WOW Women, Art & Politics Residency

Installation for the 'Women, Art & Politics' international residency at Footscray Community Arts Centre, March 2017, part of the Women of the World (WOW) Festival Melbourne – a collaboration between Footscray Community Arts Centre’s Collaborate Asia Program and Asia TOPA.

The 'Women, Art & Politics' residency was a two-week coming-together of women artists and activists during the Women of the World (WOW) Festival, 2017. 

The artists: Lena Caminha (Timor Leste), Sadaf Saaz (Bangladesh), Fitriani Dwi Kurniasih (Indonesia), Heather Horrocks (AUS) Lisa Greenaway (AUS), Mallika Taneja (India), Ahmarnya Price (AUS), Leticia Caceres (Argentina/AUS) and Bigoa Chuol (Sudan/AUS). 

This soundscape was built as the two week residency progressed, in collaboration with all of the artists and in a very spontaneous and organic way. Voices recorded in moments snatched between conversation, visual art making, and performance rehearsal. Songs and poems recorded late at night in The White House in Footscray, and in between noisy rain showers in The Line warehouse. For two weeks, women from many different backgrounds, ages and cultures came together and talked about politics, art, activism, men, women, everything.

Together every day, and night, conversations abounded and rebounded. This soundscape is absolutely a work of distilling the spirit of that coming together, the moments of both confusion and clarity that came with deep conversation about women, equality, diversity, intersectionality, sustainability, and the urgency and compassion of activism. The sounds of the waves and the winds forming the aural landscape throughout are predominantly created from the women's voices, breathing, laughing, whispering, singing. Footsteps on the warehouse's old metal floors, Heather's charcoal pencil, Lena and Fitri's scissors and pens. My own poem, lung capacity, was a last-minute addition, recorded at 3am after sitting with all of these voices for hours, realising that this poem written 10 years ago is still distressingly relevant. 

This soundscape is the sound of women from very different countries, languages, cultures and perspectives, learning from each other. It is my gift to them, also, made with a deep love and gratitude for their generous spirits.

During the two weeks we created a collaborative performance of theatre, dance, poetry and sound (see video below) which was performed on Friday 24th March at the Wow cafe, FCAC lawn. The full 30 minute soundscape was then played continually on loop at the wall featuring Fitri DK and Anisa Shabrina Yunus' paste up artwork (perempuan merdeka) throughout the weekend of the festival, 24th/25th March 2017. 

Poems and voices in order:
when did we forget, Sadaf Saaz
breath/ocean/wind/chants (throughout), Leticia Caceres and all
conversation, all
what do we want, Mallika Taneja
poem, Sadaf *
what do we want, Bigoa Chuol
'16', poem, Mallika **
song, Sadaf
what do we want, Lisa Greenaway
proverb (fuck Paul), Heather Horrocks & Lisa
'we shall overcome', Mallika & Lisa
poem, Bigoa
poem, Lena Caminha (music: Edan Turun)
lullaby sung by Fitri DK
poem, lung capacity, Lisa

(* with archival footage from Bangladesh cyclone news)
(** Mallika reading a poem for Irom Sharmila, the Indian activist who broke her 16 year hunger strike in 2016 by licking honey. The soundscape in this section includes television footage of the bedlam of reporters surrounding her as she broke her fast.)

With thanks to Jade Lillie, Bo Svonoros and Stufvani Gendis Suryadi, FCAC and WOW.

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