Interview by: Laurent Shervington, Interviewee: Leon Ewing
So Leon, what first spurred this idea, and why Perth Arena?
It’s the scale of it. The epic space of the auditorium. And because it is so counter intuitive that it would be used as a pop up venue in a fringe festival. Because the idea is so absurd and unlikely.
A good friend of mine, Kestin Owen, is the event manager at the arena, and she was one of the first people to experience the work at the Proximity Festival. We immediately threw around the idea of doing it there…
It only took two years to make it actually happen.
It’s been said that you improvise “to the standing waves and the resonant frequencies of the built environment,” can you tell me a bit more about this process?
It’s still mostly very intuitive, a lot of improvising and listening, trying to find the frequency where the reverberation compounds upon itself and takes off.
I spend a bit of time playing in the space, I identify those notes, or chords, and then compose around them so that the progression resolves into this thing that grows into a monster and shakes the room.
It’s different in different contexts and spaces. Sometimes it can be subtle and gentle. I did one in a darkened Vault at PSAS that was like being underwater in a spa bath.
What kind of emotional response are you hoping to create in having just two audience members?
The vibration brings awareness back to the body, and out of the mind, and that can unlock all sorts of emotion, like a massage.
I’m hoping that you get to lose yourself a bit, without being impacted by the social interaction of people around you [and all that involves].
And that you become more aware of the space.
But that you also get to share it with a friend.
It’s a very intimate thing… I hope it feels special and unique.
You’ve done a similar kind of performance, at the Art Gallery Of Western Australia, can you tell me a bit about that and some things you’ve learnt from that experience?
I was blown away by people’s responses. Some hallucinated, some wept.
The audience members lay on a leather lounge in the basement, looking up to a beam of light from a circular skylight in the ceiling, 5 floors above them where I was playing. They never saw me, it was purely an experience of time and space with sound.
It was really the first time I had tried the project, so it was extraordinary to me that A) It worked! And B) That people responded so positively to it.
The way the sound played with the natural reverb of the stairwell, the way you could write to a space, the intimacy of the one on one performance.
Finally, what would be dream location for a performance?
So many to tick off the bucket list.
Pompeii. Karijini. Grand Central Station. The Pantheon. Mt Wellington Transmission Tower. The Louvre [Abu Dhabi]… I could go on…
I want to tour the world playing interesting spaces.