ballardong boodja and belongs to the Yindjibarndi people of the Pilbara tablelands in Western Australia. The process and notion of naturally dyeing fabric underpin her practice – the rhythm of walking, gathering, bundling, boiling up water and infusing materials with plant matter. The objects, installations and happenings that Katie creates invite attention to the ways we weave our stories, places, histories, and futures.
Simon Charles is a composer and performer based in Noongar Ballardong Country (Western Australia). His practice reflects an interest in the instability of compositional structures; as friction between musical notation and perception and interactions with place. He has performed at Serralvés Festival (Porto), The Wulf (Los Angeles) Studio Rotor (Berlin), Vigeland Mausoleum (Oslo), Avantwhatever Festival (Melbourne), DATA (Marseille), ANAM Quarttethaus and the Melbourne Recital Centre.
Tiarney Miekus is a writer, editor and musician based in Naarm/Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow (Online), Overland, Memo Review, un Magazine, Art Guide Australia, Swampland and RealTime. She is currently editor and podcast producer at Art Guide Australia.
Liang Luscombe is a Naarm/Melbourne-based visual artist whose practice encompasses painting, sculpture and moving image that engage in a process of generative questioning of how media and film affect audiences.
Thembi Soddell is a sound artist best known for their powerful acousmatic performances and installations in darkness. In 2019 they were awarded a PhD from RMIT University for their practice-based research titled, A Dense Mass of Indecipherable Fear: The Experiential (Non)Narration of Trauma and Madness through Acousmatic Sound. This research developed a novel approach to understanding lived experiences of anxiety, depression and trauma using a medium (abstract sound) with the unique ability to reflect the intangible nature of the inner world.
James Parker is the Director of a research program on Law, Sound and the International at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities (IILAH) at Melbourne Law School. His research focuses on the relations between law, sound and listening, with a particular emphasis on international criminal law, the law of war and privacy.
Eloise Sweetman loves art, misses her home in Western Australia, all the time loving Rotterdam where she became friends with Pris Roos whose artwork Sweetman speaks of. Sweetman is a curator, artist, writer and teacher working in intimacy, not knowing and material relation. She started Shimmer with Dutch-Australian artist Jason Hendrik Hansma in 2017.
Cecilia Vicuña's work dwells in the not yet, the future potential of the unformed, where sound, weaving, and language interact to create new meanings.
'In January 1966, I began creating precarios (precarious) installations and basuritas, objects composed of debris, structures that disappear, along with quipus and other weaving metaphors. I called these works 'Arte Precario', creating a new independent category, a non-colonized name for them. The precarios soon evolved into collective rituals and oral performances based on dissonant sound and the shamanic voice. The fluid, multi-dimensional quality of these works allowed them to exist in many media and languages at once. Created in and for the moment, they reflect ancient spiritual technologies—a knowledge of the power of individual and communal intention to heal us and the earth.'
Camila Marambio is a private investigator, amateur dancer, permaculture enthusiast, and sporadic writer, but first and foremost, she is a curator and the founder/director of Ensayos, a nomadic interdisciplinary research program in Tierra del Fuego.
Las Chinas is the cosmic coincidences led to the meeting of Chileans Sarita Gálvez and Camila Marambio in Melbourne. Their shared reverence for the ancestral flautón chino from the Andes Mountains lead to playful explorations of its unique dissonant sounds and thereafter to experimenting with atonal signing and other technologies of the spirit.
Influenced by Chilean feminist poet Cecilia Vicuña, the now deceased poet Fidel Sepúlveda, the musical ensemble La Chimuchina and the chino bands from the townships of La Canela and Andacollo, Las Chinas honours the ancestral tradition by enacting the principle of tearing each other apart.
Bryan Phillips A.K.A. Galambo is a Chilean/Australian artist working in community arts, music and performance, using sound as a means to facilitate engagement with others. His practice has mainly been developed in Chile, but after completing his Masters in Community Cultural Development (VCA-2013) he has become involved in projects with artists from Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Australia.
Douglas Kahn is an historian and theorist of energies in the arts, sound in the arts and sound studies, and media arts, from the late-nineteenth century to the present. His books include Energies in the Arts (MIT Press, 2019); Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (University of California Press, 2013); Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999); Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins (University of California Press, 2012); and Source: Music of the Avant-garde, edited with Larry Austin (University of California Press, 2011).
