Guest Blog: Are You Listening?

For our latest blog, Earwax writes about the creation of their company and the importance of self-identifying women speaking up in their art.

Catch Earwax X Sprint on Sunday 10 March at 7:15pm as part of Sprint 2019. Click here to find out more.

Earwax is a platform for female identifying artists who make sound. We will be performing as part of Sprint Festival on 10th March and bringing a line up of poets, musicians, performance and sound art.

Earwax was founded in November 2017 after Esme Lewis-Gartside and myself graduated from Goldsmiths. We had both always made work which focused on sound, be it sound art, performance or writing. Throughout our three years of BA we had had the same anxieties, doubts and frustrations around people listening to our work, not just in states of passivity but well and truly listening.

Presenting early work in galleries, in open white boxes with terrible sound proofing, Victorian houses and well pretty much any space that was free we often found ourselves compromising work to not put off others. This is where the seeds of Earwax were born, not in November 2017 but in the years running up to our first event, in our shared frustrations and fears. Earwax was created in our need for a space where we could present work and experiment; not only ourselves but for other women too.

Through the creation of this space, we realised that we were far from the only ones who felt this way, that many young female identifying artists experience was similar to ours, regardless of whether they created sound art, performance, writing or music. It brought into question why is it that so many young women fear being listened to in a way which our male counterparts do not? We are constantly doubting the power of our voices when it is one of the most powerful tools we have.

Part of the Earwax ethos is to empower young female intentifying artists. In this patriarchal society, we understand that we are functioning within a language that fails to accommodate the magnitude of our experiences.

In Olivia Douglass’ (one of Earwax’s core members and programmers) debut book ‘Slow Tongue’ (2018) she responds to the writings of M. Nourbese Phillip. Douglass works towards the decolonisation of language as she questions our relationships to it. Throughout ‘Slow Tongue’  Douglass plays with form as she considers the limits of a learnt language, pulling into focus how language was shaped by those who wrote it down, by those who were given the right to education and by those whose voice was deemed most valuable. Men. And, how can a western, white, male language fully express the experience of a black, queer woman?

In a recent interview, the drag artist Victoria Sin said, “Humans have constructed identities through language in order to try to understand them as static and clearly delineated, when in fact they are not. The challenge is trying to use language to describe something which is always transforming.” (Soin, Occular, 11/01/19) Similarly to ‘Slow Tongue’, it is a reminder that language has been constructed and that we must not be constricted by that.

In Linda Stupart’s sci-fi book ‘Virus’ (2016) she plays with the traditional structure and experience of reading a book. Much of the book is written from the perspective of the virus, invading the bodies of the white males who disregard others and dominate the world, in particular the art world, and intercepted with Stupart’s spells. ‘Virus’ is intended to be both read and performed.

Every time a white man born a man cites a man born a man cites a man again every time a translucent male artist or academic or scientist references another pallid male academic, artist or scientists – in this most sterile shallow procreative model, she proliferates. In every screen, in every projector every lecture theatre hub, Virus was growing new tentacles, legs, cunts, arms with balls on the end like the viruses that used to be in science class when there were still classes and when they still insisted on believing in science, and objectivity – that is men’s ability to make objects of the world.

(Stupart, p.23)

Throughout ‘Virus’ Stupart gives female identifying and non binary persons a platform to learn and protest a history of male language and patriarchy. As Earwax continues to develop, as we grow as a community and as artists we strive to create space for language to be deconstructed, for our voices to be celebrated and make you listen, make you really, truly listen.

Earwax will be performing at Camden People’s Theatre Sprint Festival at 7.15pm on 10th March 2019.

Photo Credit: Claudia Aitken, Young Vic Theatre, (30/11/18)

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