Day 3 – submission, liberation and ice skating

It has immediately become apparent on viewing Jurgen’s beautiful film images from yesterday, that his presence is an integral part of the creative process. “Split” is quickly showing itself to be much more than just a concert piece. Seeing clips of a cello/voice improvisation set against an eerie backdrop of the Århaus docks, northern winter light permeating the scene, with some of Line’s sampled sound scapes attached, reveals this to be a three way collaboration.

Jurgen goes about his task of documenting our work by finding strange and interesting places to film. I improvise simple childlike pieces in the children’s section of the museum: in one room children’s clothes hang from the ceiling in clear plastic casing, lit in neon pink and green, in another I sit on a white rubber cloud singing and playing simple melodies as children’s fluffy toys swing from strings above us. It’s more than a little bit horror movie, to my mind.  Psycho child sort of thing.

These dream-like child sequences fit into Line’s yellow post-it notes collage plan on our work bench. She has compiled a text from journalists’ harrowing conversations with the young adult ex-inhabitants of Bosnia’s orphanages for children born from rape. This is tough stuff. The protagonist of the text is a young male, fatherless, rejected by his mother and society, and with bitterness feels condemned to marriage only with another child born of rape. More disturbingly, his anger is finding expression in sexual violence to women, thus perpetuating the victim/abuser cycle.

Line has become interested in the idea of feeling trapped by circumstance and state of mind, triggered by a conversation in which I described the experiences I had recently had playing in a classical symphony orchestra, feeling utterly stifled and restricted by the elaborate conformity to a larger organism such work requires. By way of physical metaphor, I wound 300 metres of plastic wrap around the exhibition space, using the final few metres to bind myself as completely and quickly as possible, finally ensnared in the web of  my own actions, bound wrists crossed above me in the classic pose of the submissive. Fully immersed in the exercise I experienced senses of exhaustion, surrender and a faintly erotic buzz. Reversing the process – strangely time consuming to untangle the elaborate maze of plastic – was a joyful act of liberation and a useful workshop tool with which to visit different emotional states.

Having journeyed to submission and back, Line then asked me to read part of Lady Macbeth’s famous “unsex me now” soliloquay, Shakespeare’s most powerful female character’s chilling call to the black spirits to dehumanise her, take away her female sensibility and compassion in order to carry out the murders that will give her husband absolute power. From an initially dramatic “Shakespearian” rendering, I then was to speak the text as if tied up, unable to express myself in physical gesture, but solely through the voice. This produced something quite new in the sound, although felt extremely uncomfortable, especially when Line asked me to scream and shout fragments of the text directly at her. Suddenly it felt personal. Angry. I felt upset, unbalanced, not myself. And the sound reflected it, which is what Line is constantly looking out for. Doubtless drama students do these kind of exercises throughout their training, and learn a certain objectivity at the same time, but for a most-of-the-time cellist, this confrontational method of working really puts me through the emotional wringer. And it’s only just 4 in the afternoon. Teatime.

A welcome break from Lady M’s unholy state of mind, and a step back to the Child theme, Jurgen and I now find ourselves crouched over a gentle, worked-metal sculpture of a woman partially submerged in a bath of sand by artist Signe Kirk, who, our wonderful museum curator happily assures us, would be delighted to know that her work is being used for such purposes. Line’s idea here is to recreate a short scene from a Nintendo game called “Split Second”, where cars race against impossible odds of exploding buildings, toppling bridges, erupting earth chasms and the like. Using some of Line’s children’s toy cars, I “race” the cars over the sculpture, upturning them against toy police vans, crashing them into the woman’s arms, burying them in the sand, Jurgen somehow following my gestures with a constantly turning camera. This will be quite an editing job for him…

Psycologically unwrapping myself yet again, the three of us now make our way to the nearby outdoor icerink. Yet another of Jurgen’s brainwaves, I somehow shuffle my way to the middle of the rink, cello in hand, and surrounded by fascinated skaters begin to improvise against the floodlit backdrop of evening sky and magnificent 19th century facade of the Hotel Royal. Thank god, the cello survives the cold and ice spray, and friendly locals stand around to ask us about our activities.

Thawing out over rich parsnip soup back in the museum cafe we start to pool the huge amount of material gathered in the day and make sure that the stream of consciousness method in moving from one creation to the next retains coherent links in our conscious minds. It’s vital that there is a strong thematic thread to make a comprehensive structure. My sense is that the real work will begin in the weeks after this intense creative incubation at the Kvindemuseet. Then we start the business of teaching our new “Split” child to walk.

(posted by Zoe Martlew)

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~ by splittheopera on 17/02/2011.

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