Moving statues av installation |  Belfast

Audiovisual installation.
4 video projections | 8 channel sound
Duration: 15’00’’

Documented on 8th of September 2015, Belfast
Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University

Collaboration with Martin Byrne.

Credits
Idea, sound recording and composition
Martin Byrne
Camera and video composition
Max Surin

Singers:
Mina Kimović (Una Lee)
Catherine (Camel) Hatt
Caroline Pugh
Meabh Meir

About the project
Four female vocalists who use improvisation in their performances.
Each vocalist chose a specific location in, or around Belfast, Northern Ireland to perform.
Video and audio material of the four performances was captured at each location.
Installation utilises 8 channel sound system, 4 video projections/screens and mac running Ableton Live and Quartz Composer.

  Singers | Locations

Mina02

Mina Kimović​ (Una Lee) has a background in playing piano in a European Classical setting. She has been performing with improvisation and pursuing performance art practice in the last three or four years. Mina was born in South Korea, but spent her adolescence and twenties living in Germany, she is currently living in Belfast and has been living in Northern Ireland for two years.

Mina01

Fisherwick Church, Chlorine Gardens, Belfast
Mina chose this location, as she wanted to connect with a space that felt “homey”, which she described as being a subjective and personal measure, but would include a place, “exhibiting natural elements, being sheltered, and not too frequented by people.”

Camel02

Catherine (Camel) Hatt​ is originally from the West Midlands of England and has been living in Belfast for ten years. She has been a singer since she was a child, but moved into theatre and drama around age 18. Since moving to Belfast, Catherine has written and performed her own songs and recorded two albums, while continuing to write and direct in theatre.

Caamel01

Holy Well of Cranfield, Lough Neagh
Catherine’s location was just outside of Belfast, on the North Shore of the Lough Neagh, she was interested in the Holy Well which Catherine related to the original “Virgin Mary grottos” idea for the project.

“The original project focus idea, of the grottos of Mary in Ireland, made me think of the Mother Goddess and then of Brigid the Celtic triple Goddess who I have a gradually unfolding relationship with… My spirituality is usually fairly separate from my music, but with my recent work on the Lough Neagh project they have seeped into each other more deeply so this is something I am grappling with. Brigid is connected to holy wells in Ireland, and so this holy well, being near Lough Neagh, seemed to thread together these things nicely. On the day I felt quite removed from this spiritual significance, probably because I was not alone, and instead the ritual of people coming with all kinds of illness to this well and tree, for healing, came to the front of my awareness.”

Caroline01

Caroline Pugh​ was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and has lived in Belfast, N.Ireland for over eight years.
Caroline and I have worked together a number of times. Using vocal improvisation, we have performed as a duo and in ensembles together. Caroline’s solo practice involves working with traditional Scottish and Irish songs and her performances often utilise other tools, such as tape recorders, loop station pedals and no­input mixer feedback.

Caroline02

Forest, Lagan Towpath, Stranmillis, Belfast
Caroline chose an open piece of land, with a large in the middle, which was located, just off the Lagan Towpath, near Stranmillis in Belfast. Caroline said:

“I picked one of my favourite places to meet people. I’ve been on dates there, I’ve talked to random and strange people there, I’ve hung out with friends. It’s got lovely acoustics for a natural space outdoors, and it means many different things to me.

Meabh02

Meabh Meir w​as born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and has lived most of her life here, except between 2007 ­ 2010, when she lived in Dublin to study a Degree in Fine Art Painting and Visual Culture. Meabh has performed as a tradition Irish singer in groups and as a solo artist, we have also collaborated and performed together, while working with Canadian singer, Lisa Conway on her Sonic Arts Masters in 2014. Currently Meabh is working on a project exploring sound/voice therapy.

