Sound Women Network

I ventured down to the Yorkshire Sound Women networking event on Sat 4th March at Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield. The group were celebrating International Women’s Day (a week early!) by showcasing the work of their members and to celebrate women working in technology and sound.

What a diverse array of talent! It was a great afternoon and a very accessible environment to walk in. I chatted to several women there: Sara Brannan who showed coding and performance and who’d made a visualisation of sound installation, Amy Beeston who was researching at Sheffield University into how we respond to sound, Zoe Blade and Nina Richards who had total command and knowledge to build circuits and manipulate modular synths.

There were other demonstrations there. I had a ‘play’ with some technology using both Max msp and an old xbox to generate sound on body movement, and with a vibrating plate which formed sand patterns at differing frequencies. There were musicians there playing with electronic amplified flutes and another woman building circuit boards which generated different sounds.

It was inspiring. And impressive. And intriguing. In terms of my own research I connected the most with Amy’s work and we decided after a longish conversation to swap details in the event we could explore the potential of a future collaboration together. She’s based in Sheffield and comes to Huddersfield for monthly sound women network meetings and was suggesting I set up a Leeds network as there had been interest from women in Leeds! So I’ll give that some thought..




Performance & Uncertainty

Today I attended the Performance & Uncertainty Symposium held at The Tetley in Leeds which heralded the opening of the Dora Garcia exhibition, ‘These books were alive; they spoke to me!’.

The speakers/performers included photographer Casey Orr, performer/videographer Harold Offeh, film/installation artist Corin Sworn, visual & performance artist Rana Hamadeh, artist & researcher Dora Garcia and artist/writer/lecturer Kiff Bamford of Leeds Beckett University.

The day was a combination of performances and speaker events. I caught both Rana Hamadeh’s sound-play and heard Dora Garcia speak. So my reflections are on both of these events.

I knew nothing of Rana Hamadeh’s previous work until now so I entered this performance with no previous experience of her work or preconceptions. It was an interesting set up and predominantly a sound piece, although she was clear to state that she specifically referred to the work as a ‘sound-play’ as it was intended to be a promenade performance where the audience moved around the space and there were  no areas to sit or ‘view’.

The set up from an audio/sound perspective was interesting. I counted 7 large speakers on stands all connected to amps, two vocal mic’s in different positions, one mic near the floor with a stack of metal chains next to it, one speaker facing the wall for a separate vocal channel and a laptop running Logic Pro on a mixing desk.

To be honest I found the whole performance really quite disturbing. The initial soundscape was deep, intense and loud. (earplugs were given out and I wore mine). Then Rana came into one of the vocal mice and began speaking although there was such a big level of intentional reverb effect on her vocals that the words were difficult to define and the delivery was gloomy and foreboding.

Intermittently the vocals stopped and and another soundscape brought in, then Kiff Bamford spoke a part on a different vocal mic, then it flipped back to more from Rana. I moved around the room often to get a sense of what was playing out. I noticed they also had a Zoom H4 on one speaker at the back recording the whole thing.

It was 50 minutes long and deeply intense. What was more interesting was watching how the audience responded to the space and the sound. I sensed a great uncomfortableness, a dislocation, people didn’t know really where to put themselves. Some had faces of bewilderment, others of intense concentration, some of misunderstanding, some of intellectual enquiry. Some found a spot and stayed there, others moved around often. I found myself wishing it was finished sooner because it was so so intense and foreboding but was hoping I’d discover at the end more about the work.

There was a short discussion after where Rana explained that she was in part re-enacting a Shi’ite ritual of a ceremony, Ashura, from the Sunni Muslims in Lebanon which involved ritual chanting and self flagellation.

I took the opportunity afterwards to speak with her briefly. I asked her what it was like for her to perform such a piece and more about the rituals and how they take place in Lebanon. She said for her it wasn’t too much to perform such a big piece, she was so used to it and that she wanted it to feel uncomfortable and disorientating. It was. It was made so much more disorientating given the multi channel use of speakers. She mentioned that previous performances had been done in rooms of much smaller proportions than the larger room we were in. I can only imagine the intense immersive-ness of that experience.

Dora Garcia spoke next. She was really interesting and spoke a lot about her work with performance and literature. She spoke of her alternative practices of performance, of combining audiences who have ‘inside’ information of the performance coupled with those who are not privy to such information. She spoke of exploring Argentinian art ‘happenings’ which were reported in the press but which never actually ‘happened’. And she spoke of her recent work drawn from theories by psychoanalysts Freud and Lacan and the relationships between repetition and memory.

It was an incredibly diverse afternoon. My thoughts are quite dense about the whole experience. Initially I want to document that I feel I have an issue with ‘accessibility’ in relation to sound used in an art sense. What I refer to is that to receive as an audience something which is quite deeply intense and disturbing such as Rana’s work is more difficult to relate to. On further reading of her concepts and themes (which I have done subsequently through her work with the Liverpool Biennale) I can ‘understand’ the work and it has context, relevance and meaning. Yet it was a difficult piece.

Through Dora’s talk I really had my eyes opened to the divergent practice in the contemporary art world. How so many artists are working in ways way beyond the ‘traditional’ and conventional worlds of both visual and performance traditions. It was refreshing and intriguing. I need to research further.

Lightbulb Moment

It has just occurred to me that most of my interest does lie in VOICE. What it means to have one and how we use it or indeed how we don’t use it. What does it mean to ‘use one’s voice’?

I think most likely this lightbulb moment has manifested due to having watched (again) The Kings Speech. A brilliant film on the psychological elements constraining the voice of King George VI. It is such a brilliantly sensitive and painful look into his world of feeling and his inability to safely express himself.

There are parts of this film which resonate a lot. The work I am leaning towards in sound will I hope endeavour to capture the use of voice as well as found and recorded sounds and musical notes.

As an experiment I’m thinking to develop ‘secret’ mic spots whereby i invite passers by to speak into the mic anything they wish. They use their voice in whichever way they choose without feeling the presence of another person listening.

This lightbulb moment has filled me with ideas…but its midnight and I should sleep..

Data, Memory & Grief


I’ve just returned from a good 3 hours communing with the techs at Apple to try and save my hard drive and data. Last week I opened up my mac only to see a screen I’d never seen before. It is called the ‘recovery screen’. Things went downhill from there. After several phone calls and several rebooting attempts the system still couldn’t get back up and running in the familiar way it had usually done. The ‘recovery’ screen still floated in front of me like an ominous gatekeeper.

I won’t go into the lengthy processes one has to go through to get an appointment with the ‘genius bar’ at Apple, suffice to say it was painful. In the midst of this several day long process I began to analyse what information, documents, photographs I had on the mac. It was after all, only new to me since Feb 2016 so there wasn’t a huge amount on it but it was a significant period of work including all the documents relating to my exhibition at Leeds Gallery in May 2016. Most importantly though and the one which caused me the most sadness was the lovely photographs of my daughter especially the time spent with her on holiday over the summer and the photos of her first day at school.

To be honest I had no idea what was wrong with my computer except that I could no longer get ‘into’ it. I had been shut out.

So today I finally had an Apple tech look into it. On the positive side the hard drive wasn’t damaged physically. On the negative side it could only see the recovery partition and not the operating system. It was looking unlikely that my data was recoverable unless willing to pay a few hundred for it.

So what happened? My hard drive was erased. All gone. Not accessible again. Memories wiped out. And the operating system reinstalled. This means I have a working computer again with nothing on it.

So on the train home (and luckily it was the most bright of autumnal sunshine days) I mused on the notion of ‘erased’. What did it mean to loose all the information? I felt like I was grieving especially for the photographs and the time spent yet I realised also how memories really remain in the heart and in the mind. Our time together hadn’t vanished. Our shared moments had still happened. Since she was born I’ve rarely printed out a ‘proper’ photograph from a digital record. I’ve no hard copies of written work (except for my research proposal luckily). And so it brought me to a state of ‘letting go’.  I really questioned what I needed to keep hold of and mused over how many multiple copies of work images I’d had. Then I was thrown into a state of realising many of my research proposal bookmarks would also have been erased. How many websites could I remember? Which resonated the most in my memory and which would be forgotten? How often do we keep so many bookmarks and be incredibly overloaded with information and resources only to never refer to them again? It’s feels like a form of deconstructing. Of stripping back all the layers to reach only those which are present for us right now.

In essence I was starting anew. Learning to take better care of my data. To work more efficiently. To only keep what is essential to both the creative process and to memories of life.