Virginia Barratt is an Australian researcher, artist, writer and performer. She is writing a PhD at Western Sydney University in the Writing and Society Centre. Her doctoral research focuses on panic, affect and deterritorialization, explored through performance, experimental poetics and vocalities. Her most recent works have been performed in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Byron Bay, Sydney, Helsingør, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Performing Arts Forum (PAF) and the Sorbonne in France, Humbolt University and Kunsthaus KuLe in Berlin. Virginia Barratt has been widely published, including in: Writing from Below, TEXT journal, Banquet Press, Cordite, Overland, Plinth Journal, Artlink Journal and Offshoot: Contemporary Lifewriting Methodologies and Practice in Australasia. Virginia privileges co-creation as a productive and resistant modality, and collaborates in an ongoing capacity with Francesca da Rimini as In Her Interior, and with Nick Taylor and Ashley Haywood on Swamp Writing

Quinn Eades is a researcher, writer, and award-winning poet whose work lies at the nexus of feminist, queer and trans theories of the body, autobiography, and philosophy. Eades is published nationally and internationally, and is the author of all the beginnings: a queer autobiography of the body, and Rallying. Eades is the winner of the 2017 Arts Queensland XYZ Award for Innovation in Spoken Word, and he is currently working on a book-length collection of fragments and related theatre show written from the transitioning body titled Transpositions. 

Dr Eve Klein is a music technologist and popular music scholar, an operatic mezzo soprano and a composer. Eve is currently Senior Lecturer of Popular Music and Technology at the University of Queensland’s School of Music. Her research explores classical music recording practices, popular-classical music hybridity, and technology-enabled performance. Eve’s composition and performance work draws together traditional and experimental classical music, interactive performance art, and glitchy electronica. Eve’s music has featured at Australian and international festivals including MONA FOMA, VIVID Sydney and the Brisbane Festival. Eve’s recordings have been released on Wood and Wire, New Weird Australia, and Feral Media.

Vocal Womb and the ekphrasis machine (we die)

The following text was written as a collaboration between Virginia Barratt and Quinn Eades, as an experimental work of ekphrastic ‘writing with’ or ‘writing to’ (Gale & Wyatt 2018), taking as its subject an operatic performance entitled ‘Vocal Womb’ by Eve Klein, a music technologist, popular music scholar and an operatic mezzo soprano and composer.

The operatic work, ‘Vocal Womb’, comprised two arias, based on poems written by Quinn Eades and Virginia Barratt, arranged in a ‘post-operatic’ mode, to use a term proposed by Jelena Novak to speak about theorising a body-voice relationship in contemporary, post-dramatic and media-augmented operatic works, ‘where interventions upon the body-voice relation open possibilities not only for expanding the borders of the opera world further, but also for what is considered body and voice in opera’ (Novak 2015).

The original poems engaged with notions of affectivity, the phenomenology of panic, birthing, the post-linguistic and its role in writing trauma and the body, and écriture matière (Eades 2015), which is writing matter/the material. The poem/arias were arranged within a composition of samples, electronic noise, Eve’s own body sounds amplified by stethoscopes, and live sound and video feeds. The original poems, already products of ‘the remainder’ (Lecercle 1990), were thus further de/composed with the result that the affective ‘noise’ of the texts was amplified.

The text ’Vocal Womb’ and the ekphrasis machine (we die) was the result of Barratt and Eades writing with and to the live arias in a constraint-based processual performance. In a dialogic relationship to the poem/arias, we were sensing the vitalities of the iterative always-becoming text, and coaxing out the new emergent poetics, feeding back in a spiralling exchange with our poems, and mining the remainder for the refrain.