Introducing Artist in Residence
Lately I’ve been wearing my headphones so much, they might merge into my skin. The soft latex of the earpiece might meld with the thin tissue around my ears. When that day comes, I will only wear cardigans, because sweaters won’t fit over my oversized headphone-head and burgeoning lockdown mullet.
It’s ironic to be religiously wearing my headphones when we’ve been in the sonic calm of lockdown. But I live in a badly-built 90s apartment below someone whose footfall is so heavy I genuinely believe one day she might fall through the ceiling and land on my kitchen bench. When it comes to us coping with the person living above, we oscillate wildly between feigned nonchalance, and shouting with futile, pent-up rage in the direction of the ceiling. So, in the morning, the headphones go back on. Everything feels that little bit louder at the moment, doesn't it?
At the start of lockdown I’d been talking to my friend, theatre-maker Nisha Madhan, about how hard it was to absorb the rush of written information that was coming at us. There were so many new details to constantly compute, some of them virtually impossible to comprehend. We were all trying to glean as much as we could whilst still making out the outline of ourselves. Through the thicket of data and daily rules, who were we again?
One night I listened to an essay Nisha had written that she’d also recorded. It was comforting – the calm of listening to a familiar voice reading their work without visual distraction. Looking at a Zoom screen I feel nothing, just vaguely nervous, sweaty and vain. Equally, while I love the amount of live performance work that’s gone online, I find it quite hard work to watch – like going to a theatre zoo and watching through two-inch-thick windows.
The only thing that seems to offer a semblance of the connection and intimacy I miss from being in a room with someone on stage, is hearing them, close and clear, in my ear. I wondered how we could make something that, within restrictions, hopes to be beautiful. I also thought about how, when we’re confused and lost like we’ve been, we really need scientists and Siouxsie Wiles to remind us of the important information. But we desperately need artists to remind us of ourselves.
Today we’re launching Artist in Residence, a podcast series of one-on-one audio performances from a range of New Zealand artists across theatre, music, poetry and dance. Each artist has created a 15-minute personalised performance to help you with one thing you might be feeling in isolation and as we slowly transition out of it.
It’s a collection of ten of my favourite artists, some of whom you will love too, and some who (I hope) you’re yet to discover. In the mix we have visionary choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull, musician and multi-disciplinary powerhouse Coco Solid, endlessly-inventive theatre maker Jo Randerson, and music icon Bic Runga. And there’s more goodness to come. We’ll be releasing two podcasts a week.
We kick off the series today with writer, taonga pūoro player and music therapist, Ruby Solly (Kai Tahu/Waitaha). Ruby’s astonishing performance is called Woven. You can listen to it here. It's good to listen to when you’ve been feeling disconnected from whānau, whakapapa and whenua. You’ll hear Ruby playing cello, the slow deep whir of the porotiti, the breath-filled waver of the pūtōrino, and other instruments in her whānau of taonga pūoro. Woven reminds me to breathe, and we feel very privileged to be able to open the series with Ruby’s poetry and the expansive, healing sounds of her instruments.
Alongside our artists, we are very lucky to have theme music composed by C. Frances Duncan and Ruby Solly, series sound design by Byron Coll, and graphic design by Sarah Gladwell. We're grateful to NZ on Air for their support.
We know there's lots of tired minds out there. Our title Artist in Residence refers to our artists working in isolation, but it also includes you, our listener, connecting from your place of residence. You might find an artful moment as a salve in the everyday.
We recommend headphones, and we hope you enjoy it.
Artist in Residence: All Episodes
(We recommend headphones)
You can read more about each episode here:
Episode 1: Poet and taonga pūoro player Ruby Solly
Episode 2: Choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull
Episode 3: Interdisciplinary artist C. Frances Duncan
Episode 4: Musician, writer and artist Coco Solid
Episode 5: Theatre-maker and writer Jo Randerson
Episode 6: Poet and journalist Mohamed Hassan
Episode 7: Theatre-maker Nisha Madhan