Kim McClelland is a marriage celebrant and florist with a background in theatre performance and education. Her business, Dear Henri, draws on her creative practice to create bespoke floral installations and wedding ceremonies for modern romantics. Kim is also a Clunes local who does layout and design for the Clunes Community Newsletter.
Kim attended the Love Songs Acousmatic Lecture and Performance I held in June 2021 and in this interview she discusses what it was like to experience my work for the first time. This includes how in listening she felt the sound becomes her and she becomes the sound, what it was like to experience live in the venue versus as a recording in the privacy of her own home, how this kind of work can create avenues for conversations that may not otherwise be had, and some thoughts about how to activate spaces in Clunes for creative use.
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Kim McClelland – I’m Kim McClelland, my pronouns are she/her. I live in Clunes and I’m an educator and artist and advocate. Currently I work as a marriage celebrant and a floral designer, but I also have a background of 12 years in education and performing arts.
Thembi Soddell – Cool. All right. Awesome. How long have you actually lived in Clunes for?
KM – Just gone on two years so not very long and we came from inner city Melbourne, so quite a different, yeah, quite a contrast to the countryside.
TS – Yeah. I also, I came from Hoddle Street and moved here, so I went exact extreme opposite. So I couldn’t believe how quiet it was.
KM – Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
TS – And did you start the marriage celebrant stuff here, or?
KM – Back in Brunswick. So I was working as a teacher and I got my marriage celebrancy certificate or whatever it’s called and I sort of just did that on the side. But I really, really loved it and I felt like I needed to make a bit of a shift out of my teaching career. I just wanted to really change things up. And so that all happened fairly organically alongside like each year I dropped my teaching back by half a day or one day as my wedding business kind of picked up. So that was kind of nice.
TS – Yeah. That’s awesome. Does it connect with your performance background at all?
KM – It really does. Yeah. Particularly when I’m in the studio with flowers. So I’m self-taught as a florist and I find that a lot of the ways that I work with flowers is very, very instinctual. There’s not a lot of, kind of, um, there’s a lot of thinking going on, but it’s all through my sort of emotional and like body response. That’s sort of how I work in the studio, cause all of my work as a performing artist is improvisation based work, so I think that there’s a lot of crossovers there and definitely, yeah, sorry, sorry you go. Ah, I was going to say
TS – A delay on the internet. Love it.
KM – You go first.
TS – I have forgotten, ah, I was going to ask are you still doing performance work, aside from the marriage stuff, cause you mentioned it was improvisation.
KM – I haven’t been so much recently. Just before COVID set in, I was still connecting back with a group that I’ve been doing a bit of training and work with back in Melbourne and then when COVID happened I just sort of haven’t really returned to that at this point. I went and did some gardening in our garden instead.
TS – Nice. What you said before, I feel like kind of ties into what I wanted to talk to you about, which is, you said a lot of what you do with flowers and in the studio is just to do with feeling and I was quite interested to talk to you about your experience of the lecture performance I did, because I recall that some of the things you said in the discussion really were about that feeling – I don’t know how to describe it very well, but can you speak to that at all?
KM – Yeah, for sure. One of the things – I mean, I loved so many things about my experience of your lecture and the experience of being in that sound world – I really loved, it was brilliant, the opening visual with the face and the hair coming out. I had a really strong response to that, which was both sort of horrified, but in a really enjoyable way, like I enjoyed feeling that horror because I was sort of watching this thing that often appears in my own nightmares. It’s a little bit different how my own dreams happen, but it was pretty cool seeing that and having the sound wash over me. I found as I continued to listen to your voice in the lecture and also the sound that you were bringing in as well, I found that the more I listened, the more I was immersed in that, and because I had my eyes closed as well, this experience of the sound kind of washing over me and then kind of through me. So I felt like the sound and my inner being sort of combined, I don’t know really how to explain it, but I probably mentioned at the time I had the same experience when I saw this jazz pianist play and it was just him on the grand piano and same thing, like you kind of become the sound and the sound becomes you and the rest of the world ceases to exist, like that is my entire existence.
TS – Wow. That’s cool.
