A two part radio play on delusion and allegiance by Ivan Cheng, which features the voices and sounds of 12 string guitarist Julia Reidy and artist Alexander Iezzi. They read as Honey (Cheng), Paris (Reidy) and Kerry (Iezzi), with Kerry voicing stage instructions for the performance - titled MARKET HALO [winky’s hagiography] that Cheng and Reidy would have executed in the chapel for STRP. With a text that continually defers and reframes value as belief system, they weave an elliptical meditation of being in and out of time.
Presented by Ja Ja Ja Nee Nee Nee for STRP Festival Eindhoven
Curated by Femke Dekker and Arif Kornweitz
Part 1 - DESCENT
Part 2 - CURTAIN [Irish Goodbye]
Corpse Halo is a two part work about delusion and allegiance, which also features the voices and sound of Julia Reidy and Alexander Iezzi. The two parts should be listened to with an interval, in a semblance of live experience. Part One is titled ‘DESCENT’, and Part Two is ‘CURTAIN: IRISH GOODBYE’.
Written for performance, but eventually first presented as a sound broadcast, we read as Honey (me), Paris (Julia), and Kerry (Alexander, whose contribution is really a reading of stage directions and an invocation of the ‘space’ or ‘frame’ of the work). I was working with blurred subjectivities offering a kind of elliptical sense of being in and out of time - which is kind of how I think about writing, particularly for performance.
In revising thoughts to make this planned performance into a sound work, the titular ‘market’ shifted to a ‘corpse’. The working title of the project claimed an interest in hagiographies – the writing of saints. In stating this, it was less about religion, and more about everyday online language accruing like a lasso-ing or net-like mask. This stems directly from dealing with a contemporary landscape of virtue signalling – which in this work I am also somewhat a perpetrator of, doing so in (what I think is) seductive turns of phrase and bait laden statements. I think I’m interested in looking at vacancy and aestheticising acts around it. There’s a repetition within the work of believing in dreams or making them ‘autobiography’, a simultaneous absorption and expulsion of ideologies, both gravitational and centrifugal in what it’s trying to do with belief systems or recognition patterns.
To stand in for the shifted spatiality in the work, stage directions/instructions are spoken by Alexander Iezzi, a Rotterdam based American artist who sent me a few foley type sounds and gave me a bunch of processed globs to use through the work – my planned use of the performance space relied on strobe lights, lasers, and rigged theatrical lights – a lot of ham-fisted tricks. (One of my favourite things to do in a theatre is to flip the fuses that power the lighting truss so everything needs to turn back on again.)
There’s a line that is toed in assemblage of his sounds to remain representative of the space of live performance, but myriad compromises made for the obviously studio- ish assemblage. In performance, there would have been a reliance on a scored improvisation process. Julia Reidy is a Berlin based Australian musician who would have played 12 string guitar for the show. She speaks the role of ‘Paris’, having previously played ‘Corgi’ in a work of mine that’s still in development – ‘Standard Stare’. Julia allowed me to draw from her catalogue for this sound work, as well as use bits of recordings I have from our previous work together. eg. in part one, you hear her playing in the woods of a small Lithuanian spa town, playing with the same tunings as she uses in ‘of neither’, off the release ‘brace, brace’.
The singing she would have done in the live version was also to be with vocoder, with the lyrics I had sketched out revolving around a situation on a fishing trawler and its indiscriminate net. I also would have used my voice (and body) more extensively in the live version – eg part 1 ended with an extended sequence of me screaming while Julia plays, and you can also hear some feedback work that I recorded throughout the work, but it seemed excessive (and embarrassing in an unproductive way, in that it alienates without purpose) for the sonic version. Part 2 in performance would actually have been far sparser sonically.
The work emerges, of course, from an invitation, which came from Arif Kornweitz, who I think of as only casually inscribed through some details. (There is another project we’re working on where his spoken recollection of his life is much more prominent, as a foil to something else). Apart from many of the situations which are forced to briefly appear metaphorical, the idea of the weave and the seam, which justifies itself through a truncated quotation of Angela Mitropoulos that Paris reads, also is inserted for resonance with his voiced interests, as is the invocation of ethics negotiated on multiple fronts, though the frontiers are more intimate than what he works on.
