Alexandra Spence

commissioned radio productions

Alexandra Spence – “Do jellyfish breathe?”

TX: Wednesday, 9th Feb, 6pm – 6.30pm + Thursday, 10th Feb, 12pm – 12.30pm

Additional broadcast on Kunstradio, Ö1, Austria 13th Feb, 11pm – 12am CET

During Sydney’s most recent lockdown I submerged* a 15 minute-long piece of cassette tape in seawater collected from a local beach. The cassette tape contained a field recording of waves, and a recording of my voice offering a (non-definitive, and non-hierarchical) list of things found in the Pacific Ocean.

I’ve been thinking about connection with bodies of water, as well as connections between bodies and water, and how we might reimagine our bodily limitations to examine the things that connect us to each other and to our surroundings. The sea has always felt like home, and having lived on both the east and west edges of the Pacific Ocean it has become a place of connection for me.

I’ve been thinking about the Pacific Ocean as a home – not only to marine creatures and sea currents – but to the obscure movements of global trade, offshore data barges, and sunken satellites deactivated and dumped from space. Vast bodies may seem infinite, but nothing is – the depths hold mysterious, beautiful, and troubling things.

…Bottlenose dolphins, ancient artefacts, Lego pieces, approximately 36 species of shark, underwater mines…

Imagining an infinite ocean has led to overfishing, floating plastic-particle gyres, lost whales (as a result of the underwater din of shipping and naval industries), and an international sense of unaccountability.

“… Do jellyfish breathe?” is a kind of sonic traversing of oceanic layers, exploring imaginary landscapes, entwining and encountering unequal forms, such as breath with wave, fish with fishing line, along the way.

*Submerging the tape in salt water is an expansion of an ongoing project in which I bury tape loops 7-second field recordings on tape loops before burying them in the earth at the location in which they were recorded. I imagine this as a collaboration of sorts — I make a recording and the physical variables of each place and location alter it. While the magnetic coating of the tape retains sonic remnants of the recorded sounds of the place, the physicality of the tape ribbon retains material remnants of the place: sand, salt, other, which, in turn, impart audibly on the recording in the form of crackles, scratches, tape-warp, and hiss.

Alexandra Spence is a sound artist and musician living on unceded Wangal land in Sydney, Australia. Through her practice Alex attempts to reimagine the intricate relationships between the listener, the object, and the surrounding environment as a kind of communion or conversation. Her aesthetic favours field recordings, analogue technologies and object interventions.

Alex has presented her art and music in Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America including Vancouver Art Gallery; BBC Radio 3 & 4; Ausland, Berlin; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; Sound Forms Festival, HK; MCA ARTBAR, Firstdraft Gallery, and Liveworks Festival, with Liquid Architecture, Sydney. She has released her work with labels Room40, Longform editions, More Mars (w. MP Hopkins) and Canti Magnetici.

MCA ArtBar, photo by Jan Kucic-Riker

‘Do jellyfish breathe’ is a co-commission between Radiophrenia and Kunstradio Radiokunst for Ö1, Austria.