KM – It’s hard to explain, but I tried to get more, um, I actually wrote some things down because I thought I’ll try and actually explain it with some sense of intelligence. What did I say? So I really loved the unfamiliar sounds that were presented, the dissonance and the clashing, it was just really uneasy and really textural experience. And then I wrote the sound becomes inside me, I become the sound yet I’m still separate. The sound washes over and eventually I join the sound and it moves through me. So it just, yeah, really, I love that completely immersive experience when I’m yeah. When I’m able to like, just, yeah. Have a sound experience like that.
TS – Yeah. I mean, that sounds really, I love that description, I love that that happened too, I couldn’t ask for anything more as an artist really.
KM – I was gonna say, I’m sorry, my articulation with that’s not really great, but I think you know what I mean.
TS – I think your articulation is actually really beautiful. My articulation of it’s not great either. This is actually why I love working with this abstract sound though, because you don’t have to articulate, you just have to feel. Which is why, while I was working on my PhD, which that piece was a part of, it just felt like for me it connected with all these emotional and psychological and distressing feelings, but also I feel like the lived experience of what I guess I would call trauma or mental illness, but as you know, I kind of struggle with the term mental illness a little bit. It’s complicated, it’s not just like, ah, I feel bad. It’s like, there’s all this mixture of things I can’t articulate. And so I’m quite curious to know if you found any connection between the concepts I was talking about and the sound itself or if they were completely separate and either way is fine, I don’t expect others to experience it in any specific way.
KM – So the experience at the venue for me looking back on it, I would say that the things were separate. I experienced particularly the sound world more, that was really the thing that I was kind of in at the time. However, when I listened back to your lecture in my house, I could see really strong links to things that you were talking about and the way that I was experiencing the sound was actually really different. At home it was super unsettling and made me feel… not unsafe but definitely we’re starting to kind of feel like this as I was listening and I could really make those connections between what you were talking about. I think that’s because I’m here in my house and I’m not going to a performance, so I maybe experienced it in a different way. And maybe the second time you hear something as well compared to when you’re hearing it fresh the first time.
TS – Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And were you listening at home on headphones or speakers?
KM – On headphones, yeah, I didn’t have anything fancy. I’ve realised now I should’ve borrowed my husband’s – he’s got some nice headphones, proper ones.
TS – Those ear buds of Apple’s aren’t too bad actually.
KM – It did block out all the other sound, which is great. I couldn’t hear the washing machine going. But I noticed things the second time that I don’t think I noticed the first time. For example, you had the visual of a bell becomes a voice, a voice becomes a violin, a violin becomes a bird. I saw that and then I realised later on you speak about that and you actually say that phrase, that little piece, later on. So those kinds of, I didn’t pick up on those things the first time. I think it’s just like watching a movie isn’t it, when you watch a movie and you see it for the second time, you go ‘ahhh’..
TS – That’s really interesting. Do you also feel like that difference in how the sound affects you physically, is that quite different on the headphones versus the speakers?
KM – Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I think all the performative sort of like, you go there, you booked a ticket, you wait outside, all the audience are gathering, there’s all that pre-performance foyer experience. Then you go in and Rebecca does a welcome, there’s all these things that lead you into that moment of stripping away all the other stuff that is part of your life. Then there’s big speakers, much bigger than even proper headphones at home, and it’s dark and you close your eyes and you’re sitting in this chair, that’s been specially put out for you as an audience kind of experience. So it’s just a very different context to at home, even though I can sit here and close my eyes, I haven’t actually left my house to go anywhere.
KM – There’s something very special about going, for me, to a space to experience this. And I think often I leave behind my constructive analytical thinking brain a bit more when I go somewhere. That might be why, in addition to the fact that I’m hearing it for the second time at home, but I also think it might be because I’m at home and this is a space more where I am engaging in books and in research and I’m on my laptop and I’m at my desk where I do my work. So I probably am more cerebral, I guess. Is that the right word to use, cerebral?
TS – Yeah, totally.
KM – I think it’s more that space, and so I really liked having those two different experiences of your work. They gave me different and valuable things.
