sound poetry in melbourne

Starting this coming Thursday,
La Mama Poetica
presents Voiceprints as part of the
Melbourne International Arts Festival

La Mama Poetica: Voiceprints, an eclectic polypoetry (literally poetry of many possibilities) mini-season. The programme includes live works by visiting Japanese sound poet and composer Tomomi Adachi, Sufi-inspired World Jazz by Ali Alizadeh and musicians Elissa Goodrich and Ria Soemardjo, Sydney-based poet Amanda Stewart, TTO and visual artist Sandy Caldow, Ania Walwicz, Emilie Zoey Baker, Peter Murphy and jeltje with the improvising chorus Unamunos Quorum.

Amanda Stewart, 2005

Voiceprints has been inspired by international polypoetry festivals in Ghent (krikri), Berlin and Barcelona, and strives to widen conceptualized expectations of what poetry is. The performance-orientated pieces bear witness to the struggle of finding a contemporary and authentic voice in times of language crisis - something beyond the page, sometimes even beyond the confines of language itself.

La Mama Theatre
205 Faraday Street

Thursday October 11 and Friday October 12 @ 8pm
Matinees: Saturday October 13 and Sunday October 14 @ 2.30pm
Sunday Oct 14 fully booked

Ticket prices: $25 full/$15 conc.

Running time: 2 hours 15 mins. approx.

To gain an idea of Amanda Stewart's kind of unique vocal performance work,
here’s an excerpt from unexpected synergies by Bernadette Ashley -
a review of recent ‘see hear now’ performances in Townsville
(from the current issue of realtime)

performance 4: untitled

The most effective incorporation of visual art was achieved in Performance 4.

Movement artists Nicole Keen and Kate Hooper were wrapped together in a single stretchy white sack centrestage. As they contorted in response to Amanda Stewart’s vocal performance, visual artist Michelle Deveze drew on the cloth. Slower passages allowed her to make deliberately directed work, while at times the movement artists’ staccato responses caused Deveze’s charcoal marks to become random and opportunistic, confined to wherever she could establish contact with her heaving canvas in the moment. A further layer of intrigue was added by local artist Donna Foley’s simultaneous responses using a data tablet, the images projected onto the dancers and walls.

Stewart’s voicework and Foley’s projections carried a heightened synergy underpinned by Foley’s specialisation in the intersection of the visual and aural. Just as Stewart pares back language from the coherent into its component parts, Foley’s calligraphy, using stylus on data tablet, is like pre-writing scribble, almost fooling the audience into believing they could decipher, in Foley’s chaotic, lacy marks, what Stewart was vocalising.

The intensity showed in Stewart’s mobile features and taut neck muscles as she worked rapidly back and forth between two microphones. An unbelievable array of effects was conjured. At times it was like someone quickly turning an old radio dial across stations, or overhearing the sighs, whispers and tragedies of the inhabitants of a whole apartment block all at once.

In between evoking echoes of kissing, popping, chattering teeth, ripping velcro, rain, trains, Morse code from space or a penguin colony in distress with her hoarse, breathy scat, Stewart threw in the odd, tantilising word, which she later described as “a rant for the underlings; women and low caste people.”

Foley’s projected marks changed colour, overlapped, intensified until the screen was practically filled, emptied and the process begun again. The lighting replicated changing weather. Photographer Glenn O’Mallley ducked and wove through the action, adding his shadow to the backdrop as he recorded Deveze trying to tame a ground which behaved like a large, unruly and reluctant animal.

Eventually Stewart’s vocals wound down from disturbing to soothing, ending quietly with “fait accompli...the economics of us...” She walked away from the microphones cueing Foley and Deveze’s last slow lines as they all eyed each other.

These disparate elements married to produce a multidimensional, sensual and random collage. The eye was kept moving, the ear straining and the mind racing to connect the nuances of voice, hand and body: an engrossing journey.

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