ii / medea (2010)

I began working with Travis Ash from the end of 2009 to develop new works. We had a showing at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on the 14th of April, 2010 following a workshop period in Brisbane earlier in the month. We each conceptualised a work to be realised between the two of us, and we chose to develop works from existing sources.

While Travis chose to deal with notions of intimacy and breach through two Shakespeare monologues, I drew my work from the Medea myth, with an awareness that this legend is one so striking to the collective unconscious that it has been presented and represented over the centuries. From what I remember, my first exposure to the explicit myth (rather than simply the Argonauts) was through a teacher who chose the role as her dream, for the intensity and range of the character.

The whole piece was conceptualised completely from the beginning of the process, and what really developed was probably the role that Travis took. Deliberately ambiguous in his actions, there was still the idea that he held control of the space, moving elements in and out of the space and physically forcing some things to happen. Rhythmically, I prescribed breathing patterns to reflect the inaudible pulse that the performers had as an internalised thought.

Medea is pulled out into the space duct taped into a blue tarp, chosen for the harsh texture and colour, like a brutal, false sea. Medea is unwrapped and is still, gazing at the audience, wrapped in a toga-like large sheet. She is brought to sitting. Lighting comes from two floods on the floor, building shadow across the space.

Medea is forced to stand, limbs manouvred by Other. Other sets out a hot plate and pan. Other wraps Medea’s finger around the instrument and forces it in mouth. Medea calls into instrument in sound based on vocal production within the clarinet noise. Pitch basis on manipulated fundamentals.

Other demands that Medea give two packages filled with corn which are taped to Medea’s front. He turns on the heat and pops the corn, these seeds that Medea carried, dried, infertile now, exploded into larger, but still small popcorn pieces. The instrument is taken away and there is silence but for the popping corn and sizzle of oil and there is stillness too.

Eventually Other grapples with Medea and forces Medea to reach to her back and remove two bloody steaks taped there. These are her two children, and they have seeped into the toga. Other cooks them over the burnt remains of the corn, and they burn, with smoke billowing. Medea is still.

Other forces Medea to the ground and pours a flask of gold over Medea’s head. He arranges her body and rolls it into the tarp and exits the space.

Program Notes:


Medea has been spurned by Jason, for whom she left her kingdom, stole the golden fleece, and murdered her brother. She has borne two children by Jason, and to extract revenge, she commits filicide. Medea is the self who retreats from love to pride. Balance – the conflict of thought and memory in the scales of fairness, Process – directives to the stream of resolute thought, and Action – and the finite execution which counterpoints the progression of rationality, are present in an amalgam of natural and unnatural. Phrase, breath, sound and self and the factors that affect it, essentially an individual’s sense of expression drive this piece.

images restaged with Lucy Parakhina

photograph Lucien Alperstein

This final image taken following performance at the Conservatorium