TS – Yeah, I’m really interested in this idea that – I don’t know what to call it – the dialogue in my lecture was more resonating at home than in a space. I had never thought about that and that it might be a thing. I wonder if that’s about – the first time I presented that was at a conference, so I’d be curious to know if people at a conference felt similar to the way… because obviously that’s set up as a performative lecture and everybody’s in academic mode. It’s curious to me. Do you think that – I’m not quite sure how to ask this question, or maybe I already asked it, but I’ll try again – do you think that if you think about this idea of potentially using abstract sound in the context of mental health discourse, or particularly around this idea of talking about or thinking about lived experience of trauma and madness, do you feel like you learned anything about that, or maybe my experience, or does it feel separate in the way you just said the sound and the text felt separate? Is that question making sense?
KM – So, I’ll speak some more about that separateness at the event, yet at the same time, because we’ve got the program, we’ve got the little written program that you had on everyone’s chair, so we’ve got time to kind of read that and absorb that. So knowing that there’s content that is touching on so-called mental illness and we as an audience know some of your story now, because you’ve shared it. I think also there’s this experience, for me anyway, where you’re like, ‘oh wow, this person creating this work and sharing this lecture with us is actually talking to us about really heavy stuff.’ Like, this is big stuff when they’re talking about abuse and the kinds of abuse.
KM – And we know from what you’ve said, that this is super… it’s that kind of, it’s like really insidious and it sneaks up on you and sometimes it doesn’t even look like what it actually is. I think that’s there the whole way through for me in the experience of the performance, but I’m not thinking about that specifically at the time, because I’m listening to the sound. Then when I was driving home, I’m like, ‘oh wow, Thembi’s going through a shitload in their life.’ That’s kind of when I’m thinking about the person and the artist who’s created this and having quite a strong emotional, like a really strong emotional reaction – not a bad one, just a ‘what the fuck is going on, things are fucked up.’ That kind of a reflection on it, that’s happening there.
TS – So that part sorta doesn’t hit you until later?
KM – For me, yeah. But sometimes, it could be just me, I don’t know, it’d be really interesting to hear when you’ve collated a whole lot of responses to hear how other people experienced it. At the time I didn’t have those ‘this is really fucked up’ feeling. That was definitely driving home, that was when I kind of went and joined up some more of those dots.
TS – Hmm, yeah, right.
KM – Does that make sense? I’m not actually sure if I’m answering your question.
TS – You’re answering it perfectly, it’s really interesting. I had a question and it just disappeared from my mind. I’m just really interested in this idea that it doesn’t hit you until later, because that is my experience even just of trauma, right? It doesn’t hit you until later.
KM – Yes, yes, it doesn’t hit you till later. Well, it didn’t hit me till later. And I don’t know how much of that is maybe a ‘I don’t want to get too vulnerable in a space in a town that I’m kind of new at.’ Maybe how much of that is… ‘I know you’re talking to me about these things, but I’m going to really engage with this sound world and immerse myself in that.’ I don’t know how much subconscious, not wanting to lose my shit in public, or if I was in there with a whole bunch of people that I knew really well, like my friends from Melbourne, or even if I was having that experience, but I was in Brunswick with strangers, but it’s a context that I’m much more familiar with, maybe it’s different. It would be very interesting to rewind time and have that experience in a different town. I wonder how that changes it.
TS – That’s interesting too. I think that I have thought a bit about this idea of audience safety. Cause afterwards I’m like, ‘let’s have a discussion about this,’ but I’m also very aware that I just talked about trauma. People don’t want to share their trauma or talk about mental health with a bunch of strangers because you have no idea how they’re going to respond. So when I’ve started thinking about this, ‘could I use this as a tool to get people talking or thinking?,’ I probably would need to construct some kind of safe space where people felt they could share with one another. But then that’s almost moving into group therapy territory, which I don’t think I should run myself, cause I don’t have training in doing that.
TS – I guess I’m just trying to think through my brain, cause part of me also thinks cause I speak to audience members over the years about what they experience and some of it’s completely removed from any experience of mental illness or trauma. For some people it’s just like ‘that was beautiful, I loved it, it was so relaxing’, or like ‘it made me think about this and this and this and this’, but has nothing to do with my experience. Then there’ll be other people who are like, having a panic attack or something, which is awful, but I guess part of it? I don’t know. Or people who afterwards they will have expressions on their face where I just gotta to get out of here.
KM – How Interesting, yeah.
