Waschen

Solo performer with marker pen, soap, water and mirror


This piece is about how reading a musical score onstage can become part of the theatricality of musical performance. I perform as a solo singer, but not a trained singer, and read my body in a mirror as though it is a written musical a score. The word ‘waschen’ is written all across my body with thick black marker pen. ‘Waschen’ is the German word for ‘washing’: I first developed this piece in Switzerland and the title stuck. The words are written in a seemingly arbitrary fashion with no formal pattern, but serve the purpose of written music notation as something to be read onstage during a performance.

As I perform the piece I take a bar of soap and wash the words from my body whilst reading the words in a mirror. When I touch a particular part of a word I sing it, reading my body as though it is a musical stave. The higher up my body the word is written, the higher I sing, and the lower down it is written, the lower I sing. When the ink is dark I sing loudly, and as the ink fades I get softer. When the ink has disappeared, no sound comes out of my mouth. This should become clear to the audience as the piece progresses.

The text on my body is not just a score for reading, but forms an essential part of the theatre of the performance itself. The act of reading the written text and responding to it musically can be followed by the audience. They are not required to join in, though, because I felt this would be too didactic and I had already explored this in I WANT YOU.

Appearing naked in the performance acknowledges the influence of performance art in my practice, prominent examples being the works of Marina Abramovic and Ulay such as Relation in Space (1976) and Imponderabilia (1977). The logical reason for performing naked is because the piece involves washing. The piece was performed in a ruined chapel in London with the audience stood completely surrounding me. It was very cold. This element of suffering further linked the piece to the early performance art of Marina Abramovic and Chris Burden, and the piece could thus be described as: tropes of seventies performance art repurposed as a musical score.


Performances
19 April 2015, Bastard Assignments, Asylum and Maverick Projects, London
13 July 2017, King’s College London
17 June 2018, Pumphouse, Aldeburgh
3 December 2018, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
11 December 2019, An Siopa Gan Ainm, Cork