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Fiche de veille (Événement) :

Alexis O'Hara's "The Sorrow Sponge" at Performing Proximities Minifestival

Titre de l'événement
The Sorrow Sponge
Date de début
Date de fin
Lieu de l'événement
Beursschouwburg, Brussels, Belgium.
Type d'événement
Mode de participation
6- Pratiques des musées et œuvres à composantes technologiques

Veilleur : Janice Kerfoot

In The Sorrow Sponge, artist Alexis O’Hara animates an apparatus of sound recording and playback devices tailored elegantly into the two costumes used in this piece. The work was originally commissioned by the NOW Festival of 2005 in Nottingham, and has since been presented in Glasgow (The National Review of Live Art, 2007), and again in Montreal (Edgy Women Festival, 2007). The piece saw its fourth and most recent showing in Brussels, at the Performing Proximities Minifestival from January 29-February 1 of this year.

There are two parts to every presentation of The Sorrow Sponge. The first part, staged variously in galleries and public areas (including a fish market in Nottingham), is devoted to the “absorption” of sorrows. Visitors and passers-by encounter a stately, friendly woman in a white suit (O’Hara), and are bidden to approach and be seated. While those who are too timid to speak or touch are welcome, The Sorrow Sponge is ideally suited, literally, to those who are willing to submit fully and unburden themselves: to rest their heads on one amply-padded shoulder such that the soothing soundtrack emitting from embedded speakers will flow directly into their ears, while a microphone housed in a floral brooch is positioned to receive tales of woe uttered from participants’ lips.

In part two, typically held in a live music venue some days later, the audience bears witness to the “expunging” of the absorbed sorrows through a stage show; a “Live Musical Thesis” in which the recordings of participants’ voices intermingle with O’Hara’s improvised vocalizations and other sonic elements created with electronic instruments and effects. The deployment of samples from the collected recordings is controlled with the second costume: a white gown sewn with dozens of copper connectors that act as midi triggers communicating with a sampler.

From a curatorial perspective, the work has been handled as a live performance piece. For the artist herself, it entails the management and manipulation of sound media for the current show’s culmination and possibly beyond; the live elements of The Sorrow Sponge undergo constant reformulation, and so too does its archive of sorrows.

The Sorrow Sponge was created with the help of costume designer Genevieve Paquette and engineer Mike Duemo. Miriam Ginestier has provided support for the operation of several of the interactive sessions.

Liens :

Artist"s website
[online]. (page consulted Feb. 8, 2008).
Website for Performing Proximities Minifestival (Beursschouwburg venue)
[online]. (page accesses Feb. 8, 2008)
Website for National Review of Live Art (New Moves International)

[online]. (page accesses Feb. 8, 2008).

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