TS – I find it fascinating how different people relate to this, and because through the PhD I was so focused on my own lived experience, coming from this ethical position of ‘I can’t research other people’, and I’m very aligned with, I guess you’d call it mad pride side of things and disability justice, where it’s like ‘nothing about us, without us’ is kind of a catchphrase. And so I didn’t want to be like ‘I’m going to make work about other people’s trauma’, cause how can I represent that? All I can do is focus on my own experience. And then now I’m in this process of ‘what does this mean to other people? Could this process help other people?’ Probably it would be certain types of people it might help. I don’t know. But do you have – I don’t know if I just keep asking the same questions again, slightly differently – but in your experience as somebody living in Clunes, could you see how this might be used as a tool to do some of these things?
KM – Yeah, totally. For example, I was having a coffee just down at Criterion the other day and someone walked past, I don’t actually know her name, but I do know her face and we were both at your performance, and she actually struck up the conversation. I think she said, ‘oh yeah, you were at Thembi’s performance’, and we had a brief little chat about it. Cause she went straight into talking about how she had felt during it, and she could recall that instantly, and I’m thinking ‘this is great’, like how many weeks or months later and people are still talking about it and recalling their experience. It’s a way to start a conversation with someone else down the main street that you don’t really know but sort of have seen around.
KM – And I think it’s those conversations that are really… like, even though it might be weeks or months after the event, it’s an opportunity to open up discussion around it. Then it just happened to be coinciding with our Zoom coming up today. It’s great because those chance encounters allow you to revisit the experience, and then of course I’m walking home after a coffee and I’m thinking about the experience again. I think those sorts of things are really always very valuable. And it is a way to start to think and grapple with these really uncomfortable topics, issues, conversation points. I think that it does help…
KM – …it does help us put some language around it and to start these uncomfortable conversations and then they can become less uncomfortable for some people.
TS – So for some people it’s almost like a gentle way in?
KM – I think so. Cause I could tell that she was super, super uncomfortable during the performance, but that wasn’t a problem for her. She wasn’t having any… it wasn’t negative that it was… made her feel really, really like full-on. I think she quite enjoyed being able to tell me that she felt it was a very full-on experience. I could tell how moved she was from that experience. And she and I had very, very different experiences because I think I was one of those people who were like ‘wow, that was so relaxing’, and it was so great to hear her experience and how different it was and how valuable it was for her, how meaningful and valuable these completely different experiences were respectively for her and I.
TS – That’s really wonderful to hear actually. That’s nice to know it had an ongoing impression, because obviously I do these things, I work in isolation. You only get very small fragments of time that I get to interact with an audience and then it just disappears… it becomes this ephemeral thing where I’m like, ‘did that even, was there a point to that? Did that mean anything? Was that me just doing my own kind of self-narcissistic kind of exploration’. Cause artists can get very self-focused…
KM – No not at all, there’s so much value in there. Totally, not at all like that, I don’t think. I think this kind of work is really important, in the city but really much in small towns to be able to access work that has depth of meaning and great thought and intention behind it, and something that’s not too easy to hold and catch you. It’s something that’s so open to multiple interpretations and therefore I think that people can really find their own way to access it and, um, get something back from it. It’s so, you know, outside of the cliche, it’s so outside of the… there was nothing, it was so unexpected, everything that I could hear was super unexpected and I love those surprises.
TS – Cool. That’s really awesome. I mean the next… I had a concert planned, which I had to cancel due to the lovely thing in the air, but for that concert I was going to present everything without any…like, without that sort of introduction or discussion about trauma, maybe a little program that just kind of said where I was coming from, but not a lot of depth. And I would really love to know the difference between how people respond and are affected by it on its own, versus with this very considered lecture. I mean, hopefully I’m kind of thinking maybe in December I might get a chance to, we’ll see how it goes, and if you’re interested, it’d be great to talk to you again then, just to see if you experienced it quite differently.
KM – Totally, cause that’s exactly… when I was listening back to it at home, that was exactly the thing that fell into my mind, like ‘oh cool, I’d love to be able to go and hear this, but just as a continuous – or, you know, however you are going to stick it together, shape it, whatever – it would be really interesting to hear it with just the sound and then potentially have an opportunity to hear the lecture separately and to have that experience of, ‘oh, what’s it like having those things side by side?’
