Fifteenth Piece: Vicky Langan
This seventh work of this winter season of Piece By Piece, and fifteenth in the series overall, comes from sound artist Vicky Langan, premiering on Friday 22nd January, 8pm.
“Vicky Langan is an artist who melts borders ... the territories of visual/art/performance/music/film/sound all overlap and co-emerge in her articulate presence. She is difficult to define yet easy to follow, and it is this quality of empathic otherness that makes you concentrate on every sound, every move she makes.” [Alice Maher, visual artist]
Vicky Langan is a Cork-based artist whose practice operates across several often overlapping fields, chiefly sound, performance and film. Langan both embraces and projects vulnerability, offering an intimate territory loaded with personal symbolism and unguarded emotion. With a focus on the sounds of the body and its functions, involving contact-miked skin, amplified breath and live electronic manipulation, Langan’s work sits between sound and performance art. Using simple raw materials such as domestic objects, hair and magnetic tape, she layers physical gestures and scraps of sound to create intensely personal imaginary landscapes. Langan is a recipient of a 2019 Next Generation Artists Award, as well as bursary awards from the Arts Council of Ireland, Cork City Council and Music Network.
Q 1. What does improvisation mean to you?
Openness, freedom, sensitivity. Being present, using whatever is to hand, feeling your way through sound, listening to and responding to what's around you, getting to that relaxed place of 'not-thinking' where you're just enmeshed in sound and texture.
Q 2. How do you think about engaging with material or ideas from another artist when improvising?
I'm used to making myself very open and receptive in the run-up to a performance, often not knowing what materials I'll use until just before the show starts. When my window came around to record something in response to Chris Guilfoyle's piece, I was both ill and in the process of moving house. I didn't want to be responsible for breaking the Piece by Piece chain but I also knew that energetically, that tight time period was close to being a total write-off. I would have to trust my own process and find a way to respond simply, somehow. We had a night of unexpected snow here in Cork and I had several boxes of matches left over after a livestream film shoot I'd just come from, so I waited until 3am when things were especially quiet outside, wrapped up in several layers and set up my microphones outside my front door. I'm interested in very plain recordings, small sounds, processes, failures, accidents and synchronicities.
What you're listening to is my neighbourhood at 3am. I am on my knees in the snow wearing a headtorch, recording the sounds of lighting matches and flame held over the snow. Sometimes a new match is lit from a dying one, and other times it's struck from the side of the box. Matches flare, flames carry from one to the next in an unbroken flow, some die and sizzle in the snow, cardboard rubs against ice, charred matches pile up. Although I am not trying to hide my presence on the recording, neither do I want the sound of my coat or my breathing to dominate the piece. I don't want to have to keep striking new matches throughout, and it feels good when there is an unbroken flow of one erupting flame passing from one to the next. It seems conceptually apt for the challenge at hand. At the end of the recording, an unexpected moment between a car horn and a ship at the port (a kilometre away) lets me know it's time to pack up and head for bed.
Q 3. How do you think the world of music is changing or will change as result of the COVID-19 crisis?
I've seen a lot of incredible livestreams this year, but there's no substitute for the real thing. I was lucky enough to be part of the production team for the recent Radie Peat and Katie Kim livestream. Being in that room...feeling loud music pass through your body again after so long without it - I almost started weeping. I hope, among many things, that on the other side of this we end up with far more community spaces. In the meantime, join your local tenants union.
See details on the whole winter season of Piece by Piece here.