The Showroom

In conversation: Phoebe Boswell, Laura Lima, Nduduzo Makhathini & Elvira Dyangani Ose

Artists Phoebe Boswell & Laura Lima with Pianist Composer Nduduzo Makhathini in conversation with The Showroom Director Elvira Dyangani Ose about Ritual & Communion: sound as a site of care, healing, meditation, psychology, and protest.


This discussion includes a welcome by curator Katherine Finerty to IN·FLO·RES·CENCE’s focus on the cross-modality of art and sound, followed by Elvira Dyangani Ose’s introduction of the three speakers including: one of the project’s commissioned composers, South African Nduduzo Makhathini (who’s a pianist, scholar, and healer from South Africa); multimedia artist Phoebe Boswell based in London (whose drawing and immersive multimedia practice references gestures of protest and healing through language, the female form, nature, and the sublime), and hailing from Rio Laura Lima (whose conceptual practice references ritual, installation and performance with relation to bodies, extraction, life organisms, animals, and improvisation).

Image: Phoebe Boswell, film still from Ythlaf, 2018, Single channel video with audio, Courtesy of the artist and Sapar Contemporary, New York.

This conversation delves into what is the aesthetic of the ritual, and how creators can claim the legacy and transformation of cultural ceremony. It explores subjective creative approaches to ritual: the invitation, offering, and allure of the collective experience of a portal and communion – ritual as a vessel for intergenerational knowledge and collective healing. Through sound, music, and art, ritual is discussed as a form of storytelling, the performativity of orality, and immersive experiences – from a legacy of time to an adaptability of different paradigms, from oral, gestural, and technological expressions. Finally, this conversation speaks deeply about breath: as a sound, a physical essence – as silence, but a silence that can only exist with breath… A physical and spiritual translation of healing and hope.

Phoebe Boswell addresses the role of sound in her practice as a meditation on finding a language, ritual, and spirituality in order to navigate ideas of home, belonging, and voice. In the liminal and immersive experiences she creates there is looping, dissonance, echoing, silence, and always – breath. She delves into resonant projects including The Matter of Memory (2014) installation addressing intergenerational storytelling, listening, and transcribing family memories into a collective listening experience; Ythlaf (2018) video about creating space for familial communication through rituals during a process of physical healing; and a dark, womb-like chamber installation from her Autograph exhibition The Space Between Things (2018), housing four videos and an immersive soundscape born out of a ritualistic practice for regaining strength and creating a poetic of endurance: A Broken Heart, Rupture, Rapture, and New Moon.

Laura Lima reflects on her new ritual during locking revolving around ideas of de-acceleration, gravity, matter, sound, transparency, and echoes. She highlights her art-making process with regards to sound as relating to structures as a philosophical thinking and encountering dodecaphonic archives and field recordings. Projects referenced include a creative collective from the 90s which explored emptiness and hosted silent dinners; Cinema Shadow (2014) featuring a film that was simultaneously filmed and screened in real-time at a cinema; the dynamic (M=f / W=f) (2001) project where matter and time function as an unspecified fiction (from moments of escalated breath from human contact, to limbs navigating through jelly); and The Naked Magician (2015) which approaches ritual as an immersive exploration of counter-intuition and unpredictability.

Nduduzo Makhathini expands this notion of magic by referencing a project call UmliNgoma, which is a combination of two Zulu words: Umlilo which means fire, and Ngoma which means ritual, dance, the drum, processes of healing, a dream… This conjures a discussion about having a language, or lack thereof, to create contexts and connections to the world, people, and cosmologies around us. Finally, he elaborates upon his new album Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds and reflects on the stages of creative ritual: preparation, invocation, healing, levitation, and rebirth.

Current and upcoming projects of our guest artists includes Nduduzo Makhathini’s IN·FLO·RES·CENCE composition Amahubo: Songs that Travel which our Artist-in-Residence pianist Elio Villafranca has interpreted in two takes, and his new album Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds; Phoebe Boswell's solo exhibition HERE at The New Art Exchange in Nottingham, UK (opening TBA); and Laura Lima’s gallery A Gentil Carica in Rio’s façade project GENTLE WALL for water washing and drinking open to the public. This installation of ritual creates a new daily ritual, very much tied into global, ancestral, and collective ideas of cleansing and purity, but in a new context of taking care of each other, and staying safe.

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