Electronic Voice Phenomena.
EVP is a commission from Mercy and Penned in the Margins for a unique touring show of avant garde performance, music and poetry that was followed up with individual performance commissions, spanning May 2013 to November 2015. http://www.electronicvoicephenomena.net/
There was a tour of the UK in May 2013, nine dates in all, visiting the Sage in Gateshead, St Georges Hall in Liverpool amongst them, alongside Hannah Silva, Outfit and Ross Sutherland. There was a documentary about it & an article on my multi-part, multi-genre commission ‘Electric Dada’ http://www.electronicvoicephenomena.net/index.php/the-voices-in-the-radio-sj-fowlers-electric-dada/
EVP Sessions at Shoreditch Town Hall, London - November 13th 2015: The Black Dinner
The original EVP tour was a major turning point in my work with performance, being able to tour the UK with really wonderful artists like Hannah Silva and Ross Sutherland, and with the support of Nathan Jones and Tom Chivers. When the opportunity to do a one off commission for the same project, at Shoreditch Town Hall, I had a clear thought to what I might do, melding both my original work for the project with a tradition I've had for three years now, being painted as a skeleton on or around the Mexican Day of the Dead. I first did so in Mexico City and try to do so every year in homage to my friends in Mexico, and because much of my work is about the symbology of death. (photos below by Ludo des Cognets)
For this performance I was really lucky to have the amazingly generous artist and make up artist Amalie Russell paint my face professionally. I had then spent a few days covering a whole banquet of food in black paint and lacquer, and my performance, a fluxus meal of sorts, was to set the table and invite diners to join me. I waited outside the fire exit of the venue on a typically vapid Shoreditch saturday night and felt it appropriate to wait in the rain. The performance was accompanied by a track made in collaboration with the remarkable musician Alexander Kell, who did an incredible job mixing my reading of Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo, one of the authors I had discovered in Mexico.
"Electronic Voice Phenomena returns with a series of electrifying live sessions featuring the very best in hauntology, spoken word, glitch noise and performance. The EVP Sessions takes its inspiration from Konstantin Raudive’s notorious Breakthrough experiments of the 1970s, in which he divined voices-from-beyond in electronic noise. Enter the labyrinthine basement of Shoreditch Town Hall and experience a “mind-boggling”, “perplexingly good” avant-garde cabaret of human, ghostly and machine voices."
The Electronic Voice Phenomena tour - May 10th to 23rd 2013
The Electronic Voice Phenomena was a huge watershed in my performance art, over the course of May 2013, racing up and down the UK with Ross Sutherland, Hannah Silva and co, thanks to Nathan Jones & Tom Chivers. I was never happy with the videos taken from the tour, as they captured the first performances and fragments, when I hadnt found my grove. The best stuff in Manchester, London and Bournemouth, will never see the light of day. In its stead, these 5 pieces of stumbling mauling glory. http://www.electronicvoicephenomena.net/index.php/electric-dada/SJ Fowler
UK TOUR | MAY 10-25 2013
ELECTRONIC VOICE PHENOMENA
Electronic Voice Phenomena is a new experimental literature, performance and music show that feeds on the corpse of paranormal pseudo-science. The EVP programme takes its inspiration from Konstantin Raudive's notorious 'Breakthrough' experiments of the 1970s, where he captured voices-from-beyond in electronic noise. Themes of otherness, the profane and the divine join with new approaches to writing speaking and performing in a suite of new interlaced works - featuring poets Hannah Silva, Ross Sutherland and SJ Fowler, and hauntological synth-pop group Outfit.*
All tickets are now onsale.
10 May THE SAGE, GATESHEAD
15 May ST GEORGE’S HALL, LIVERPOOL
17 May THE BASEMENT, BRIGHTON
18 May RICH MIX, LONDON
19 May THE CUBE, BRISTOL
22 May ANTHONY BURGESS FOUNDATION, MANCHESTER
23 May ARC STOCKTON
25 May NORWICH ARTS CENTRE
My blogs on the tour below:
Groups of men in tight t-shirts, and I say men, those in their 40s, stared at me aggressively because I was wearing light blue trousers. The Baltic is a wonderful gallery. To play at the Sage is an achievement for me http://thesagegateshead.org/ We passed Durham on the train up, where I went to study, and haven't been back since. Three years of my life between Durham, Newcastle, Middlesborough, Stockton, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Chester-le-street. The train journey becomes the centre of what I aim to take in, the company of others, the experiential focus which allows me to put my own experience first, to appreciate the opportunity at all possible moments, to utilise the unique and challenging nature of the performance and its demands, and the company of those demands, to put the audience second, in order to benefit them. Met http://www.hetainpatel.com/ for the first time, a deeply generous and warm presence.
