PREMIERE: MONA FOMA 2018, MONA (MUSEUM OF OLD & NEW ART), HOBART, TAS, AUSTRALIA.
Our voices help define us: our collective humanity and individual selfhood. Possessing a voice is a symbol of empowerment. Only the privilege can speak in ways which are heard and given credence. Victims are too often silenced: their lack of voice signifying their disempowerment. Voices are fallible, physical things which can fail us by quavering, scratching, or losing pitch when we most need their strength. Contained inside our bodies and concealed from view, two membranes are stretched across the larynx modulating airflow and vibrating to produce sound. This work explores the symbolic and physical power of the human voice by revealing its internal workings, from inside the body of a vocalist.
This performance and installation work externalises the hidden, fleshy and deeply personal workings of the voice from inside a singer’s body. Participants sit across from an opera singer. She wears a laryngoscope, a thin viewing tube which passed through her nose providing real-time video of her vocal chords projected onto the walls of the chamber. She sings and her voice reverberates in the space. Audio is also captured by the laryngoscope from inside the singer’s body and contact mics are placed on her skin capturing the sounds of lungs inhaling and exhaling, and other internal organs gurgling with their everyday functions. Participants can blend these internal audio signals and amplify them into the chamber using a controller. By externalising these intimate, internal mechanisms in an exaggerated and overwhelming sonic and visual experience, participants are asked to confront the contradictions of our voices: who gets to wield them and what that means for our humanity.
“...it's such a salient reminder of the history of mistreatment and abuse around women's vulnerability and the fact that our vulnerability is key to our strength. I walk away that day wanting to tread a little gentler with everyone I meet” - Amanda Laver
MONA FOMA 2018 PROJECT TEAM
Concept / Music / Performance: Eve Klein.
Creative and Technical Development: Ravi Glasser-Vora and Eve Klein.
MONA FOMA Producer: Emma Porteus.
Quinn Eades (2015), All the Beginnings: A Queer Autobiography of the Body, Tantanoola, North Melbourne.
Virginia Barratt (2017) mMouth hHouse pPanic cCathedral.
Performance: AñA Wojak.
Photography & Videography: Ravi Glasser-Vora.
Promotional Images: Eve Klein and Ravi Glasser-Vora.
Performance Photos on this Page: MONA/ Jesse Hunniford
reviews and media
“#1 coolest thing at MOFO 2018…”
“On paper, the work might seem gimmicky – and it is a little – but it's also much more moving, compelling and thought-provoking than you'd think. At the core, there's an intriguing tension between the cool, clinical nature of what's effectively a medical procedure, and the passion and artistry of Klein's singing. There's also something incredibly voyeuristic about what's happening: when she first inserts the laryngoscope, you wonder for a second if you really should be looking inside this stranger. What develops is a strangely intimate dance between the artist and this medical equipment.”
“One of the must-see music/art works of the 2018 festival was Eve Klein’s Vocal Womb …
In Vocal Womb, revealing the icky interior workings of the human body is not a gimmick to shock or attract viewers. Rather, it forms part of a deeply considered engagement with the history and traditions of opera… Clad in white undergarments reminiscent of 18th century dress, Klein was exposed, yet as composer and central character, she was also in control of the performance. By including texts by trans and feminist writers Quinn Eades and Virginia Barratt respectively, as the lyrics for her compositions, the work also drew attention to the experiences of marginalised bodies that need to be given a voice.”
“…A profoundly intimate and surprising experience. The feed from the laryngoscope felt like Jonah’s view from inside the whale, a feeling emphasised by the deep-sea rumble from the mic and the opportunity for audience members to live-mix Klein’s heart, intestines and lung sounds as she sang. There is something deeply counter-intuitive about the mechanics of sound production – watching vocal folds coming together to create the voice. The projected feed somehow rendered the art of opera both unremarkable (suddenly noticeably akin to the rubbing together of a cricket’s legs, or the working of a cane reed) and profound (the extraordinariness of this world of mucus and muscle creating music).”
"I am completely flawed by the punch she produces as she blasts out the word 'contractions' in a mezzo-soprano that's like water on glass. She removes and reinserts the 'device' with her assistant and they treat it as if they're handling Klein's firstborn. All this takes a good 30 seconds and it's fucking intense to behold in a full room of silent punters. The space they've chosen is perfectly womb-like and the stereo sound is mixed perfectly. Just enough sonic dissonance panning from left to right behind us to make the atmosphere slightly otherworldly.
The projected footage seems to be giving such direct proof of women's bodies willingness to do so much more than we ask them to do. The stillness of Klein perched upon her throne with Victorian boots, corset and hoop skirt also seems to be playing with the idea that women are always 'correct' if we are agreeable. It's perfectly confronting and I find it surprisingly painful watching even a professional's physical vulnerability projected on a massive screen in front of me. Opera feels like such a gentle mode through which to cast a light on the strength of women. And it's such a salient reminder of the history of mistreatment and abuse around women's vulnerability and the fact that our vulnerability is key to our strength. I walk away that day wanting to tread a little gentler with everyone I meet. "
CUT COMMON - Feature
LIMELIGHT - Feature
FUNDING & SUPPORT
The work has been assisted by the APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund, the University of Queensland’s School of Music, and the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. Vocal Womb was conceived through the SITUATE: Art in Festivals professional development program and SITUATE are providing ongoing administrative support.