In the bell

2nd Jan, 2020Live productions

In the bell is an intimate fusion of visual art, music, and verbatim stories which explores humanity’s complexities with sex, gender and identity.

Maria (Improviser) and myself (Visual Artist) are an interdisciplinary duo who work with political and social issues in a perpetually changing world. Together we collaborated on Painting Music, a production which uses artificial intelligence to create music from live-painted drawing; and The making of a feminist inspired by the complex entanglement of human and computer ‘intelligence’ in a world designed for men, created under COVID-19 quarantine. Our current cross-disciplinary project In the bell encompasses live painting and music interwoven with highly touching stories from a diverse set of collaborators.

Each collaborator generously and bravely shares their personal thoughts, physical and mental struggles, and unique experiences on a life lived so far along with their hopes for the future:

Close to retirement transwoman Bethany is finally re-joining with the aspects of her personal life already apparent to her pre-puberty, and the consequence is her transformation into a new way of living. She reflects on her career which took place in the most male-dominated arenas: RAF, commercial diver in the North Sea, and her own engineering consultancy within the Oil, Gas & Nuclear Power Industries.

39-year-old Annie ‘finally’ shaves off her beard, initially acting as a shield against transphobia and allowing her some limited privilege of the patriarchy. In the already sensitive and judgmental society we live in, COVID-19 now only further forces her to feel more exposed in public.

30-year old Emma describes the existential sadness she felt when her voice broke in puberty. Whereupon she abandoned her passion for singing, and avoided social interaction as even speaking caused her immense emotional pain. Now after more than 10 years she is undergoing her transition and starting to sing again.

In the bell originally began with the colourful and inspirational stories of Bethany, but has now grown into a community coming together to speak candidly and unreservedly about intimate subjects for which society often provides little space. Together we wade through complex subjects and explore how to overcome them through live art, conversation, and living.

The production reflects our multitudes of existences, experiences, and vulnerabilities. The work does not shy away from controversy, takes on uncomfortable instances, and challenges confirmation bias, exposing us to contradictory perspectives.

While the production engages primarily with Scotland’s trans community, the work aspires to mirror humanity’s interdependence, address societal imperative for equality and appeal to a collective responsibility for transformational change.

The envisaged project outputs of In the bell are live performances, audio-visual installations, and a podcast mini-series. The material will be made fully adaptable in compliance with the five-stage ‘roadmap’ for performing arts which the government released on the 25th of June 2020.

Links to supporting documentation

Painting Music uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create music from live-painted drawings, in real time and unique for each performance, in collaboration with AI developers Jack Caven and Dr. Starkey at Aberdeen University.

The making of a feminist is inspired by the complex entanglement of human and computer ‘intelligence’ in a world designed for men, and in a time of crisis.

Watching Paint Dry: composed by Maria and Brice Catherin, commissioned and premiered by Kathi Gohl Moser (CZ).

In the bell Zoom Improv: creative trial by Maria Sappho and Kate Steenhauer undertaken during lockdown.

Artist Biographies

Kate Steenhauer is a visual artist whose practice explores the dynamic and interactive capacity of drawing in dialogue with other artforms, technology, and their relationship with its audience. This moves visual art as a traditionally static experience into a dynamic interactive artform that is temporal, transient, and transformational. Multi-disciplinary collaborations include dance, opera, music, sound, verbatim and artificial intelligence. These productions can be viewed through the mediums of theatre, film, (live) audio-visual installation and artwork; and offer a unique multifaceted experience.

Maria Sappho, Improvisor

Maria Sappho From Brooklyn, NY, is an improviser, pianist, and researcher. The heart of her practice is in verbatim collaborative storytelling with strong perspectives on naturemythologyfeminism, and community. She is a current PhD Candidate at Huddersfield University, on the European Research Council project IRiMaS (Interactive Research in Music as Sound) where she researches what improvisation can teach us about social living. Her current work is in collecting and engaging with artistic practices now moved online during the covid-19 pandemic. She is the co-editor of the discursive political magazine the-MASS and the curator for the international Noisebringers improvisation series. She has worked with numerous ensembles including the BBC Scottish symphony orchestra, the Australian Art Orchestra, the Instant Composers Pool, and is a current member of the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra.