Songs For Becoming
Songs For Becoming (2019) is a site-specific installation created for die raum, a project space in Berlin. The exhibition closed with a spoken word performance as the finissage on 31 May 2019. The project is part of my practice based PhD research From Text to Sound: Textuality of Spoken Word and Participatory Authorship in Contemporary Art (working title).
My practice based PhD research is to investigate the relationship between text and spoken voices and the notion of authorship between artist, participants and artwork.
I created the installation to experiment with the physical space through represented and actual space, and layers of text onto various surfaces activated by the visitors, in order to create a dialogue on real physical space and the idea of words as object as well as the space of imagination.
The text on the floor, on the walls and on the front window shifted depending on the eye level of visitors, the text score written for the performers, and the performed voices at the live acts – all contribute to a continuous transformation of medium, meaning, interpretation and re-mediations: from text to sound, from sound to image, from image to interpretations, from interpretations to actions.
The process of writing - editing of the installed text by the visitors, and the transformation from text to voices by the performers, explore the shift of authorship.
Text and Score:
The text in the installation is from a text score I created for a choral spoken word performance – each voice is to be spoken as unison, performed by a local choir group. The score has been developed using quotes from the Epic of Gilgamesh as the starting point. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the earliest surviving work of literature, carved on stone tablets with some missing parts.
By selecting sceneries from the text, the narrative of the score is moved away from the original literature but focuses on the notion of “body” moving through the landscape. The score itself, to me, is a drawing for a cinematic sound collage made with sonic descriptions. I employ this to generate multiple interpretations through lyrical and rhythmic spoken word performance, with layers of voices creating echoes and repetitions.
As well as exploring the notion of text though the various medium, I was lucky enough to carry out an experiment, which was to hand over the score to the conductor, Christian Damsgaard and have it performed by Chor Nova and friends.
To allow it to succeed I was at the rehearsal without giving precise instructions. Asking him to use his own interpretation of the score and conduct the piece brought out an interesting outcome. It became clear that the system I use for making scores is unconventional, so the piece grew to become quite different to how I imagined. This, to me, magnified the idea of on-going mutation of interpretations.
I was hoping the performance would become a collaboration with Christian. However, he was too busy to do so and decided that the role of “conductor” is best suited for his part of contribution to the performance. Although the conductor and the performers do not seem to see themselves as co-author of the performance itself, without their contributions, the performance would not have existed.
One experiment I planned to undertake but never realised was to have the performers and the audience inside the space, in order to create an intimate and to blur the boundary between performing and everyday life environment. The audience was too large to fit inside the space, so only the performers could be inside for the Act 1. The heavy rain came down after the Act 1, and the Act 2 had to be performed under the roll-up exterior sunshade next to the space. Although I was not able to test this out, these unexpected conditions created the interesting outcome. The heavy rain made the reality closer to the narrative of the performance after the Act 1, and the audience were able to hear the voices much clearer in the Act 2.
I am fond of unexpected incidents as an artist and a researcher to be.
The performance was conducted by Christian Damsgaard, and performed by Chor Nova and friends - Andrey Stoyanoff, Boris Boll-Johansen, Catriona Miller, Eva Dominique Wenzel, Juan David Guzmán Martínez, Lotte Møller, Lucia Schreyer and Sophie Charlotte Schippmann.
Photography: Jan Windszus (image 1-3) and Oliver Hartung (image 4)