Art Works

Listen_UP, r e a & Judy Atkinson, 2019,  7.2 Channel Audio Installation. 

Listen_UP, r e a & Judy Atkinson, 7.2 Ch Audio installation by Andrew Belletty with Missi Mel Pesa and Nardi Simpson. Exhibited at The Big Anxiety-Empathy Clinic, Galleries UNSW, Sydney 27 SEP 2019 — 16 NOV 2019.

We worked with r e a and Judy Atkinson to create an immersive listening experience based upon Judy’s research and practice with healing intergenerational trauma through Deep Listening. I wanted to create an intimate, individual listening experience which is also communal, so I needed to get the speakers close to the ears of the audience, without using headphones. To do this I created a suspension system for the speakers which allowed them to be positioned just above the heads of the seated audience. I then wrapped the speakers in paperback so that they had a soft, organic, tactile look.

The Big Anxiety 1: listen_UP, listen deep

Keith Gallasch

On a reflective golden floor, six tree stumps for sitting. Above, six small boat-like objects crafted from paperbark float serenely. A soft, blue cloth curtain gently encloses the intimate, circular space. The floor dips deep beneath the sitter, mirroring all that is above in the contemplative space that is listen_UP, an installation in The Big Anxiety’s Empathy Clinic. The work advocates and induces deep listening with which to understand the anger and underlying grieving born of serial trauma suffered by generations of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. As a soft crackling suggests a gentle fire at listen_UP’s centre, a very present, lone female voice, pondering inherited and personally experienced suffering, is textured with heartbeat, the rumble of restless weather and a singer expressively uttering a mutating syllable sequence emotionally in tandem with the speaker’s narrative in a sound world of gently shifting perspectives.

The speaker struggles to begin—“I am… I am…”—but the words come—“I am without hope, without future”—revealing “a pain so deep, shame of what I am, what you have made me.” She is “a child unloved,” who has introjected her oppression: “I knew that I deserved not to be loved.” She briefly proffers an explanation for white listeners’ inability to empathise: “You cannot see me… because I mirror your pain.” While her plight is existential—“To be nothing would be preferable to being”—she is compassionate for children “raped in welfare, in a world where multinationals trade in weapons.” Unable to wait for revolution, she declares she will start with herself. The singer intones “reya, reya…”

Suddenly there’s particularity, the speaker revealing her profession, declaring “university a prison without walls.” As an academic, “I build walls of paper to bury my grieving soul while children are dying.” These children are close by, “crying down the street.”

However, a sense of purpose emerges with metaphor enriching the sense of passion inherent in the quietly controlled voice: “I am fire… I am stinging nettle.” “Will you accept the need for this pain?” she asks the listener. “Illy, illy,” sings the singer. Moving beyond metaphor, doubtless drawing on her spiritual heritage, the speaker declares herself owl, spider and “goanna full of healing.” Perhaps we can now travel with her: “I hear so many songs, I will wait for you.”

Finally, the speaker, no longer “I” but “we,” celebrates “the bliss of being completely a woman” through, she says, women’s shared words, dance and song. The singer’s “eeya, eeya…” becomes “eeya, eeya, num, num…” conveying a sense of both completion and eternal duration. I have no idea what these syllables (loosely transcribed here) mean, if anything literal, but the beauty of the intensifying ritual framing they offer lends choral power to the speaker’s path from anger and despair to survival through art, amid resonating wind, thunder and rain, distant bird call and the rattling of cicadas.

The speaker is much admired Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson AM, a Jiman/Bundjalung woman of also Anglo-Celtic and German heritage. She is the author of Trauma Trails—Recreating Songlines (Spinifex Press, 2003): The transgenerational effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia, and founder of We Ali-li, a Culturally Informed Trauma Integrated Healing training organisation.

The pioneering visual and media artist r e a has worked with Atkinson “to create an aural campfire—a place where stories are shared, listened to, understood and then reflected or meditated on. In culture the campfire is a creative learning and teaching space where elders pass on their knowledge and stories to listeners young and old” (program note). To focus and intensify this listening r e a has textured Atkinson’s voice with the artistry of Nardi Simpson (composer and singer with Stiff Gins), Missi Mel Pesa (audio-visual artist, musician and composer) and Andrew Belletty (self-described “vibro-tactile sound artist”).