TS – I really want to experiment with all those things and had grand plans for this year that all got canceled, but hopefully… It’s all planned now, so even if I can’t do some of it this year, next year it will happen, because I’m also like, you know, how you mentioned the difference between that experience in the performance space versus on headphones at home, I also want to try out something that’s in an open paddock as well and see how that changes the experience. I’m also doing a residency next month, I’ll have something at the Clunes Free Library, which is not going to be open to the public, but I might ask if it’s… if I managed to get it to a state that it’s working properly, I’ll also invite some people along if you’re interested.
KM – Absolutely. Very much.
TS – Yeah, I’m just really curious, cause I feel like each different way of presenting stuff changes those feelings that I have, and I’m curious to see if other people find that too and what those changes are like. So for you – this might be too personal of a question, so feel free not to answer it – but in terms of that experience where you said you became sort of almost one or that… whatever you said that was articulated better than I could, did you have any experiences of images in the head or narratives or memories or was it just completely feeling for you?
KM – It was like, as I was experiencing it, all of the little, for example, you might have been having a niggle in your head about… how do I explain? It’s like all of those things that would be normally the background noise, the negative background noise, like the niggles, the tension you might have with a friend, suddenly it all just dissolves and you just exist in that moment of existing, like all the worries and stresses and pressures, the need to have a certain status, or the need to achieve something, I kind of felt like in that moment of becoming part of the music, the sound, the textures that you are presenting to us, all of the background noise kind of just dissolves and doesn’t exist in that point in time. Sometimes, not often, it happens when I’m watching a movie and it’s usually a Japanese or Korean film. And the story is such that suddenly I realise all the things that always niggle and shouldn’t matter, I finally realise that they shouldn’t matter.
KM – I had a similar experience.
TS – Oh, that’s interesting, do you know what it is about those particular films?
KM – I don’t know, the one film that I’m thinking of, it’s probably the values actually that the film is exploring. I suddenly go, ‘oh wow yeah, they’re my values too, why do all the extraneous – extraneous, is that a word? – why does all the superfluous shit actually be there in the background?’ It was literally like, and I had the same thing when I saw the jazz pianist as well, the things were just kind of, I could see them and I could just push them away, almost. That’s too much of a literal thing, but that’s probably the only way I can explain it. You know in The Matrix and Neo’s picking the bullets out of the like… going ‘oh yeah, that’s not there anymore, oh yeah, that doesn’t matter anymore’ and you’re just moving forward as you push all this crap out and you suddenly come to this space of being free of all that stuff, just momentarily. Until I get in the car and drive home and it’s different.
TS – Like ah shit, life exists. I find it really interesting because that’s how I feel when I compose. So even though I’m talking about this relationship between what I’m doing and trauma, or, you know, what have you, while I’m actually composing, it feels like I find the sounds beautiful, or I probably wouldn’t be making them. And I find that it’s a way for me to relax, everything else kind of disappears, but also that I… I use the word meditation sometimes because it feels like that transcendence in a way that is beyond thought, but it’s still thinking, but just not with words.
KM – That’s what it is! Yeah, totally. Yeah, that’s really interesting to hear about your experience of creating the work is totally like, I feel like as a person experiencing your work, we’re having the same experience at different stages in the project. That’s great. That’s really interesting.
TS – Yeah, and I think sometimes when people say I make work about trauma, they think ‘oh shit, this is going to be really intense and traumatic’, but like I said, I feel like trauma is more complicated than that often. I mean, I was talking about it in the context of relationships and there are often really beautiful things happening in relationships too. It’s not like it’s all just horrible abuse all the time because otherwise people would not be in them. But yeah, it just becomes this really safe space of meditating and letting these things just sort of dissolve. I mean, it’s not like I’m cured after I make it or whatever, but it’s just like a space where it just feels safe to think about those things or something. Yeah, I find people sometimes they’re just like ‘oh, but that was really beautiful, I was expecting this really hardcore, intense noise or something’ and I’m like ‘no, that’s not what I do’.
KM – That’s so interesting, wow.
TS – Are there other things – you know, I’ve asked you a few questions – but are there other things that came up for you that maybe I don’t know how to direct or things you want to say?
