Opera of Objects; the jewellery

Opera of Objects by Erik GriswoldCatherine MillikenCraig Foltz and Vanessa Tomlinson

jewellery by: Bridget Kennedy, Tatjana Panyoczki, Nik Hanton, Sharon Fitness, Kelly McDonald, Melinda Young, Roseanne Bartley, Mandy Flood, Vivien Atkinson, Lisa Higgins, TJAJT

Queensland Conservatorium, Ian Hanger Recital Hall – 9 November 2018, 6 pm

Opera of Objects field report :

Creating a space for ‘performative’ jewellery within the context of a project developed and performed by musicians is a strange and bewildering experience.  The brief for the artists was to create work that was “self-sounding” (e.g. didn’t need to be struck by another object to make a sound) and could be “worn”. The work would never be displayed outside of the actual performance but would appear only when they were “performed”. Seeing them used in this way by the performers was mind-blowingly amazing.

It was as if these musicians had been playing the beads, cups, cymbals chain, steel plate for years! It got noisy and wild! It was fantastic!  The musicians were amazed by the generous loaning of the work and it was a great first step of solidifying a dynamic, interdisciplinary relationship.

In preparation for the performance, the works were investigated and discussed by the performers.  Many of the works were deemed too quiet to be performed—or some didn’t meet the requirement that they self-generate sound. In the end six of the twelve submitted necklaces were selected for the performance.

Putting on the jewellery

Erik wearing Kelly McDonald ‘Pearls’ holding Lisa Higgins ‘1 tequilla, 2 tequilla…’ Catherine playing oboe, Vanessa putting on Vivien Atkinson ‘a bene placito’

The first performance of the Opera of Objects was a ticketed event in a concert hall.

The audience entered at stage level and then climbed the stairs to look down at the performers. In front of the setup instruments, there were three tables containing the objects that formed the primary direction for the opera. These objects were separate from the necklaces themselves, which were stored elsewhere on the stage. From our vantage point, we could see the musicians moving objects on their tables very clearly.

The first act was primary piano, percussion and oboe.

The second act incorporated objects from their lives that the musicians had brought with them. The text was read by the musicians and as well as the writer, who was stationed within the audience. There was an amazing piece where all three musicians sat down at their laptops. Erik has developed an app where the act of typing is transformed into pre-recorded sounds. They read Craig’s poetry while typing the lines onto their laptops. As they typed, their instruments re-interpreted and played the poetry. The poetry had written its own score.

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Vanessa wearing Vivien Atkinson ‘a bene placito’

Opera of Objects

Erik Griswald plays Kelly McDonald ‘Pearls’ and Lisa Higgins ‘1 tequila 2 teqilla…’, Catherine Milliken plays Sharon Fitness ‘sheet’ and Cuban beads from Ilse-Marie Erl, Vanessa Tomlinson plays Vivien Atkinson ‘a bene placito’

For the Finale, the musicians, all put on necklaces. They played their own instruments, the necklaces, each other’s necklaces. It was wonderfully active, percussive, and chaotic. The jewellery was brought to life with skill and dexterity that I have never imagined. It was awesome.

The show was over, the audience walked through the works on the stage. The whole thing was packed up.

Opera of Objects

Catherine Milliken and Vanessa Tomlinson wearing Vivien Atkinson

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Erik Griswald (left) pictured playing Kelly Macdonald – Pearl, Vanessa playing a red balloon.

The next morning, the performers and families drove three hours into the bush – to the most amazing Piano Mill. There, in the outback there is a purpose-built performance space. The works were laid out on the stage. The audience arrived. The performance began – in the most stunning setting.

It was fabulous to go down the rabbit hole of artists working at such a high level in a different field. The Opera of Objects was a musical collaboration, so it is a growing process on how the jewellery can sit in its own right. Considering the features of the jewellery/objects that work for musicians was a new approach. Volume or amplification was a function that was a new dynamic to consider It was a wonderful experiment!

Piano Mill: Lagavulin, Stanthorpe-Tenterfield area 10 November, 3 pm

Act 2 Opera of Objects:  c/o Piano Mill Facebook page:

setting the scene.  The purpose built concern hall above – viewed from the outside, below/left.

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The piano mill structure was honored with an architecture award soon after this concert.

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Outside/inside/up the piano mill at night

Troublesome model wearing ‘Anni Albers sends her apologies’-c/oKristin D’Agostino

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