How to write the month spent writing my piece, the month rehearsing it, the unexpected but welcome discomfort at essentially having to confidently perform a touring acting theatre piece on a national tour to major venues with a few months notice never having done so before. How does that affect my private aesthetic experience, permanently, in the face of the inexorable contradiction between the intense engagement of performance and the dreary low of inevitable dissatisfaction? Doesn't matter. Lots of tiny changes made, shavings, prepared the Ash, the Animus, the call, the musicality and imagery. New shoes on, cut my feet to ribbons. The show went well, looking up, into the bowl. I'm told, repeatedly, the first one is the hardest. Is it? Hotels begin. The room sits in the middle of a pool, friday night in Newcastle.
Saint Georges Hall is a ridiculous place to look out from, into an audience. My mum tells me her dad used to take her there every saturday morning, this must have been in the mid 50s. More time in a city my family is rooted in but I never returned to until doing things with art / performance. The view from the green room is immense. A day of dressing room with Outfit, http://www.everynightidressupasyou.
com/main.php who are as intelligent, down to earth, brilliant a group of creative individuals self-coerced into a collective as I've met. I feel removed from the procedural responsibilities of such an undertaking. We consider the balcony for a thing. Still really scared for this one. Honor Gavin plays, really impressive http://honorgavin.tumblr.com/ The whole tour lineup is a huge act of skill on the part of the producers, the acts are so radically different but wholly communicative, and they do speak across each other. The gore, a silhouette fudge, but it's fine. Colin Herd was kind enough to mail me, he saw Gateshead, was very kind about it, respect his opinion, helps to hear. Leaving Liverpool, staying at a hotel I've stayed at before. Threats in late nite tesco. I am as confused as I believe the audience were, which is a tremendous alienation achievement. I lay on the stage long after, bespattered, as they snapped pictures of me, and filtered out. The view was beautiful.
One of the nicest walks of my life, strolling of the Laines to Kemptown with my shamanic cloak on my left shoulder. Friday evening and 100s see me, only a few notice, and they speak to me, with warmth. I love your coat, sweetie, I get in Kemptown. A car of girls, on their way out makeup, beep and then stop when I smile and ask me what it is. When I tell them, they are impressed, but seemingly not surprised. ub40 back to back on my shuffle. earth dies screaming and don't break my heart. powerful throwbacks. i listen to the full songs, more than once, which is rare with my impatience.you shoot me down in flames / You put me down a lot / But I'm giving you my heart / Go on take it / Please be careful not to break it / Just remember it's the only one I've got / It's the only one I've The expected perished at the basement, but it was a joyful experience, a stop between points in terms of my work, but the Pit in the Basement is that, and the intimacy welcomed a lot of adlibs. Apparently I've done the Brighton fringe and the Great Escape festival now. I was gentler, more responsive. I came here, Brighton, to recover after a big car crash, have family I love in the city too. A place that has been generous to me. Despite what people (cynical people, like me maybe) might think of as a veneer of falseness, it is a genuine place. I went with things for the performance, and things went with me. Had 2 grubbs vegiburgers. Holiday. The hotel was beautiful too.
Bethnal green road back + forth twice. Another day beginning before it really began. This is the show that means the most to me. It happened, certainly, and a breaking point, where I no longer have a clue how it is. Others are positive, so it is all positive. I committed to it. I felt the (in)famous frost where I was used to some rictus chuckle from elsewhere audiences, there was less. a lesson here, but it was pressure, so familiar the ground, and the expectation. quite big actually. a night waiting on stairs, feeling tremors and then letting loose, realising niceness was needed to really spear. i did spear. people in lifts, im told, saying they wanted to run, that it made them feel ill, afraid. I fell back on what I can do, to eat up that drop. I had plenty of use for the disdain early accrued. All tied together in the end, I think, more than before, it fused, my works across the night, all the work really. We hoped it would when it should and it did, I suppose, if I can be any judge of that, which I can't. The less I know of this stuff the better, for I cannot know. When it does not die in childhood we can seal it off, return to the next. But still, some weight and I ended up with pub threats and massive eviscerating expellation of the gullet. The pints of cold coffy, lukewarm strawbshake and oliveoilberrysmoothie did not see the light of day. Other things did. Slept in my own bed.
