Born 1942, New York, based in New York

Meredith Monk, '16mm Earrings', 1966, performance

Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, choreographer of opera, theatre, films and installations. A pioneer of ‘extended vocal technique’ and interdisciplinary performance, Monk makes work at the intersection of music and movement. Her career spans over 40 years, and she continues to teach, perform and compose.

The Voice Is A Language brings together two rarely seen moving image works by Monk: 16mm Earrings and Turtle Dreams. 16mm Earrings is an early performance originally conceived for the Judson Church, New York, in 1966, a couple of years after Monk graduated Sarah Lawrence College. The film is a reperformance of the original work, recorded on film by Bill Withers in 1977. A collage of sound, film, dance and voice, 16mm Earrings comprises fragments and fictional scenarios, including a reading of Wilhelm Reich’s controversial essay ‘The Function of Orgasm’ (1940); a series of 16mm films projected onto Monk’s body and onto customised screens; a rendition of ‘Greensleeves’, slowed, looped and expanded; and a paper effigy of Monk that burns at the climax of work. 16mm Earrings is an eccentric and personal syntax of gesture and image, where the former attempts to physicalise the latter.

Turtle Dreams, meanwhile, is an incongruous synthesis of chamber music, uniform movement and anti-narrative performance. Using the form of cabaret as a means to point both to an urban culture and a satirical tone, Turtle Dreams emerged from a specifically New York context – a country one year into the new Reagan era, a capital in the shadow of nuclear threat, already entrenched in Cold War paranoia. Monk describes the work as possessing, “a very Cassandra-like quality, like the prophet or the warning of disaster before the bomb. It’s before the disaster and post disaster.”

Meredith Monk appears courtesy of The House Foundation
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