In August 2019, I started renting a studio at The Arches in Southampton – an important stage in my development as an artist as it separated this aspect of my life from others and gave it dedicated space. By March 2020 I was looking at what I had produced that I felt was worthy of exhibition, what wasn’t (back in the box of junk art materials it goes), and began to reevaluate how I used the space. Then of course ‘the event’ happened and I didn’t return until mid-July, shortly after our annual Open Studios event. I’ve only ever been as ‘audience’ before as I joined The Arches shortly after the 2019 event. With public events still not taking place, we decided to run it online. We approached this in different ways – uploaded videos, workshops via Zoom, Insta interviews and so on, including a virtual exhibition which can be visited here (see if you can find Playing and Working).
My initial plan was to revisit The Art Machine, but that wasn’t feasible, so I decided to use the ‘coronium’, a junk instrument I had been tinkering with at home. It’s basically a multi-percussion instrument, a scrap-wood cajon with outgrowths. Here’s an example of what it can sound like. Here’s another.
Now, I am not a musician. I love music and consume it voraciously, but when it comes to making music I am a hobbyist, an occasional noodler. This is about experimenting with junk materials and found items (I am a junk-artist) and facilitating public participation – “make your own instruments from things you have at home and jam with the Cacophony Junk Orchestra!” This is a significant development for me – I am used to running writing workshops, but in visual art I typically exhibit – it isn’t something where my approach has been especially participatory. This is essentially because I am new to the discipline – I’m still finding my way, building my confidence and trying to find (paid) opportunities to run workshops. This was a way of getting some experience. It was also exposing, but that’s valuable as it meant relinquishing some control and simply facilitating others’ creativity, seeing what they made from what they had. It might have induced a few nervy butterflies, but it was liberating, and engaging with others to make collective noise was joyous.
Preparations for the event also coincided with the Disruptions workshops run by Nisha Ramayya and linked to this exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery. Looking at unheard voices, this focused on areas such as marginalised and non-human voices. I worked on turning garden sounds such as bird vocalistions into text and then back into sound, trying to spell the chirps, barkes and buzzes then voicing them myself against the backdrop of creaking swing-chains. This is the outcome, a sound-text-sound transduction. The combination of Disruptions and an online Open Studios has led to me producing my first ‘sound art’ – a whole new area I’ve thought about but never explored. There will be more, possibly very soon.