Time for the city again, so important, back so soon after the enemies, and the cube is a truly exquisite space. How could this not be in the shadow of something as immense as the night before? It was different rather than lesser. A space to truly test the 'new day new work'. The greenroom was an attic bricabrac holecave of joy for me to play in, dance in, while Outfit shellacked. We all felt homely in the space. I could've felt really exhausted, body jaded, and with the material at times, unable to call down the spirit of the shaman animus monster lock bodywar, but I just smoothed that sideways. The first signs of tour cosh, tiredings, but not really. Such a joy to be around everyone on this thing, so much gentle brilliance, brightness, intelligence, creativity. Nice to be collaborating with Ross too, at claw, bear wrestle, and flesh out ideas on trains instead of reading / writing. Weird monolithic, premier innn, i name checked it live, but no one was hooked on that. Not everything can rattle like a sword inside of a stick.
Maybe the most involving performance, maybe. The Burgess foundation was an intense environment, inspiring for me http://www.anthonyburgess.org/ His spirit was about, I waited between sets in his library, filled with first editions, signed copies, weird books that must've been his. I sprinkled his ashes on stage. 1985. I felt quite warmed by the presence of friends in the audience, Holly Pester (who I beared, hoovered, retched and flicked), Tom Jenks, Scott Thurston - poets I respect, fun to show the stuff before them, and it was packed, and dark, and I felt stranglely nerveless beforehand, and so it did flow, lots of heavy pukkke. Exhaustion can relax, can afford funny rifts in a character. I returned the morning after, to buy some books, and I had a open, meditative afternoon waiting before, in central Manchester, confused and enlightened by its bleak newness and unfinishedness, like my performance and my piece. I worried I was a little too ebullient after, too loud and sharp in conversing etc...but our hotel was bizzarre, like the overlook, shining-esque, and that returned me to ground.
mad maxville, the place the students used to call mount doom in durham. actually an enjoyable day, a train over Yorkshire from Manchester to start, to Thornaby. Then it was explained to me what MadeinChelsea was, sonic interruption, a t=rex swipe into buildings, half the shops shut, like depression shut, tattoos on the back of a man's head in caffe nero. The Arc is a beautiful theatre, like a roman outpost for art. Wandering Stockton for hours and hours. I'd been before but why? I did many circles. Lots of charity shops. Bought a blue crocodile, a pig and a whoopie cushion. Listening to arvo part, a mistake, too many ideas for novels. The show itself was good, nerveless again, swishing, seemed to be easier now. Even the closer wasn't too hurtful and draining, but enough. A couple talked in the front row, I cane pointed them, adlibbed the most since Brighton. Premier fucking inn again, but a privilege even that. Second to last. Such fast passing, sad, learned too much.
Strange it may be but Norwich is a poetry monsterland. The amount of good poets it has produced, through uea, and its cushy environs, of my generation, is really impressive / unnerving. A fine place for the last show (?) The town was Norfolk festivalled – quaint, yokelfest, saw morris dancing. The arts / writers centre is such a beautiful venue and lovely people throughout its tunnels, had some lovely exchanges with those people, and ate their food. Everyone on the tour seemed very balanced, calm, happy with what we’d done, still growing into those ideas, still critical, but neither nostalgic or overwrought. No worn out sentiment about the benemothian undertaking of EVP, which has been great and for me personally a success for all the challenges it posed were new, and I sucked in loads from those conflicts. Good to know..., consistently, adapting each night – learning all the time from my tour peers, the venues, the space, the techs, the producers, the work, the memorising, the acting, maybe even the audience (though still in general I believe what I always did – balls at them) Probably the end of this character too, a last dada hurrah for the retch acorah shaman bear host spine birdkiller.
To the show. This the end, may 25th, a date I have eyed some some suspicion for a few months, but it arrives First bits were a tiny bit wonky – I blame the conservative audience, gentility folk in the crowd. Norfolk arts festival. Then on in, pretty good. A good bear, my favourite of the Zamyatin story, the dragon. A nice going for it at the end came natural. Some spit up lung butter bedraggles, some fear, & I finished after hard ZIMZALLA BIM BIM BADA ZALADU ZALADIM by screaming ILL MISS YOU, ILL MISS YOU SO MUCH. A lot of warmth and respect for those involved. Started out without much ‘acted’ performed. Wrote whole 45 minute theatre piece. 2 month notice, national tour, sage, st georges hall rich mix, burgess centre …. 8 shows, 37 appearances. Went well.
