through their multidisciplinary music-based practice, queer performance duo GIRL (em könig in collaboration with pvi’s own personal sound artist, jason sweeney) explore masculinity, patriarchal power and androcentrism.
in their latest project ‘masc’, GIRL is creating a new sonic, electronic song-based experience that builds on their work ‘sentients’ presented for vitalstatistix’s climate century festival in 2018. ‘masc’ explores provocations such as how can we forge a sonic template for queerness and masculinity?
whilst in residence with pvi, GIRL will be working on developing a series of audio works that integrate accumulated crowd-sourced ‘confessional’ voiced responses about people’s experiences of masculinity. they will also present some of these work-in-progress sound pieces in this immersive sonic presentation.
we asked girl about their work and what they’ll be up to during their weeklong residency at pvi collective.
how did your collaboration GIRL come about?
Em – First comes love, we started dating and moved in together in 2013 and within 6 months we were noodling around with experimental sound ideas and surreal costumed photo shoots…just around the house and just for fun. Next we started DJing together at local queer parties, myself in drag and Jason the more masked and mysterious character.
We’re both musicians, songwriters and noisemakers so it was pretty inevitable that we would collaborate musically and when we finally did, it was a perfect fit. Since 2017 we’ve been playing shows, touring, releasing music and making sound-based performance works together.
what is your creative process, how does a track come together, where do you start from?
Em – It varies. In the early days I would write poetry which Jason would then set to music. Then we started bringing songs to the table individually and working on them together. Most recently Jason has been sending me demo versions of pieces of music he has written and I then write lyrics and melodies for them. We’ll take rough versions into the studio and play around with them until they naturally take their shape and once they have we’ll then deliberate over production elements, instrumentation, lyrics, delivery etc.
Jason – This process of a kind of ’show and tell’ is so exciting for us and creates a perfect flow of new ideas. It means we also build up a really great ‘audio bank’ of material to draw upon for future projects. I guess we have a very sustainable way of working – nothing is wasted and everything is re (or up) cycled into new songs.
your latest work deals with queerness and masculinity – how have you been exploring these themes?
Em – We realised early on in the research phase that the work would need to be told from multiple viewpoints and that our research would need to be crowdsourced as the subject matter is so dense, precarious and multi-faceted. We came up with the idea of the MASConfessional – an online submission portal where the public were able to submit voice recordings of answers to questions pertaining to their experiences of masculinity.
Questions such as: What scares you about masculinity? And what arouses/enrages you about masculinity. The initial idea was an experiment to see whether or not a) people would respond at all and b) to see what kinds of answers they would be willing to share.
Within a few days we were overwhelmed by the generosity of the responses and as the show has developed, several of these voice recordings have become integral spoken-word interludes between the songs. We’re excited to be setting up a ‘bricks and mortar’ MASConfessional at this year’s Adhocracy event at Vitalstatistix, during which we’ll be performing and collecting live responses from participants.
We are also exploring key themes through the lyrics of the songs we have written as well as exploring the performativity of the queer body through costuming and movement. It’s the most physically demanding show we’ve made and it’s been really fun and challenging to use my body in ways that I’ve never really felt comfortable to before. Using movement and gesture to slip and slide across the gender spectrum and play with all the crayons in the box. I do this in life anyway, but some rules are much easier to break on a stage.
Jason – There is also an element of making this work from a perspective of ‘lived experience’ which translates into embodied performance. As two queer bodies we are able to enter this creative space of collected years of experiencing the layered and varied aspects of masculinity in our lives. In tender and subtle ways, both Em and I are able to expose some of the scars and imprints left upon us from living with all the forms of masculinity that have permeated our personal experiences. This is an emotional work to create and perform as I believe we both step into this with a truer (and queerer) sense of who we want to be in the world.
you’re multidisciplinary artists, how do you bring other art forms beyond sound into your work?
Em – Though we work with a team of amazing collaborators when we’re developing a live performance work, our off-stage musical collaboration is very much just between the two of us. We write, record, produce and mix all of our music. We design the cover artwork. We plan, shoot and edit the music videos. Our house is constantly churning with ideas – the beauty of waking up and falling asleep together is that ideas can be shared and nourished ‘round the clock. We’re very spoilt like that.
Jason – Absolutely spoilt! Our house/studio space (which may change yearly as we move from one rental property to another!) becomes a kind of art factory which we’re slowly and continually building our works using a mix of old and new technologies. Even though music is at the core of what we do, we are always thinking about our ideas in a broader sense – how will an idea be translated visually? how will we write about it? could we make a series of films? etc. GIRL exists as a kind of art/music collective too where we are constantly bringing new collaborators in to work with us from the fields of video and sound art, fashion design, film and theatre-making.
Em – Poetry is my other great love, hence spoken word elements tend to find their way into our music and shows. We’re very inspired by artists like Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith and Diamanda Galas who use both music and spoken word in their live shows to great effect.
which projects have you collaborated with pvi collective on in the past?
Jason – I’ve been working as a sound artist/composer and artistic associate with pvi collective since 2002. Since that time I’ve worked on tts australia, tts recruit, tts critical reader, reform, inform, transmuter, deviate from the norm, deviator, blackmarket and transformer – as well as presenting work in titt titrott.