Held Down, Expanding Residency

Clunes Free Library
1st November – 13th December 2021

3 photographs of Held Down Expanding sound installation
Image description: Three photographs of Held Down, Expanding from different angles. The first shows a black structure front on with an open door. Inside seven small speakers pointing towards a reclining chair in the middle are lit by a red glow. The structure is backlit in a room at the Abbottsford Covent in Collingwood, Melbourne, which has an old, industrial look. The second photo shows a silhouette of a person lying in a reclining chair surrounded by speakers, the room glowing red. The third shows the black structure from the outside from the side.

During this residency Thembi began reworking their sound installation Held Down, Expanding for improved functionality, wheelchair accessibility and covid-safety, in consultation with designer Jen Tran, Jon Becker of Airborne Innovations, and set builder Andree Gersbeck. This installation was first presented at MONA FOMA in 2018, followed by showings at Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne (pictured) as part of Liquid Architecture’s Polyphonic Social program, and at Red Door Gallery as part of Clunes’ Booktown Festival.

Using a custom- designed multi-speaker sound system, Held Down, Expanding provides a unique, expanding and contracting experience of abstract sound for one person at a time. It was created as a reflection of the non-verbal, felt experience of perceptual disorientation caused by trauma and its manifestation as symptoms of what might be labelled mental illness.

The residency led to a re-imagining and development of the work to become Who Is Doing What to Whom? (Object Impermanence), which was exhibited as part of ‘Archives of Feeling: Sensation Community and Connection’ at RMIT Gallery for The Big Anxiety Festival 2022.

Held Down, Expanding was a finalist for the 2019 APRA-AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence in Experimental Music. More information on the installation can be found here.

Some photos from the residency:

Image description: Front of the Clunes Free Library, and old colonial style building. Written on the front is “Free Libary” and “Established 1874”
Image description: Two men with white skin, black tops and beige pants lifting the front section of the roof onto a black, room-like structure. The structure is in a hall with beige walls and floorboards, with a step ladder and other bits and pieces around it.
Image description: The black rectangular room-like structure fully set up in the hall.
Image description: A portion of the structure seen through the doorway leading into the hall. The doorframe is white and the wall next to it on the right is an old looking, textured orangey-brown colour.
Image description: Andree Gersbeck and Jen Tran experiment with taping cardboard around the structure to create a different shape. They are standing at one end holding up the cardboard. Andree has white, tanned skin and short slightly greying hair. He is wearing a grey hoodie and beige work pants. Jen is standing beside him to the other side of the camera, with only her blue surgical mask and part of her arm visible. 
Image description: The structure is now covered with cardboard taped together with gaffer tape to create an uneven shape on its surface
Image description: Part of the black structure is covered with cardboard pieces taped together with black gaffer tape to create pointed edges and roof for the structure
Image description: A close up of several dimly lit black cable ties sticking out of a black wall to create pointed texture

Photo of Jen Tran in Held Down Expanding chair
Image description: Jen Tran lying back in a black, zero-gravity recliner surrounded by ten small Genelec speakers all facing towards her, some below, some pointing down from above looking ominous. Jen is facing the camera with a trepidatious look on her face and clutching the chair’s armrests. She has light brown skin and black hair, is six-months pregnant and is wearing a tight pink top with an open overshirt, light grey pants and black Asics sneakers.
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The Held Down, Expanding Residency and Remount is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.