The reason I’m in Australia for the first time in a decade, and in Naarm (Melbourne). Stone Tape Theory, the work Onyx Carmin / S.J Norman was making in Adelaide just after I first met them. (And Rest Area, which was last week.)
The Warehouse in Arts House is being blacked out until no light leaks in, and rigged with 12 speakers simultaneously playing 12 slowly degrading cassette tapes on 12 slowly deteriorating portable cassette players. For the second week of FOLA Festival of Live Art, from Wednesday until Sunday, we’ll be joined by Virginia Barratt, Carly Shepard, Mykaela Saunders and others for 6-hours of dredging memories onto tape.
Taking its title from an obscure paranormal hypothesis, Stone Tape Theory mines the haunted terrain of memory, mediated through sound. In a darkened space for six hours a day over five days, a relay of performers utters an unedited stream of their own associative memories, recorded onto multiple cassette tapes. These thoughts range from descriptions of ordinary events to detailed reconstructions of painful, traumatic life experiences. As one tape plays, another is erased and re-recorded, creating loops of increasingly layered feedback.
Visitors find and lose their bearings in the darkness; fragments of narrative surface and disappear in a seething wash of sound. From flesh to speech, Stone Tape Theory is an audio palimpsest; an evolving sonic landscape of disembodied voices, continually rewound.
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
4–10pm, Wednesday 21 March
4–10pm, Thursday 22 March
4–10pm, Friday 23 March
4–10pm, Saturday 24 March
12–6pm, Sunday 25 March
Duration: Enter and leave as you please
The bridge is an endless, low serpent stepping across the marshland. I took Onyx’ bike and rode back to Scienceworks, to the long bluestone wall on the side of the Yarra. I haven’t climbed bluestone in ten years. Fingers and body remember but cannot. I walk from one end to the other and back, more than 100 metres of hard climbing in both directions, feeling the rock with fingertips and toes. I remember when I first started climbing the railway bridges in Balaclava, East St. Kilda, it took me months to be able to string together one traverse, months more to reverse it, months again to do the other side of the road. This is the same, but harder.
Climbing walls to get at science. Climbing walls around the back when there’s a locked gate up the front side. Climbing walls “like, it’s literally a metaphor, lol.” In the end, I find the first several moves. Still more than 100 metres to go.
I went into town to meet Gabrielle and Luke, old friends I’ve met across the world. The skyline is more dense. A city I remember and a city I do not know. So much has changed. The city I left — had to leave — remains, like sediment laid down, but a new city has been making its own strata, and a much older one unfolding into this.