In October 2020, as an Artist-in-Residence at Towner Eastbourne, I created a series of family workshops and open studio sessions of sound-making and listening, called Theatre of Sound. The project brought people together to create and share a creative experience in a time of physical distance, where I used my own sonic structures to connect audiences and performers alike.
Photo above: Testing Tubular instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
In my work, I imagine new kinds of instruments and tools that I then make and attempt to play both solo and with others. The resulting ‘Instrument-Sculptures’ are playable objects that are continually evolving. They are collectively explored in improvisational workshops with participants, and I adapt them in response. They bring people together in live encounters through the physicality of materials to make moments of making, listening and being together – and all the dynamics these shared encounters involve. My film, Coil of Days was on display as part of Towner’s International Biennial. In the film and performance Coil of Days (2019), I and a group of women performers unfurl the sonic spaces of the sensitive instruments playing and working them as our shared tools.
This October, I was commissioned by Towner Eastbourne to devise a series of workshops in the gallery. Bubbles of children and their adults made and played their own objects to create sounds using loose exploratory prompts. These were categorised in three stages, ‘Tubular’, ‘Chambers’ and ‘Membranes’, which grew in complexity each time we delivered a new kit of corresponding materials. I started with a really physical warm-up called Human Guitars – which involved the groups connecting to each other using elastics, and then playing them as they moved together to alter the pitch. This set the tone for involving the whole body (and bubble) in the process.
I experimented with the instruments the families made, amplifying them by attaching them to some of my own sonic structures. This made larger collaborative structures that really pushed their sounds into an orchestra of new relational instruments. Theatre of Sound for me, blurred the boundaries of a families’ workshop – as a sonic sculpture, performance, installation and anthropological investigation, removing hierarchies between artist and participants.