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).
For this audio paper, Thembi Soddell discusses the ideas behind their 2018 album Love Songs. This album was a meditation on the interaction between so-called mental illness and insidious forms of abuse in intimate relationships, using abstract, acousmatic sound.
Listening on headphones or a quality sound system (with a subwoofer) in a darkened room is recommended. The paper also includes a short video by media and performance artist Vanessa Godden.
A transcript of the video including references is provided below.
Please be advised that this audio paper contains some discussion of emotional and sexual abuse.
0:00 Acknowledgement of Dja Dja Wurrung Country
1:10 ‘Epilogue’ video1
2:36 Spoken text begins:
In 2014, a friend emailed me Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men and said, ‘I think you should read this’. I did, and it changed my life. Not a sudden change but a slow one — the kind of change filled with extended passages of confusion — as new information integrated into and transformed my life narrative.
My work with acousmatic sound, a term I’ll define in a moment, and musique concrète, which is a genre of music that uses recorded sounds as source material, was central to this integration. This led me to the creation of my 2018 album, Love Songs.
I describe the process of creating Love Songs as one of meditating on the interaction between so-called mental illness and insidious forms of abuse in seemingly loving relationships. This suggests that nothing is as it seems. The mental illness is ‘so-called’; perhaps an illness, or perhaps not. The relationship may seem loving, but is this real love if there’s abuse? The ambiguity of these concepts was central to my sonic meditation — just as ambiguity is inherent to acousmatic sound.
As outlined in Brian Kane’s book Sound Unseen, acousmatic sound can be understood as the experience of an effect — the sound — in the absence of its cause.2 In disconnection from this cause, sound can become ambiguous, slippery, a perceptual experience often not as it seems. As Pierre Schaeffer says of acousmatic sound, when it is reduced to its smallest fragments: ‘Everything can become unrecognisable. It is at this level that the bell becomes a voice, the voice a violin, and the violin a seabird’.3 This reflects how acousmatic perception can be a space of perceptual disorientation.
Perceptual disorientation is also a common symptom of insidious forms of abuse. A skilled abuser manipulates their victim in such a way that they are often unaware they are a victim at all. The abuser plays with tricks of perception: a comment here or there that makes the victim doubt their reality; a casual lie amongst truths so they are uncertain of what to believe (and look so-called ‘crazy’ in their suspicions); an insult followed by much needed praise or apology so the victim starts to feel grateful instead of incensed. The abuser’s shape shifts — so the victim can never quite put their finger on what is happening. A bell becomes a voice. A voice a violin. A violin a seabird.
5:50 ‘Sounds always reflect something from the mind’4
My work with acousmatic sound performs as a mirror into my own mind. Without a clear cause for the sounds, my perception fills in the gaps while composing. My mind connects sounds to ideas, thoughts, feelings, memories or lived experiences, which then influence the way I shape the composition. In turn, the compositional processes shape the way I understand these ideas. I am thinking through sound as I compose, using sound as metaphor to articulate these thoughts. In this way, the perceptual gap of acousmatic sound operates as a space for internal reflection, both following and challenging Kane’s ontology of acousmatic sound, which he articulates as: ‘the being of acousmatic sound is to be a gap’.
A perceptual gap is also inherent to the lived experience of trauma. Similar to the disconnection between cause and effect in acousmatic sound, trauma, too, can be understood as the experience of an effect — in this case, the felt mental impact of trauma — in the absence of its cause. As explained by Cassie Pedersen in her paper, ‘Encountering Trauma “One Moment Too Late”’,5 what can be defined as trauma lies not in the event itself, nor in its psychological, emotional or mental impact, but in the gap between event and effect, where the post-traumatic symptoms, such as intense emotions, mood swings, depression, reactivity, nightmares, and panic attacks, or other experiences that may be labelled ‘mental illness’, can manifest in delayed time, well after the event of the trauma has ceased and often with no clear connection to it. Experientially, the effect of trauma is felt without the presence of its cause: the being of trauma is to be a gap.