Andrew Belletty kindly spoke with me about listen_UP’s embracingly natural sound design: the six small directional speakers encased in paperbark, keeping the technology invisible; the “grounding campfire” centre speaker; the two gently enveloping sub-bass speakers outside the circle; occasional sounds—birds, insects—including those from field trip recording in r e a’s country; and a realised desire to have the listener feel intimately and directly addressed by Atkinson, mouth to ear.

Listen_UP is a generous invitation to sense, via a contemplative space (exhibition designer Anna Tregloan) and aural magic, how Australia’s Indigenous peoples, as a young We Ali-li participant has put it, “we use our anger, we recycle it, we use it as power for us… to make beautiful things out of your anger, out of your hate, out of your sadness” (We Ali-li website).

The Big Anxiety, first staged in 2017, is a festival that “brings together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century” (website). Artistic and Executive Director Professor Jill Bennett (UNSW), Producer Tanja Farman, Senior Curator Bec Dean.

The Big Anxiety: r e a and Judy Atkinson: The Empathy Clinic, listen_UP, artists r e a, Nardi Simpson, Missi Mel Pesa, Andrew Belletty; UNSW Galleries, Sydney, 23 Sept-9 Nov

Top image credit: Installation, Listen_UP, r e a and Judy Atkinson, The Big Anxiety, photo Jessica Maurer

Covert Plants, publication, 2018.

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My chapter titled An Ear to the Ground, published in the new book Covert Plants. The chapter explores the sentience of one particular tree, and its vibratory acoustic world.

Sorry for your Loss, interactive audiovisual installation, 2018.

10 minute interactive audio visual installation designed by Pauline Clague and commissioned by University of Technology, Sydney, 2018.
Exhibited in: Boomalli, Sydney 2018, Galleries UNSW, 2018.

Woer Wayepa, audio visual performance 2018. Margaret Harvey and Jeffrey Aniba Waia.

AWA JEFF and dancer performs WOER WAYEPA at CIAF 2018
Jeffrey Aniba Waia Saibai performs with dancer Ali Harvey on the opening night of CIAF, 2018. 

A short audio except from the show:

Commissioned for the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair 2018.

On the Origins of Art, by Maria Fernado Cardoso, III-VIII 2017.

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Vibro tactile sound staging and floors for the multiscreen AV installation On the Origins of Art III-VIII 2017. Three channel HD video installation, hyperrealistic sound with tactile dimension.
32 min 24 sec
Exhibited in: Siteworks, Bundanon, NSW. ARC-One Gallery Melbourne, Bienal de Cuenca xiii, Ecuador, MONA, Tasmania.

“I had the pleasure to work with Andrew when I commissioned him to do a series of a vibro-tactile sound design and floors for my installations On The Origins of Art I- VIII, featuring hyperrealistic sounds of the Australian peacock spiders. in 2016-17. On the Origins of Art I and II had been acquired by the Tate Gallery in London, and the MCA Australia. It was exhibited at the Bienal de Cuenca in Ecuador, and was also featured at MoNA Hobart in the exhibition of the same title, On the Origin of Art in 2016-17 and at Arc One Gallery in Melbourne in 2018. A three channel HD video installation, with hyperrealistic sound with tactile dimension which Belletty provided site specific, customised sound design and floors and was exhibited at Siteworks, Bundanon in 2018.”  Maria Fernada Cardoso.

Vibro-tactile floor installed for Maria Fernanda Cardosas Origins or Art.jpg

We See You, We Hear You. 360 Audio visual installation. 2017.

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8 minute 360 degree audio visual installation, 6 ch Video 16 Channel Audio.
Designed by Pauline Clague and commissioned by University of Technology, Sydney, 2017.

Driver’s Seat, Interactive Vibrotactile Installation, 2016.

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3 channel tactile audio, single channel video. 37 min.
Driver’s Seat explores the tensions between the temporal and vibrotactile connections to country made through pedestrian and automobile experiences of country.
Exhibited in: Black Box Gallery UNSW

“Suddenly the sound is transmitting through the pants and into the saddle of the perineum in the artwork titled Drivers Seat. The work shivered through the neck and spine and I could feel what might have been the chakras opening in response to felt vibrations and the power of the imagery of the overland, flashing past like a Baudrillardian flip book. Both the candidate and the examiner share a great affection for the Toyota Troopy and it was delightful the way this powerful actor is treated within the text. ” David Haines

River Journey, Interactive Vibrotactile Installation, 2016.