KM – Oh, I’ll have a little look at my notes just in case there’s anything… Oh, there was some quiet… you know, I mentioned earlier with the opening sequence with the hair and the mouth, I really noticed the second time when I was watching, the immense relief when the hair did come out. I don’t remember having the relief the first time, I think it was more that I was just so shocked that I was seeing my own nightmares on the big screen. I knew it was coming the second time, but when the hair finally came out, I was like ‘oh my god, the hair’s out!’ and I literally felt really relieved.
KM – That was a great feeling. That was cool. I really like your slow gradual increase in intensity and volume, and you use that a number of times throughout, yeah I really like that. I love the bit – you do talk about this in your lecture – but at 30 minutes and around 58, 59 seconds where the sound just cuts out and it just leaves that little bit of voices, that repeated voice… do you know the bit I’m talking about? That’s great.
TS – Not really…
KM – Ah, it’s the bit where it gets super, super, super intense and it just cuts out, but there’s this little bit of voice – I call them voices – It’s almost like this little sample that are like voices bubbling, roll along.
TS – Yeah, it is voice, yeah. it’s just all chopped up and messed around.
KM – Yeah, I really loved that moment because also then what you do is, if suddenly there’s a surprise again, and I’ve written here ‘surprise, three exclamation marks’, I think the surprise is suddenly the sound cuts back in again, that’s my memory of it anyway, the intensity rejoins it, and I really liked that surprise of that. I think I’ve probably told you everything. I mentioned already did I, where I said in the context of the performance that relaxing meditative state wasn’t unsettling, but when I listened to it at home, it was unsettling. Did I mention that already? Can’t remember.
TS – Yes, you did.
KM – Great. Yep. So I really enjoyed those two separate, quite different experiences. And I think I’ve probably said everything else in my notes… Yes, I’ve said that part as well. Oh, one more thing. I actually just found a little note, you know, the other thing I was able to really articulate on the second listening, I didn’t have the words for it the first time, but listening to your voice, like when you are talking is in your recorded voice, how it’s so lyrical, like you have such a lyrical and musical voice, there’s nothing stilted and actually your voice itself become an art form in itself. And so when I, and also now thinking about it might also be why when I’m in there, everything’s so much more performative and that’s maybe why I’m not connecting so much the content of what you’re talking about because I am experiencing it as… yeah, I’ve written here ‘lyrical, musical art form in itself’, so it’s almost like I’m hearing these two sound experiences, like I’m really hearing your voice, it’s not as though you’re reading off a page, you’re not reading a lecture like a lecture, it’s just beautifully nuanced and yeah, it’s an art form in itself. Truly.
TS – That’s cool to hear. I wondered, cause I feel like I have quite, particularly when I’m in a state of flow and I’m much more relaxed and my voice is a bit deeper and stuff, I feel like… I was listening back to it, like ‘are people just kind of going to fall asleep and not listen to the content?’ Cause I feel like my voice is really relaxing.
KM – Yeah, no, totally. I think that it makes it really great to listen to because it is lyrical. There’s nothing cliched about the presentation, the delivery of the words. I think it’s really important because yeah, it ties so well into the work that you’re also creating and presenting.
TS – Yeah, I do like to be, I mean, I performed that multiple times, I’m very particular about getting every single detail right, that’s kind of what my practice is all about. So it’s interesting to hear that that was noticed by you as well because yeah, I prefer to do these kinds of performative recorded lectures just because that feels more in line with a creative practice to me than just standing out and talking to people, which also isn’t my strong suit. Another thing I’m curious to ask you about is you know how we all had that kind of group discussion at the end and Rebecca brought up this idea of responsibility towards an audience, which is something Rebecca and I have talked about a lot and we sort of have slightly different perspectives on that where I think I said at the time, like I feel like trigger warnings, so that people can decide for themselves if they want to experience, is sort of, I feel like that’s a responsible way of doing it and that I shouldn’t then be further responsible beyond that. Did you have thoughts around that as an audience member coming into it and feeling like the trigger warning either wasn’t enough or it was enough… Do you have thoughts?