8:21 ‘For the first few weeks or months, or longer, the woman is walking on air.’6
This parallel between the experiential being of trauma and acousmatic sound underpins my work Love Songs, a sound composition made up of five movements: ‘Object (im)Permanence’ (part of which you are hearing now), ‘Erasure’, ‘Repetition Compulsion’, ‘Who is to Blame?’ and ‘Epilogue’, with each title pointing to concepts and experiences that informed each movement.
You heard a fragment of ‘Epilogue’ earlier, played alongside its video clip made by media and performance artist Vanessa Godden. Two more movements, ‘Repetition Compulsion’ and ‘Who is to Blame?’ will also play in full at the end of this audio paper. These movements contain slow fade ins, harsh cuts, distant sounds on the edge of perception, and moments that reoccur from movements before these ones but shaped in different ways. These compositional gestures form connections with the concepts underpinning the work, which will be discussed in a moment.
First, however, to give background on how Love Songs was conceived, the composition evolved from reading and listening to a wide range of first-person ‘madness narratives’. These are texts that reflect upon a person’s own lived experience of what might be called mental illness and often reflect upon or critique the mental health system.7
When I use the term ‘mental illness’, however, I do so with some reluctance, as this Western medical framework for understanding many of these experiences is just one way of conceptualising them, one which has been useful for some, but has also been used as a tool of psychiatric and colonial abuse, and in my own instance undermined my self-perception.
10:28 ‘This diagnosis led to an altered perception of self, one that suggested my emotional responses were not to be trusted.’8
My approach to creating my own first-person madness narrative through abstract sound, then, had the aim of expanding my thinking beyond these frameworks through a language outside of words or visual forms. While composing, I used sounds and compositional gestures as tools to reflect upon and understand my experiences, building a fluid, abstract language of ambiguity and metaphor, a language that could connect with those intangible aspects of my experience that could not be seen or translated into words, and were therefore misunderstood by a medical system that relies on observable, so-called objective data to research and understand what it treats.
Alongside this composition of Love Songs, I also composed a book of concrete poetry to situate the abstract sound in its conceptual underpinnings. The book contains decontexualised quotes from my research (some of which you can see here), blank spaces and text fragments – more of which are included throughout this audio paper – sampled in a way that mirrors the way I work with sound. This strategy accommodates for the multiple meanings that can be rendered upon a single experience, leaving room for audience interpretation, reflection and projection — in the same way that can happen with acousmatic sound. Together the sound and text were designed to work in synergy to form my own first-person madness narrative, one that hints at my experiences without being explicit or tied to a singular narrative form.
At the core of this idea was the absence of narrative I experienced within my own so-called mental illness, and the lack of words I had to describe my inner world. This was something I also observed in other experiential accounts of trauma, madness, and depression. As described by Brendan Stone, a researcher with lived experience of madness and trauma, these experiences are ‘profoundly anti-narrational in character’, their essence lost when translated into conventional narrative form.9 Meredith Lynn Friedson, a researcher in psychological studies, also describes a loss of narrative as inherent to the lived experience of depression, as exemplified by her book title Subjective Darkness: Depression as a Loss of Connection, Narrative, Meaning and the Capacity for Self-Representation.10
In my instance, a loss of narrative occurred on multiple levels — experiential, diagnostic, and explanatory. I didn’t have a clear, singular diagnosis or picture of what this invisible, yet powerful force was, nor why it was there, and thus no way to explain it or its cause. I did have a sense of how it was experienced, however, but no words to communicate that beyond what was handed to me by the mental health system (which didn’t quite fit) and no clear way of managing or ‘treating’ this so-called mental illness that was meaningful or effective.
It was during my research for Love Songs, that I came across a talk by Canadian mental health advocate Mark Henick, in which he referred to aspects of his own experiences of mental illness as a kind of perceptual collapse.11
13:55 Excerpt from ‘A Shut in Place’12
I was drawn to the phrase, ‘perceptual collapse’, because it resonated with me on an experiential level, aligning words with experiences for which I had no name. It helped me to observe what might otherwise be called symptoms of mental illness through an experiential framework alone, rather than a narrative or diagnostic one, to quieten my mind of psychiatry’s preconceived notions of what my emotions, feelings, thoughts, or sensations meant about the so-called ‘health of my mind’. It side-stepped the need for pathologisation or diagnostic labelling — allowing me to develop my own, more meaningful understanding of my experiences.