As an unreferenced quotation, it is one of the only ‘quotations’ (devourings, appropriations) that remains intact. There used to be cited quotations of Lisa Robertson, Adrienne Rich, Jean- Luc Nancy, and uncited references to Selena Gomez, Andrew Durbin, Dodie Bellamy, Robert Gluck, David Dobrik, which have been removed.
The corpse and its animation are key things I think about with writing and performance, admittedly from a largely Western training about suspensions of disbelief, surrealism and absurdity. The ‘I’ is situated against a soft backdrop of Hollywood and true crime horror, as it edges into deregulated chatrooms. The spiral down (or up, into immortality) is planned to happen quite gradually through the work, so there are constant gentle throwbacks, or space to draw a type of line to a hook that occurred earlier, but the orientation has altered.
The sister appears at the close of the work, in a text that used to be much more explicitly about intoxication and a newness of that feeling. Before being stripped back further, it was writing about a Sydney bar which was one of the first I went to, with my older sister, whose life I am drawn to in that many of her closest friends are those she grew up with. She took me out to my first bars – one of them, now hazy in my memory, was called World Bar, where cocktails were served in teapots. We threw her a twenty-first birthday party which was tea party themed; all this in writing got axed because to talk as a youtuber about spilling the tea seemed to be stretching the world of Corpse Halo a little too far.
To reveal unnecessarily, my sister’s professional life and my sentiments about it are still apparitions in the work. My (now outdated) perception of her professional life is that it is splayed across primary level pedagogy and fitness training. I remember loving to brag that she could lift 350 pounds, do 200 pushups, 80 pullups. She taught and loves a class called ‘Body Attack’, and since I moved away from Sydney she has begun doing Crossfit, which I understand as a social club, with access determined by availability to shift lifestyle around it, and economic category – it’s a relatively expensive mode of fitness which valorises high intensity training. Crossfit also appeared as a backdrop in a very casual thing I did in 2017 as a graduation piece called Alliteration Trail, which happened outdoors in the cul de sac in front of Butcher’s Tears while a crossfit group trained. I’m fascinated by desire to discipline the body, and especially set protocols which train towards a shape and modality; this is twined with how I work with genre.
The supermarket and it’s remarkable method of categorising, particularising, branding and selling, was something that I needed to include out of my relationship with Julia. I think of our conversations as dealing with choice, options, coherence, and unspoken logics. In the process of writing it, I came to have problems with how dull it came to be in its ‘timeliness’ as site with quarantining protocols shifting the general relation to the shop, availability, stockpiling, and how it stratifies access. Earlier notes for the work were also quite grounded in the experience of casual racism that parts of my peer group were experiencing, and a soft interest in confronting this. I guess my interest through the recent self quarantining has been more in being out of time than timely – perhaps it’s foolishly wanting to not be dismissable by half dismissing myself already.
The subtitle of the work is ‘Honey’s affair’. It’s supposed to be unclear from the content of the text, but what was clear to me from early on is that this affair is with Francis. In the cosmology of my work (heh) Francis is the toy poodle from the youtube channel Cooking with Dog, who is used as the narrating instructor for a chef who cooks. After his death, he is replaced by a plush toy and continues with the same voice. In Corpse Halo, Francis becomes an employer and recent lover, and familiar but posthaste uncomfortable amalgam of relationships blurred with jobs for living which might also just be jobs. i.e. Francis is the continual deferring and reframing of desire that’s performed, and a continual soft compromise that doesn’t exhaust but is difficult to transcend. Francis is also functioning as an ‘editor’, a role which the work comfortably confuses with ‘producer’. I wanted to continually ‘triangulate’ with the audience/listener, so the role of interpretation is an ongoing present.
Something that may be worth mentioning is that in finishing the text of ‘Corpse Halo’ to publish it as we would, the experience of writing this ‘I’ became fraught in feeling really forced and a little grotesque. The ‘internal’ torpor was soothed by the easy shifting of being ‘Honey’, allowing the self to become an amassing of sugary secretions from pollen; regurgitations, sticky and stored in combs. Maybe it’s too easy a metaphor, but in this case of a performance shifted (comfortably) into a sound recording, the honey is never raw. The secretions represented are never raw, just a suggestion of it packaged for safe consumption.