ARC Fellows: And What’s More, a Performative Audiobook
Submitted by our 2019 ARC Fellow Team:
Anne Walsh and Leena Joshi (Art Practice)
AW: Claudia La Rocco’s And What’s More is the third installment of her science-fiction Olivia Trilogy, a literary, performance, art, and sound project that plays with traditional audience/maker/doer relationships. I was one of four artists commissioned by La Rocco to “read” And What’s More in and through their respective art forms. Collaborating with the writer, artist, and performer Leena Joshi, I chose to inhabit Olivia’s world, turning a draft of a novel into a recording: a draft audiobook, edited, but carefully – with certain mis-readings and discussions of the text left in, as well as the presence of the body – through shaky inhalations, ragged coughs, stomach rumblings.
The work-in-progress debuted June 15, 2019 at The Lab as part of La Rocco’s month-long residency there. As the audience arrived, a busy, early-model Rumba vacuum cleaner trolled the large, mostly empty space. We introduced our audio book with a screening of Joshi’s video of the wind-tossed Marin headlands inhabited by a green-screen suited character, accompanied by musician and composer Phillip Greenlief’s live improvisations on the tenor saxophone. This prelude was followed by four different excerpts from the draft audiobook, also accompanied by Greenlief’s improvised, extended technique saxophone. We discussed our choice of excerpts, focussing on several questions explored in La Rocco’s book: What is KINSHIP in a world with auto-genesis? What myths persist when death no long does? What does carnal and romantic love look like in this world?
The work will continue to develop as a more extended performative audio book in collaboration with La Rocco.
LJ: When Anne first sent me the manuscript for And What’s More–the final installment of Claudia La Rocco’s Olivia Trilogy–I paged through the writing totally absorbed yet with careful delicacy, as if when I scrolled on my computer’s trackpad from page to page a layer of slime might impart on my fingers. There is a detailed, mucosal layering in this story of a mutated Earth joyfully and sorrowfully inhabited by creatures of myriad omniscience and sentience.
Anne and I began work on this project by talking through, across, inside, and over the text, our close-reading stretched across meeting points and months. We exited and rejoined the world of And What’s More with new perspectives each time, a heady mix of what themes reminded us of the world already and what real anxieties or pleasures we felt a ripe, poetic, dystopian future might have in store. We felt the text ask us to consider our own bodies and the reach between the inside and outside, the hovering mind and the matters of our flesh. We began to see the text as a sprawling road-trip story, a speculative fable rich with allusions to ancient mythology and contemporary art, equipped with its own musical soundtrack. Each micro-mention and pop culture enmeshment was an origin point for further research in our constantly shifting experience of the story. The detritus of our excavations and methods of understanding piled up: our various lists included page numbers where certain characters were listed, quotes that boggled us in a goodly way, of all the songs named throughout, a Google Drive folder with short form thoughts (poems on their own), and screenshots from both of our phones of recent video calls with loved ones in the hospital. These encounters across multiple screens and moments of losing ourselves in liminal, digital, virtual, and commercial spaces were fragments we had now put in orbit with the fragmentary nature of And What’s More itself, a story dimensionally stretched across a multiverse of telepathic hangouts and iterative beings. Soon the work became grappling with a sizable question: “how do we make a performance translating something that doesn’t yet exist in its final form?”
We felt there was a good answer in allowing ourselves to draft one, and perform drafts as well. After a provisional performance of “performing” the question at hand to our attentive ARC Fellowship audience, we later came to the idea of vocalizing the words and energy of the text through creation of a draft audiobook. After sharing our current iteration in June at the LAB in San Francisco, the audio project will continue to be prodded, modulated, and added to in search of additional forms.
Anne Walsh is an interdisciplinary artist, writer and performer. She frequently engages collaborators in the retelling of histories and the translating of texts. This process of making, with its risks, desires, and failures, gives unstable shape to her completed work. She received her MFA in Art at the California Institute of Arts, and her B.A. in Art History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Leena Joshi‘s writing and art practice explore the relationship between the changing self and its environment through negotiations of genre and medium, with a focus on feminist, anti-colonial, and immigrant ideation. Her written work has appeared in The Felt, Monday, Tagvverk, La Norda Specialo, Poor Claudia, and bluestockings magazine, among others. She is an MFA candidate in Art Practice at the University of California, Berkeley
Note: Over the course of the spring semester, each 2019 ARC Fellows team will submit a short blog post about their project and findings. We hope you will enjoy these short readings! The Fellows Program advances interdisciplinary research in the arts at UC Berkeley by supporting self-nominated pairs of graduate students and faculty members as they pursue semester-long collaborative projects of their own design. To learn more about the program, click here.