This method involved reflecting upon my inner experiences, alongside how they were articulated through two of my previous compositions, ‘A Shut in Place’13 and ‘The Absence of Inclination’.14 I examined how my compositional processes embedded my experience of perceptual collapse into sound composition through various sampling and compositional techniques. I came up with five key categories that formed connections between my own experiences of perceptual collapse and the methods I use within my sound practice. These were: emotional weight; perceptual disorientation; temporal expansion; experiential paradox and protective disrupture.
These five categories then became the starting point for creating Love Songs, which began as a compositional investigation that asked: what might I further understand about my own experience of perceptual collapse by examining it through the compositional process?
My first step, then, was to collect sounds and recordings that in some way embodied these categories of perceptual collapse. I experimented with creating sounds from objects found around my home such as: marbles in wire mesh, a broken plastic CD case, glass on tiled floors, sandpaper, balloons, broken tiles, drum skins, a bamboo wok brush, cardboard, ice breaking, and a plastic desktop. I used a combination of omni-directional, cardioid, boundary, and contact microphones to create varying senses of psychological space — from claustrophobic to expansive — within the recorded sounds. I also invited several musicians to contribute recordings of their own interpretation of these themes, this included extended vocals from Alice Hui-Sheng Chang, flute from Jim Denley, vocals from Emah Fox, electric bass from Cat Hope, and field recordings from Martin Kay.
Next, I experimented with this source material, sampling fragments and listening to the ways the sampler transformed them and how that spoke to me in relation to my own experiences of perceptual collapse. Here, the notion of meditation through sound emerged, where my manipulation of sampled recordings facilitated a deeper level of thought about my experiences of perceptual collapse, helping me better understand it.
I was forming connections between the feelings I experienced while listening to the sound and performative gestures as I composed, and the concepts explored through my theoretical research and my lived experiences in regular psychotherapy. These concepts were drawn from a range of disciplines and practices that informed my understanding of so-called mental illness, including trauma theory, feminism, psychology, philosophy, meditation, psychoanalytic theory and mental health care, alongside writing on emotional abuse. As an example of how these connections were formed, I’ll begin by discussing the third movement of Love Songs called ‘Repetition Compulsion’, which will play at the end of this audio paper. The term, repetition compulsion, describes a psychological phenomenon first written about by Sigmund Freud in 1920 that compels people to repeat traumatic events that are similar to those they have experienced in the past, in an unconscious, but oftentimes futile, attempt to master them.
The movement ‘Repetition Compulsion’ begins by repeating a gesture from the first movement — a slow fade in of a manipulated sample of Chang’s voice. This is a compositional gesture I am often compelled to use and repeat, and do so several times throughout Love Songs. The sample builds gradually from silence, with multiple layers of a single vocal fragment triggered at increasing pitches over time, the same technique I used at the beginning of the first movement. In contrast to the first movement, however, in ‘Repetition Compulsion’, I layered several different samples in the background — not simply repeating the gesture but adding to it, changing it, attempting to master it — in the same way as one is thought to through repetition compulsion.
This compositional gesture was also informed by an idea I encountered in an essay, called ‘Toward a Radical Understanding of Trauma and Trauma Work’ by feminist therapist and antipsychiatry activist Bonnie Burstow. In this essay, Burstow states that trauma often, ‘occurs in layers, with each layer affecting every other layer’.15 Burstow discusses how each new traumatic event is compounded by traumatic experiences from the past, as well as systemic and other abuses that occur daily for those in oppressed and racialised groups.
While composing ‘Repetition Compulsion,’ I was meditating on this notion of trauma in layers and its connection to broader systems of oppression. I was considering how the concept of repetition compulsion itself could be used as a tool to uphold these systems, through its underlying suggestion that a victim’s unconscious — as opposed to external factors — may be responsible for their own trauma. This thinking extended to how abuse in intimate relationships can feel so personal, like, to the victim, a fault exists within themselves and their mistreatment is deserved (especially once they start showing signs of so-called mental illness). Yet more often than not — it is merely these broader systems of oppression playing out between two people: the micro reflecting and feeding the macro. Furthermore, I was holding in mind the idea that the mental health system, through its promotion of a concept of ‘mental illness’ that exists in an individual, can reinforce the feeling in a victim that they (or their illness) are at fault, not the perpetrator, nor the systems of oppression that create an environment for a person to become so-called ‘mentally ill’.