licking up the ash of Mary Shelley: EVP Bournemouth : sept 28th 2013
A reunion on the south coast for the Electronic voice phenomena tour. In a derelict theatre built by mary shelley's son for her to watch her favourite plays from her specially built god's eye portico dumb waiter while ill and invalided. As part of the Bournemouth arts festival on the very southest of coasts, in Boscombe. An amazing space to perform in, crumbling and mysterious. I was utterly profane, rewriting my whole piece to be about Shelley and Frankenstein. I heard her voice while retching, I told the audience about the new technology and possibilities of galvanism and urged them not to fear death as their favourite body part might be resurrected, I sat in a couch before them while we screened the prologue to the Bride of Frankenstein. I even finished by doing my nut as normal but with the added twist of this time licking her ash, poured from an urn I 'found upstairs', from the stage floor. So good to see the brilliant Hannah Silva, Ross Sutherland and Tom Chivers again and to explore Boscombe beach in meditation before the performance. A privilege to be able to rework my acting chops, spread the avant intensity and travel with performance.
http://www.ayoungertheatre.com/review-electric-voice-phenomena/ Have you ever been to a séance? Have you ever been tempted to try to contact the other side? Have you ever felt the presence of some ethereal being? Or have you always been the sensible, cynical type that thinks all of that is rot? Well, either way, the boundary-pushing, ground-breaking and dimension-rattling cabaret that is Electronic Voice Phenomena will certainly make you question the beliefs you hold most dear. Electronic Voice Phenomena combines experimental technology, literature, music and performance in a show that focuses, quite bluntly, on death and the afterlife. The project is inspired by the notorious ‘Breakthrough’ experiments conducted by Konstantin Raudive in the 1970s, where he captured voices-from-beyond in electronic noise.
This show is unique. It is not easy, not always clear and certainly not easily comprehensible. But it is fascinating. The wordsmith SJ Fowler acts almost like a compere, being the through line, almost a reference point that keeps the audience anchored into the proceedings. This is very useful, and makes the show nicely coherent. He tells us that he is a conduit the spirits use to contact the living, flipping the perception that it is only the living that tries to contact the dead. He also introduces the idea of a kind of electronic empathy that the living can find with the dead. These are complex concepts that are gradually elaborated on........
........The show always comes back to SJ Fowler. He really stands out of the crowd as an extraordinary performer and poet. The climax of his show comes in a mind-blowing, deeply unsettling and ultimately haunting moment when he is overwhelmed by the bottled resentment he has in him and by the voices of the ghosts that are taking over his head.
It must be said that this show is an acquired taste. There are moments when the art is more about the artist than it is about the audience, and this can make it hard to find a way in. That said, the experimentation in this show is amazing to watch, and the way it deals with such a difficult subject in a head on way is commendable. The show makes the audience feel in a way that most theatre doesn’t. It accesses a fundamental, animalistic emotional response to the material that is hard to explain. And this kind of experiential theatre is incredibly rare. If Electronic Voice Phenomena comes to a theatre near you on its tour, don’t miss it.
http://baroqueinhackney.com/2013/12/31/the-turn-of-the-year-darkness-light-art-enemies/ a poetry reportage / blogging phenomenon, Katy Evans-Bush's Baroque in Hackney has kindly mentioned my EVP performance at the rich mix in May 2013 in her end of year wrap up on what happened and what happened to her. Such a pleasure to get mention in such a widely read and esteemed put together, and she is kind enough to call back to when I was lung bedraggling into a bucket on stage in london, and really giving my whole whack to scare people up. That's me below, in my true form, my bear form.
The turn of the year: darkness, light, art, enemies
We keep doing it
The picture at the top represents a blog post I never wrote, back in the thick of things. It’s SJ Fowler, living Dada, on stage at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, in an experimental mixed media spoken word show called Electronic Voice Phenomena. I was meant to review the show, which was brilliant and included a variety of pieces from people like Hannah Silva, Ross Sutherland, and others, but somehow got bogged down in the bog of life and – though I spent months feeling guilty and unfinished – never did. SJ Fowler was the compere, and came on in a different sort of persona each time. As the show went on his linking acts became more and more broken down, more and more unstable, more inaccessible, until – I think just after the break – he came on in this amazing bear suit and started reading in a stentorian chant. Symbolic communication only and WOW. It was a bit terrifying from below; you can see where I was. The show ended with Mr Fowler coming on and ranting in German, on and on, building in fury – and fury is the word – until he finally melted down and gave every realistic semblance of being violently sick into a bucket on the stage.
This isn’t sounding appealing, is it! I asked him afterwards what he’d been reciting, and he told me it was a recipe. Full of eggs. (There, that’s better.)
The show, produced by Penned in the Margins and Mercy, was brave and exhilarating. It poked around in the idea of what lies beyond, but left the beyond firmly in the beyond. Rather than the usual ghosts and gloating hints of the paranormal, it gave us shadows and fragments of meaning and perception. (What is ‘normal’, anyway?)