Sisters Akousmatica

Sisters Akousmatica
Collective object of the invisible
Julia Drouhin and Pip Stafford


“On 8 May 2016 at 11am, ‘Radio Queens’ Julia Drouhin and Pip Stafford left Signal Northbank, Melbourne armed with 28 radios, to begin a slow walking journey of transmission around the urban Yarra River. Simultaneously, 3CR, a community radio station, began a live, seven hour, street broadcast featuring female sound artists with diverse sonic practices, programmed content highlighting the contribution of women to the station and pre-recorded messages from the Radio Queens. A project developed for Melbourne-based experimental arts organisation Next Wave and mentor organisation, Liquid Architecture, Sisters Akousmatica took place on what was the first weekend of the 2016 Next Wave Festival, and also Mother’s Day in Australia. Despite long days of bright, clear autumn weather, this Sunday dawned with not-so-much a bright glow, but with the dull thud of grey mist. The weather not only kept the anticipated hordes of Mother’s Day diners away from the performance areas, but also provided a dampened acoustic background for the seven hour transmission.

Sisters Akousmatica created an acousmonia, or city-scale female radio orchestra, and invited seven women artists to explore the concept of akousma: the idea of sound removed from its source. Each performer, cloistered within the Signal performance space, created a new, improvised sound work and were encouraged to use the sound of the previous performance as their inspiration, creating an audio exquisite corpse and transmitting their presence into the flux of the cityscape: a voice that we can see, then a voice without body, and just the sound of that voice mixed with daily noises. Relaying the sound, an instrumentarium of radios plays with the texture of the city and loops from one radio to another, each radio playing the same broadcast but with its own texture, flavour, and signal strength.

Sisters Akousmatica is a performative radio art project curated by Australian artist Pip Stafford and French/Australian artist Julia Drouhin, using radio frequencies to support, promote and cultivate women’s voices in public space. Their first project was part of Next Wave’s Emerging Curators Program for Next Wave Festival 2016 with Liquid Architecture in Melbourne, Australia. In partnership with 3CR community radio, the venues Signal and The Channel, this radio street “acousmonium” (speakers orchestra) brought together 8 women sound artists, for 7 live broadcast performances over 7 hours while the Radio Queens, Pip and Julia, led audiences on a sound walk around the Yarra River. Sisters Akousmatica has become an artistic and curatorial umbrella, which takes in collective radio practices and includes a live radio art off-shoot called “Super Occult Cosmophon”, workshops (crystal radio and fm transmitter building), curatorial, and written projects. They have been awarded development funding through Arts Tasmania’s Artist Investment Program to produce a retreat for women sound artists in 2017 and develop new work.

Sisters Akousmatica would like to acknowledge the artists that participated in the project: 5 – eves (NZ/VIC), Angie Garrick (NSW), Kate Geck (VIC), Rosalind Hall (VIC), Shani Mohini-Holmes (with Georgie Darvidis, VIC), radio cegeste (NZ/TAS) and Ela Stiles (NSW).

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