22:07 ‘When people encounter controlling behaviour, they often feel “erased”, as if, to the perpetrator, they don’t exist.’16
A key gesture in the movement ‘Repetition Compulsion’ was informed by this idea, where about half way through the sound cuts out, but a soft sample of fragmented voice remains softly in the background. This is a repetition of a sound from a previous movement, the second, entitled ‘Erasure’, drawing a connection between the concepts informing the two works.
‘Erasure’ was a meditation on the multiple ways in which systems of oppression silence women, trans and gender diverse people, and how it filters through to the mental health system. One example can be seen in the history of hysteria, a term no longer used in psychiatry, yet attitudes towards it remain in certain present day diagnoses. As described by psychiatrist and researcher Judith Herman in her groundbreaking book Trauma and Recovery, Freud undertook considerable research and writing on hysteria, through which he developed the seduction theory. His theory hypothesised that the root of hysteria involved early childhood sexual abuse. This was based on listening to the testimonies of his patients and recognising this common theme.
However, as discussed by Herman, after Freud became ‘troubled by the radical social implications of his hypothesis’, and the number of men it implicated — including his own father, Freud retracted his first supposition. He instead came to insist that: ‘women imagined and longed for the abusive sexual encounters of which they complained’. In doing so, Freud was erasing the reality of these women’s experiences by redefining their accounts of sexual abuse as imagination, in effect silencing his patients and destabilising their sense of perception — contributing further to their mental illness. As writer and activist Rebecca Solnit describes: ‘It was as though a handy alibi had been constructed for all transgressive authority, all male perpetrators of crimes against females. She wanted it. She imagined it. She doesn’t know what she is saying’.17
Which brings me to the next movement, ‘Who is to Blame?’
24:41 ‘THE MYTH OF NEUTRALITY: It is not possible to be truly balanced in one’s views of an abuser and an abused woman… “neutrality” actually serves the interests of the perpetrator much more so than the victim and so is not neutral. Although an abuser prefers to have you wholeheartedly on your side, he will settle contentedly for your decision to take a middle stance. To him, that means you see the couple’s problem as partly her fault and partly his fault, which means it isn’t abuse.’18
My compositional choices within ‘Who is to Blame?’ were influenced by the blurred lines between past, present, and future occurring within trauma; the silencing that can happen through the mental health system; as well as self-silencing that can result from fear or the futility of speaking out; experiential confusion caused by insidious abuse, flashbacks, layers of trauma, repetition of gestures — ending finally with a high-pitched ringing to reflect those brief moments of tinnitus that can occur with depersonalisation and flashbacks, the after effects of existing within an external world of insidious violence and misplaced blame.
Shifting toward a conclusion, my work with acousmatic sound to construct Love Songs as my first-person madness narrative allowed me to access a fluidity of meanings that I attach to the recorded and reshaped sounds. While composing, I could read and write sound as a language operating on a different level to words, where multiple meanings, perspectives, inconsistencies, and paradoxes could coexist, as well as the experience of pure affect — with no connection to actual meaning — all of which aligns with my lived experiences.
This is especially so when it comes to the impact of emotional abuse, an invisible violence that can work like a poisonous gas filtering through the pores, with nothing to touch or point to that can be easily identified as abuse. In composing Love Songs, my work with acousmatic sound was a way of uncovering aspects of my narrative through the absence of a clear narrative, using feelings, senses and metaphors to reconcile my experience while composing, to reflect upon the love, rage, fear, comfort, intensity and numbness that can pervade abusive relationships, all often in the one instance.
While I have discussed some of the concepts informing this work, they are not what I expect other people will hear while they are listening. The beauty of acousmatic sound is that it can perform as a mirror into a person’s own mind, where each listener’s interpretation is reflective of their own experiences, memories, frameworks of knowledge, and perceptions, which become entangled with the composer’s intentions. As the composer, I shaped the composition of Love Songs based on my own reflection, but for you as a listener, different shapes will take form.
I invite you now to switch off your lights and screen if possible, to close your eyes and to listen in darkness, as you enter into a space of your own reflection.
