Lauren Brincat by Talia Linz
Excerpted from the Know My Name publication (2020).
Traditionally the gallery is a place of quietude and reflection, where we present culture—safely ensconced in grand architecture, protected by secure technology and whispering attendants—back to ourselves. Of course, artists have been challenging this staged sanctity and its attendant historiography almost since its inception, with works that aim to tackle artificial delineations and hierarchies. Lauren Brincat’s Molto echo 2016 aligns with this methodology. Indeed, her entire practice is marked by ‘a desire to eliminate traditional boundaries between artistic disciplines, between artist and audience, and between art and life itself’.(1)
Molto echo embodies sound, text, installation and performance, with seven drummers on seven drum kits positioned throughout the gallery space. Key to the work is that it doesn’t begin, or advance, without action from visitors, who are encouraged to ring bells to guide the performers through a text‑cum‑musical score written by Brincat with professional musician Bree van Reyk. Her instructional phrases, more poetic and associative than technical, include: Risoluto–resolute: Old men in the cranky afternoon; Tranquillo: Like wind chimes/meditation camp; Maestoso–majestic: As announcing the entrance of a royal; Ostinato: Bucket o’ chips riff; and Ad. libitum: Whatever you feel like. The artist cites broad influences from conceptual practitioners including John Cage and Richard Long, to Dada, concrete poetry and rock’n’roll; and often works with collaborators across disciplines, in this case van Reyk.
For an echo to arise, a reflecting surface needs to exist for sound to bounce off. Molto (or very) echo relies on both the architecture of the gallery space and the bodies that inhabit it. There is an immediate sonic dialogue, a call and response between performers and audience, and between the work and its environment as it resonates throughout the institution far beyond its designated footprint. So too, the work echoes through and strikes at an (art) history (and present) marked by a lack of female representation—six of the seven drummers are designated by the artist to be female.
Both playful and political, Brincat’s contribution to the feminist art canon brings the drummer—usually at the back of the stage yet the most important in keeping the band together and in time—front and centre, multiplying her presence by seven, a mystical number significant to religion, mythology, psychology and even human memory. As the artist says:
I usually use musical instruments as symbols rather than as sources of sound. For Molto echo I do both, perhaps we become the drum. We need to be heard and seen, to show off. To make them hear us with the whole space whether or not they can see us.(2)
(1) Lauren Brincat, email communication with Talia Linz, 29 October 2019.
(2) As above.
Citation: Cite this excerpt as: Linz, Talia. "Lauren Brincat" in N Bullock, K Cole, D Hart & E Pitt (eds), Know My Name, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2020, pp 58–59.
TALIA LINZ is a writer and Curator, Artspace, Sydney.