Meabh03

River Lagan Weir (large underground space) , Belfast
Meabh chose this location primarily for its acoustics, it was a collection of large disused concrete rooms, at the end of a tunnel that runs along under the River Lagan. This location had a huge acoustic reverb, it was cold and desolate, but the unique acoustics made for an incredibly ambient space to perform and record in.

“After seeing a powerful theatre production under the river several years ago (Eugene Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros’ by Kabosh theatre company) I had wanted to go down to the space for a performance project while I was studying at art college but the space was unavailable at the time. I wouldn’t say I have a particular connection with the place as I am usually much more comfortable in natural surroundings. I think the unfamiliarity of the space actually challenged me to push myself beyond what I would usually be comfortable with in terms of performance.”

  Performances

While Meabh’s choice of space wasn’t based on a personal attachment to the location, all four singers connected to their environment. Most significantly Meabh interacted with the acoustics of her location, timing her vocalisations in sympathy with the large reverb decay of the space, while Catherine incorporated the traditions associated with the Holy Well into the physical aspects of her performance. Of her performance Meabh said,

  “I had been thinking about a fusion of keening/mourning, whale song/communication, and chanting/healing sounds. I didn’t want there to be any kind of obvious structure to what I was singing but seemed to need some sort of concept to base it on so that the act of improvisation didn’t feel meaningless to me. Ideas of loss, release and transformation were prevalent for me at the time.”

“It was a particularly cathartic experience for me but also cleansing and strengthening and transforming in a way I hadn’t expected.”

At the Holy Well of Cranfield in Lough Neagh, Catherine interacted with stones, water and the birds around her. Catherine made the Holy Well a central focus of her performance, notably creating a playful melody with the words, “Oh well, oh well, oh…”. 

Acknowledging the traditions associated with the Holy Well and nearby Cranfield Church, Catherine had brought a bucket and rag to wash and then hang on the nearby tree.

  “According to the custom, one must bathe the infected part of the body with a rag dipped in the well, pray and then tie the rag to a large overhanging tree.
As the rag decays the affliction is supposed to disappear.” (Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, 2013)

During Mina’s performance there was a strong cold wind blowing, affecting her comfort in the environment. The wind added a dramatic effect, especially in the video material, where we can see Mina’s hair moving, along with the trees and leaves behind her. Speaking of any preconceived ideas she had before going into the performance, Mina said,

  “…the degree of sonic progress that I make depends on the environment to support my immersion ­ the spot I need to hit to let myself go comes at different points. In this performance, I think it came with the wind.”

Caroline confessed that she is often a “nervous performer”, so a personal motivation of her performance was to feel comfortable and relaxed in her environment, which she believes she achieved,

“I was quite pleased not to be a wreck!”
“I’m not sure how it turned out but I enjoyed doing it.”

In Caroline’s video we see her perform with her eyes closed, she appears meditative and relaxed. After several minutes of high pitched “whistle register” and warbling vocalisations, echoing around us in the forest, Caroline moved into a quieter spoken word movement. We hear her speaking about a seemingly paradoxical concept, of a “curve, and all straight lines are also part of the curve” and it suggests a reflective, philosophical state. The use of extended vocal techniques could be heard with both Mina and Caroline, who have similar backgrounds with performance art and improvisation. Meabh and Catherine’s styles reflected extreme, almost polar, differences in the intensity of their voices.

  “…sometimes it can seem like it is not ok to be feminine, quiet and simple, it is not enough, and that I should be making more of a visible ‘effort’ to impress. There is so much drama, noise and big statements in our culture […] Vulnerability can be misinterpreted as weakness, and a vulnerable female can too often be miscast as victim, whereas I personally can feel stronger when my vulnerable/fragile side is at the surface, more authentic and whole, not hiding anything. Strength and power can have all the masculine connotations they have been associated with: fixed, measurable demonstrative actions in the outer world, rather than the variable, mysterious, open and receptive strength we cultivate in the inner world, for example through prayer which I find the most strengthening act of all.”

Singers interviewed by Martin Byrne.