At the end of last year, Sue Tompkins performed her 2010 work, ‘Hallo welcome to Keith Street‘ as part of the launch for her web-based book My Kind Book at Dia:Chelsea, New York. My Kind Book reveals Tompkins’ relationship towards word and voice. Her act of transposition, moving off the page and into performance, is displayed as a subject in its own right.
Text: Sophie Macpherson and Clare Stephenson in conversation
Sophie Macpherson will be coming to London to show Deep Dancing on Thursday at Tate Modern. This time last year, Macpherson was working with artist Clare Stephenson to produce their first collaborative theatre project for Tramway, Glasgow. Entitled Shoplifters Shopgirls, the cabaret-style performance presented Macpherson and Stephenson’s sculptural and graphic work as a series of theatrical props and proxy selves, activated by a host of characters played by the artists and other non-actors. Here, they discussed the project with Steven Cairns, my former co-editor at MAP magazine:
Steven Cairns: You are collaborating on Shoplifters, Shopgirls, a project that exists within the parameters of theatre, rather than a gallery. How does it relate to your work as individuals, and how have your interests merged?
Clare Stephenson: We both make work that has theatrical connotations, but it has always been specific to the gallery. It wouldn’t operate in the same way if we simply transferred the existing elements to the theatre, so we focused more on the actions of the artist as producer, consumer and performer, among other things.
Macpherson: Participation has become a bigger part of my work; it’s a progression that has happened over the last four years. I think it’s related to being in a band [Muscles of Joy]. The screens or the sets I made in the past are like empty stages, and the viewer participates with the work physically and sculpturally. Also, I’ve always photographed myself with the objects I make (and recorded these relationships in recent films) but doing theatre is an opportunity to make it live.
Her Noise Symposium
TVL artists Cara Tolmie and Sue Tompkins will be taking part in the Her Noise Symposium, Saturday 5 May 2012. The symposium will explore and develop emergent feminist discourses in sound and music, and its participants include musicians, artists, academics and writers to offer divergent readings and approaches to feminisms and the sonic. The programme is as follows:
Session 1: Situating Her Noise
Ute Meta Bauer, Lina Dzuverovic, Cathy Lane and Salomé Voegelin (Chair)
The panel will situate the Her Noise project within wider discourses of feminism and sound practices.
Session 2: Affinities, Networks and Heroines
Sonia Boyce, Emma Hedditch, Catherine Grant and Georgina Born (Chair)
A series of contributions exploring feminist genealogies and histories from a number of perspectives, including DIY approaches to music making and distribution.
Session 3: Vocal Folds
Viv Corringham, Anne Karpf, Maggie Nichols, Cara Tolmie, Sue Tompkins
Reflections from musicians and artists who use their voice as a key medium in their practices. Introduced by sociologist and writer Anne Karpf.
Session 4: Dissonant Futures
Kaffe Matthews, Nina Power, Tara Rodgers and Anne Hilde Neset (Chair)
A panel exploring women’s varied uses and abuses of technology.
Text: James Richards ‘Off-demonstration’ Q&A
James Richards, Not Blacking Out, Just Turning The lights Off, 2011.
James Richards is working on a single-channel video as part of TVL in May. Here’s a Q&A I did with him from last year, a version of which appeared in Mousse.
Video: Cara Tolmie’s Myriad Mouth Line, 2011
Cara Tolmie will be performing as part of The Voice is a Language on May 4, but in the meantime, I’ve been considering her recent work as part of a forthcoming publication The Sensible Stage, edited by Bridget Crone and published by Picture This, London. The book comes out in May, and I’ll put up the book launch details soon. The following is extracted from the essay on Tolmie’s work, and focusing in particular on Tolmie’s ‘Myriad Mouth Line’, a piece Tolmie performed last October.
The artist notes with a certain wryness:
“Everyone likes to be sung to, and maybe you can play with those desires. The emotional dynamic of performance and the feeling of tension within that space can be subjected to a kind of dispersal, like a discharging of emotional tension that somehow also has the potential to shine a criticality on whatever has come before it. I felt this way about the use of Sinner Man by Nina Simone at the end of Inland Empire [directed by David Lynch].”
The insertion of an incongruous emotional component into the performance points not only to the salient limits of audience expectation, but also to the conditions through which meaning is made, as well as how meaning is (or is not) permitted. In other words, the acceptable flow of performance is unacceptable to Tolmie.
TVL screening and performance in 2012
The Voice is a Language will be screened and performed at Tate Modern, London, as part of Electra’s Her Noise symposium, on May 4, 2012. The evening programme will feature original and reworked videos from the 2010 project, as well as live performances by Cara Tolmie and Sue Tompkins. More progamme info and news to come soon.
An end for now…
THE VOICE IS A LANGUAGE has now come to an end – for now… Thanks to all of you for the support and engagement in the project.
There are already plans afoot to make a second installment of THE VOICE IS A LANGUAGE project, so we hope you’ll join us again when that comes to fruition in the next year. Details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Until then, the website will remain ‘as is’, and documentation from the project will also be added over the coming weeks. Daily posts will cease, but there is more to come.
Warmest thanks to the artists without whom this would be nothing, as well as Claire Jackson and Tramway who made it happen.
Final weekend of THE VOICE IS A LANGUAGE
Catch THE VOICE IS A LANGUAGE in its last couple of days at Tramway, Glasgow, 3-6pm daily. Elsewhere about the city, its worth popping in to see Sue Tompkins new works on paper, showing as part of On Publications, Portraits, Public Art and Performance, an exhibition curated by Daniel Bauman, in the Modern Institute’s old space; while Cara Tolmie also presents a new video work in Kiss of Life, an exhibition staged by the Finn Collective in the amazing renovated Glue Factory in Maryhill.
Sound: Gregory Whitehead’s radio works
Working primarily with radio, artist Gregory Whitehead has developed sound compositions, poems, lectures and plays for nearly 30 years. The potency of his sound works are derived from juxtaposing linguistic and abstract noise, and the accumulation of disembodied voice patterns. Whitehead’s practice points not to the materiality of sound, but rather what he terms as underlying relationships of living/dead, present/removed, outcast/audience.
While sounds can be controlled, these underlying relationships are extremely unstable, and sometimes you just have to give into what they want to do. So there is the wily spirit of the Trickster, perhaps, who has the humour to be both master and victim of the scene.
If a Voice Like, Then What?, 1984, 2m 48s, voice cut-up, Tellus cassette
Zigurrat, 1984, 4m 38s, dance soundtrack and compilation release, chant degeneration
Text: Cara Tolmie’s ‘The end is a tumultuous noise’
Commissioned as part of THE VOICE IS A LANGUAGE, artist Cara Tolmie presents a new work comprising of text and performance. Titled The end is a tumultuous noise, Tolmie first performed the work Thursday, 15 April 2010, in Tramway 4. Presented here is the documentation of the text piece. Video documentation will be posted shortly.