KM – Yeah, so for me there wasn’t any point where I felt it had been not like… I think even without a trigger warning I would’ve been fine. Probably just who I am and the fact that I haven’t really experienced very much trauma perhaps is maybe one of the reasons why I often can go into something without a trigger warning and then something can happen and then I’ll just sort of process it afterwards. But I think the fact that you had trigger warning is actually really important for people who would need one. Definitely. But as to whether, you know, that would need to be kind of like held and shaped sort of more, I don’t have… like for me I wouldn’t need more, but I don’t know because that’s just my own lived experience. I’m not coming from a different kind of history or background where maybe other people might need more… what’s that word?
TS – Context, or, I don’t know… containing? We’re both doing the same hands, so we must both know what we’re talking about.
TS – Yeah. I kind of feel like if I was to do any more sort of comforting or this thing we’re doing with our hands, for people, that would then prevent, say people like yourself who wouldn’t have much of a problem, from being able to engage as well. So yeah… I mean, sometimes I think it’s a tricky question and sometimes I’m like ‘ah, you know what, everyone’s an adult’. I don’t usually like, well, I don’t invite kids along to lectures like this because I don’t feel like I’m the one who should be making decisions around whether they can engage or not. And I don’t have much interaction with kids, so I honestly don’t know what they can and can’t talk about, or what they’re ready for, which is maybe me worrying a little bit too much as well, cause I know as a kid, I would’ve been thinking about and engaging with these themes anyway. Well, not little kid, but teenager.
TS – Yeah. I also feel like, because you’ve mentioned this hair thing a few times, I did mention in the lecture that the video part was by an artist called Vanessa Godden, and so I just wanted to mention that because it’s there, the reason I asked them to do these video clips for my work was because just like you’ve said, I have that very intense visceral… like to me it’s not so much like what I experience in my nightmares, but there was something about their work that just gets me in the guts and watching that piece in particular, I was just horrified and had that same feeling of absolute relief at the end when the hair came out. But also throughout it just, ‘how do they have so much hair in them? Where is it going to end?’ And it’s so gross. I think my mother was just like, ‘that was disgusting’, but she seemed impressed by how disgusting it was.
KM – Totally, totally it.
TS – But yeah, they did a series of clips for bits from that album as well. Which if you’re interested to look at, I can send them to you because they’re different things in the mouth and it’s all just like ‘oh god’.
KM – Yeah. I’d love to see that, it sounds really, really interesting.
TS – Yeah. The hair one is definitely the grossest, but there’s other ones that I find very tense in a different way. It would be interesting to see what you think. I feel like I’ve pretty much covered most of the things I was curious to ask you. Thank you so much.
KM – It’s a pleasure, you’re welcome.
TS – I thought of another question to ask you if you don’t mind.
KM – Yeah, absolutely.
TS – Do you have any thoughts about maybe how to bring people into this experience who wouldn’t normally engage with experimental arts, or art at all even? Cause I’d be so curious how it’s experienced outside of the art world, basically.
KM – Yeah. Oh yeah. Because did you feel like most of the people who came along would attend to go and see some kind of art, if they can?
TS – Of the people I know, that’s the case, yeah. So I think it was the majority. I don’t know about everybody though and what their background is, but my vibe was that and you know, thinking of people who maybe would just be like, ‘what is this shit?’
KM – Yeah, totally. Almost like, can you sort of imagine it could be a situation where maybe they’ve gone to say, I don’t know if you’d want to do it in this kind of very – what’s the word, chance encounter – but could it be something like when the Clunes market or something else is on and you’re occupying a space, one of the empty shopfronts there and the performance is accessible, you know, like when you go into a gallery and there’s something kind of happening on a loop and you can put the headphones on, I’m not sure what one can do in these days of COVID and touching things. But anyway, you know, the olden days we could put headphones on and we could go into this little space after having just walked off Collins Street, or wherever the gallery is, and you suddenly find yourself doing something that you didn’t expect. I wonder if that would be a way to… but I don’t know if people going to the market would then walk into there. They might.
TS – I need a spruiker, basically. That’s an interesting idea though,. I hadn’t thought about Clunes market. That’s a really cool idea.