A series of vibrotactile and audiovisual installations based on Prof Richard Kingsford’s archival data taken from Australia’s river systems. The vibrotactile works pictured above use tactile vibrations of both salt and water to build an emotionally engaging experience of a dying and living river.
Commissioned by the Galleries UNSW: Troubled Waters exhibition in collaboration with scientist Prof Richard Kingsford from the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW. The exhibit was sponsored by Science week 2016 and Toured Nationally in 2017.
Exhibited in: Galleries UNSW: Troubled Waters exhibition, 2016. Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide, 2017.

“Not unlike immersive hydro therapy, Trouble Waters is an exhibition that both cleanses with its beauty and sharpens thoughts on deeper concerns.

A good example is the work of Andrew Belletty, who has created a sound installation that also employs cinema with “hardcopy” water and salt as part of his two installations. These were extremely popular with viewers during my visits, turning the cavernous gallery space downstairs into a poignant contemplative zone. It’s the trying to work out – that is how he’s done it – that snares you, and upon learning what he has done, that intrigue deepens people’s fascination and they inevitably put their hands in his river bed.” SUELLEN SYMONS, Visual ArtsHub.

RIVER JOURNEY  Pt 2 WATER TABLE  INSTALLED.JPG.JPGRIVER JOURNEY  Pt 2 SALT TABLE  INSTALLED.JPGJanet Laurence and Andrew Belletty, River Journey, 2016.jpeg

Map Desk Chair, Interactive Vibrotactile Installation. 2015.

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 3 Channel Audio, 4 min.
The Vibrotactile installation uses a traditional Yolŋu song to create three distinct vibrations within the map surface and chair. These vibrations are interrupted by deep booming footsteps before they are cut by the sound of pencil drawn lines dissecting the country.
Exhibited in: Black Box Gallery UNSW

“Eventually the bones of my arms are resting on Map Desk Chair – a cartographical table familiar from visiting a neighbour’s home as a child. The experience of this work overlayed with thoughts and recall of Laurie Anderson’s Hand Bone Table in which sound from a silent table is transduced up through the bones of the arms and directly into the head. Map-Desk-Chair puts a multiplicity of worlds superimposed with the sombre forces of sung voice, the sound of footfalls, objects, images and vibrations in action. An unconventional observation perhaps, is that it is as if Andrew, in his desire to reach vibrotactile sensations is somehow trying to locate the ear as an organ in other parts of the body and via wholly different modalities of touch. What comes across powerfully and is made vivid in all this work is a desire to open up the notion of sound and energy encompassing a whole of body potential, sound as a force and cultural tool that reaches far beyond the ear.” David Haines.

The Eyewash, Interactive Vibrotactile Installation. 2014.

DOCUMENTATION EYEWASH PROFILE BOTTOM

2 Channel Audio, 3 min.
The Eyewash is an interactive installation which can be hand-held, mounted to a table, wall or other surface, and requires a power supply of 110-240 volts. The apparatus is designed to produce a trans-sensory experience through the visual, aural, haptic and vibratory action of the speakers when the device is pressed against the eyes. The acoustic energies are inspired by the sounds and cycles of a car wash, using a range of found sounds, field recordings and sound-design elements to create a trans-sensory experience. The sound is designed to evoke a trans-sensory experience, and was mixed using the apparatus rather than a conventional sound studio.

Exhibited in: Black Box Gallery UNSW. Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, 2014.

“I found the experience of interaction with the artwork The Eyewash to be intriguing and I found myself returning to this highly original work, again and again, on the day I visited. I loved the way the experience was completely confounding at first and demanded a lot of mental effort to try to begin to understand what was actually going on in work. Of course, we never get to the bottom of a work like this, but I totally enjoyed the novelty and challenge of trying to come to grips with a work that seems to play so much with the confounding of the senses. I was impressed by the way external forces of air pressure caused a retreat into what amounted to an excitingly cloistered experience.”  David Haines