Tracks ‘Repetition Compulsion’ followed by ‘Who is to Blame?’ play
Brian Kane, Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). ↩
Pierre Schaeffer, In Search of a Concrete Music, trans. John Dack and Christine North (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 41. ↩
Max Dax, “Eliane Radigue: An Interview.” (Berlin: Electronic Beats, 2012), October 12, 2012. https://www.electronicbeats.net/eliane-radigue-an-interview/. ↩
Cassie Pedersen, ‘“Encountering Trauma ‘One Moment Too Late”: Caruth, Lyotard, and the Freudian Nachträglichkeit,’ (6th Global Conference on Trauma, Budapest, Hungary, March 11-13, 2016). ↩
Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (New York: Penguin, 2002), 109. ↩
A short bibliography of recommended first-person madness narratives is provided above. ↩
Thembi Soddell, ‘A Shut in Place: A First-Hand Account of Understanding Trauma and Mental Illness using Sound Art Practice,’ (6th Global Conference on Trauma, Budapest, Hungary, March 11-13, 2016). ↩
Brendan Stone, ‘How Can I Speak of Madness? Narrative and Identity in Memoirs of Mental Illness,’ in Narrative, Memory & Identity: Theoretical and Methodological Issues, eds. David Robinson, Christine Horrocks, Kelly Nancy and Brian Roberts (Huddersfield: University of Huddersfield, 2004), 50. ↩
Meredith Lynn Friedson, Subjective Darkness: Depression as a Loss of Connection, Narrative, Meaning, and the Capacity for Self-Representation. (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017). ↩
Thembi Soddell and Anthea Caddy, ‘A Shut in Place,’ Host, Room 40, 2012, rm448, compact disc. ↩
Soddell and Anthea Caddy, ‘A Shut in Place.’ ↩
Thembi Soddell, ‘The Absence of Inclination,’ MP3 audio, SoundCloud, 2013, https://soundcloud.com/nfsaaustralia/07theabsenceofinclination. ↩
Bonnie Burstow, ‘Toward a Radical Understanding of Trauma and Trauma Work.’ Violence Against Women 9, no. 11 (2003), 1305. ↩
Patricia Evans, Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You, (Massachusetts: Adams Media. Kindle, 2002) 5. ↩
Rebecca Solnit, 2014. ‘Cassandra Among the Creeps,’ Harper’s Magazine (October 2014). ↩
Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?, 207. ↩
Thembi Soddell is a sound artist best known for their powerful acousmatic performances and installations in darkness. In 2019 they were awarded a PhD from RMIT University for their practice-based research titled, A Dense Mass of Indecipherable Fear: The Experiential (Non)Narration of Trauma and Madness through Acousmatic Sound. This research developed a novel approach to understanding lived experiences of anxiety, depression and trauma using a medium (abstract sound) with the unique ability to reflect the intangible nature of the inner world.
Thank you to Alice Hui-Sheng Chang, Jim Denley, Emah Fox, Cat Hope, and Martin Kay for the use of their recordings, Lawrence English (Room40) for his unwavering support of my practice; Vanessa Godden for their artistic camaraderie; Autumn Royal for their extensive editorial input; Joel Stern and Liquid Architecture; and Jessica Pinney for being the friend who sent me the book, Why Does He Do That?
The Love Songs CD with book can be purchased through Room40. Parts of the text from this audio paper were adapted from an article published in XLR8R in 2018.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
RECOMMENDATIONS OF FIRST-PERSON MADNESS NARRATIVES
Danquah, Meri Nana-Ama. Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression: A Memoir. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1998.
Greenberg, Joanne. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. New York: St Martin’s Paperback, 2009.
Kusama, Yayoi. Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. Translated by Ralph McCarthy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011.
Linton, Samara and Rianna Walcott, eds. The Colour of Madness: Exploring BAME Mental Health in the UK. Edinburgh: Skiddaw Books, 2018.
MacKay, Sandra Yuen. My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness. Canada: Bridgeross Communications, 2010.
Ramprasad, Gayathri. Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within. Minnesota: Hazelden, 2014.
Webb, David. Thinking About Suicide: Contemplating and Comprehending the Urge to Die. Herefordshire: PCCS Books, 2010.
Williams, Terrie M. Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting. New York: Scribner, 2008. Kindle.
Zürn, Unica. The Man of Jasmine & Other Texts. Translated & Introduced by Malcolm Green. London: Atlas Press, (1971) 1994.