KM – Set up in one of those shop fonts that are usually empty. Do you know, have you met Karima? K-A-R-I-M-A. I’ll put you both in touch afterwards because she was telling me about reactivating empty spaces and sort of like, placemaking – that’s a concept in urban planning, this idea of placemaking – that’s one of… So she’s an artist, she’s recently just moved to Clunes, she’s a visual artist and a ceramicist but her day job is looking at reactivating these spaces, she does some stuff for City of Melbourne and she’s doing something connecting one of the councils up north, something in Ballarat. And we were having this conversation just the other day about how cool it would be if we could eventually do something like that in Clunes cause there’s a lot of empty street shop fronts. One way of maybe doing it. But yeah, you’re right, you need a spruiker to actually get them off the street.
TS – I did have a work at Booktown back in 2018. And from what I hear when Yonke was doing the… cause I had to have people showing people in and stuff, when she was doing it, apparently she was just grabbing people off the street and going, ‘come on, come to this thing’ and some people were like ‘nah, it’s not my thing’ and she was like ‘just give it a go, just see if it’s your thing’, and so she apparently got some people in here who never would have gone to that kind of…
KM – That’s awesome.
TS – Yeah. So I definitely don’t have the kind of personality that could bring people in, but…
KM – Well if you had someone like Yonke, or Yonke, to just grab them and funnel them in. I mean, I wonder even if it was like, this is such a big long-term sort of project slash vision, but thinking about what Karima was saying, you know, imagine if we had several… like there’s a whole row of them at one point on the main street, isn’t there? I feel like it’s kind of towards the bakery shop end, there’s three or four, maybe kind of around the time traveler store area, I feel like that’s where maybe they are. We were like ‘oh, wouldn’t it be great if there was like three or four shopfronts and there was something different in each.’
KM – Yeah, but then again, I don’t know, that’s almost making it into like a mini festival and perhaps that’s speaking to the same audience that might more likely come to your work anyway. Whereas I feel like maybe the market is an opportunity to grab people who might not normally gravitate to that kind of work.
TS – This has just made me think, what got you involved in working with the Clunes newsletter as well?
KM – Oh, really, Jason just asked my husband, Paul and myself, if we would take it on and we just said, ‘yeah, sure’. My husband’s a writer and a researcher and so it really suits him to do the editing. And I just said, yeah, I have really basic, basic Canva skills. I’m very happy to do the layout and design, very, very low key.
TS – Do you feel like through that you get a lot of interaction with different people in the community? Do you feel that’s built some sort of relationship with the community more so than if you didn’t do it?
KM – I think so, definitely. Particularly with the primary school, like it’s been… we live very close to the primary school, so we often walk our dog there and we’ve had a lot of visits to the, you know, we see the kids when they’re on their holiday program and then they know our dog and then kind of know him by name. And when they see him walk past they’ll go ‘Jumper!’ and they’ll come running out, like the Jumper fan club, we call it. So I’ve sort of had this ongoing connection with the school. And eventually I sort of thought I probably should just ask Sonya if she doesn’t mind that I walk the dog there. I’m like, ‘hello, Sonya, do you mind…’ So, I already kind of knew them, but it’s been so lovely getting to know that community more through the newsletter, and Sonya writes such lovely, lovely things about what the students are up to. And I just love that and love that we can get the kids’ voices into venues, and have it be a space that they can kind of own as well. So I have enjoyed those. Yeah, definitely. Those kinds of, I mean, I’ve enjoyed all the interactions, but it’s been really nice establishing new connections.
TS – Oh, that’s cool. I mean, I moved to Clunes about seven years ago and I’m pretty much a recluse and haven’t been super involved with the community. But that was also because I was writing a PhD when I came here and that’s just… you can’t leave the house when you’re doing that. And now I’m thinking more about how can I engage with the community in a way that’s comfortable to me, which is this weird obscure art, which I’m just going to experiment with over the next few years, I think, and see how it goes.
TS – Thanks so much for having this chat. I really appreciate it. Yeah. Thanks for your time.
KM – It’s a pleasure. You’re so welcome.
TS – Let’s stay in touch.
KM – I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you and definitely let us know when you have more performances because my husband would love to go too. We both wanted to come and see your next round of performances and then of course COVID, so we couldn’t, but we will be there at the next one. Yay, thanks for chatting.
TS – Thank you very much. See you later.
Transcript by Casey Nicholls-Bull