I’m going to spell aloud for you each day this week. To spell something out is to explain, to sequence correctly, but I want to spell away from meaning and slip into the frustration and pleasure of sounds. A spell can be a magical charm said aloud, thought of as a raw nonsensical language of creation bound up in power. A spell can also be a short period of time or a seizure; a specific physical, psychological or geographic chamber of experience.
I think about surveillance a lot because it’s ubiquitous, especially now that language-based communications travel almost wholly through the internet. I like singing and spelling aloud because most algorithmic listening technologies can’t reconstruct the words, which means I can tell you things that won’t fragment into personal data as easily as speech or text do. The visual accompaniments are selfie videos abstracted through a variety of post-production colour and time mapping filters, edited to breathe with each letter.
Each of the seven spellings are lyrics pulled from unpublished songs and diary entries I’ve written during the pandemic lockdowns in Melbourne. These spells are things I care about and are troubled by, that I want to push around with my voice.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve mostly given up on representational image making. Looking and being seen became overwhelming as work life, social life and political protest all siphoned into video platforms that constitute and are subject to surveillance culture. I have spent a lot of time listening, writing music and talking to friends. I read over the phone in structured ways: paired readings and group readings that happen at particular times each week.
I hope that these spells can help you feel differently about voice and communication. It doesn’t matter if you can’t follow along.
Archie Barry is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice spans performance, video, music production and writing modalities. Their work takes form as autobiographical, somatic and process-led, exploring themes of personhood, embodiment and mortality. Moments of intense affective connec-tion with audiences are created through disquieting and uncanny bodily gestures, de-formed and re-formed language. They have exhibited and performed at The Australian Centre for Contempo-rary Art; Melbourne, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Sydney, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Contemporary Art Tasmania; Artspace, Sydney; Buxton Contemporary; Melbourne and ALASKA Projects; Sydney, amongst other spaces. Barry completed a Masters of Contemprary Art at Victorian College of the Arts in 2017 and now lives in Naarm/Birraranga (Melbourne), Australia.
Audio: my soprano and whispering voices spelling a diary entry from 13 June 2020
Visual: lying in a bed in Bed Stuy, New York City, USA, February 2020
Audio: my tenor and bass voices spelling lyrics (with grammatical error) from a song written May 2020 as part of a larger project titled 'Multiply', to be published via @acca_melbourne ACCA Open Digital Commission on 30 September 2020 ⠀
Visual: walking in a park in Fawkner, Naarm/Birraranga (Melbourne), Australia, May 2020⠀
Audio: three soprano voices spelling a diary entry from 2 June 2020
Visual: legs dancing in bed, Brunswick East, Naarm/Birraranga (Melbourne), Australia, June 2020
Audio: my speaking voice reading a diary entry from January 2020
Visual: performance rehearsal for an unfinished residency with @fd13residency at @yeah___maybe Minneapolis, USA, February 2020
Audio: my soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices spelling lyrics from a song written May 2020 as part of a larger project titled 'Multiply', to be published via @acca_melbourne ACCA Open Digital Commission on 30 September 2020
Visual: having a bath, Fitzroy, Naarm/Birraranga (Melbourne), Australia, August 2020
Audio: my soprano, alto and bass voices spelling a diary entry from May 2020
Visual: on a train at sunset to Beacon, New York, USA, February 2020
Audio: my soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices spelling a phrase a house-mate said in September 2020
Visual: waving goodbye, Saint Paul, USA, March 2020