Adhocracy – In Conversation with Isobel Marmion

Ahead of her appearance at Adhocracy 2023, Isobel Marmion dropped past to have quiet conversations about her project Streetlights and Long Nights.

Adhocracy – Vitalstatistix’s renowned annual arts hothouse – supports the development of new art and performance.  It runs September 1-3. Full details, including program, HERE.

Firstly, tell us about Streetlights and Long Nights what’s the core concept that you’re exploring, and what inspired it?

Streetlights and Long Nights is inspired by the particular feeling of intimacy associated with having involved, personal conversations in unusual dark spaces think nighttime in an empty park or your friend’s car, or maybe sitting next to the ocean at midnight.

It was inspired by a reading event in the 2020 National Young Writers Festival. South Australian writer and general legend Alysha Hermann pitched a reading event that would take place in the middle of the night. As it was October 2020 the entire festival was digital, and a lot of the programmed writers were stuck alone in their own homes. I hosted Late Late Night Reading – Easy Beatz from my bed in Adelaide, and Alysha, who was on a retreat in regional South Australia that weekend, drove out into the darkness in the middle of the night to find somewhere with enough reception to stream from, and recorded her reading from her car, which she had decorated with fairy lights for the occasion.

I was struck by how similar this moment felt to moments from my teen years, loitering on park benches and confessing my crushes to my friends. Streetlights has been slowly forming in my brain in the three years since, also inspired by a variety of wonderful audioworks (such as French & Mottershead’s Waterborne which was presented here at Vitals in late 2019) that capture something similar to that fleeting moment of intimacy. I feel like there’s something so tender and still inherent within the act of listening, which was a big part of why I wanted to explore this concept via audio.

This is an audio performance work that draws on site-specificity – what role does Port Adelaide play in the piece?

Streetlights and Long Nights is exploring a hugely personal concept, which, even though I don’t intend the work to be autobiographical, it will still be a result of my personal experiences and associations and I would absolutely describe myself as local to Port Adelaide.

The concept is, for me, thematically intrinsically tied up with teenhood. My teenage years are the period of time that I most associate with this feeling, and when I do experience the feeling now, I’m instantly pulled back into my younger years. I lived in Largs Bay from the age of 14 until I left home, and spent a lot of time in Port Adelaide with my friends, in playgrounds, along the river, rustling through dusty shops. As an adult I worked in Port Adelaide (at Vitals!), and in Adelaide I always live in the North Western suburbs, so I still find myself wandering the streets and rivers in darkness, quietly walking home from my regular haunts with friends, as we chat in the darkness.

I’m interested in way that location can support audio, and the textures and context that location layer onto a piece. How does a work present differently in different locations? What does it feel like in the carpark of Hart’s Mill versus a bench in the Botanic Gardens? My background and my relationship to Port Adelaide and the LeFevre Peninsula are absolutely colouring the way I think about location in regards to context, and it will be interesting exploring that and getting the perspective of people who don’t have the same weight of familiarity with the area that I do.

There’s a sense of interplay with the notion of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) in your methodology. How are you utilising the concept, and is there any use of technology to achieve this?

Very early days on this project at the moment so I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’m interested in the idea of the intimacy of audio, and I think that ASMR videos online are a huge way that people engage with a sort of manufactured intimacy, often designed to relax, so it’s absolutely something we’ll be talking about.

Where does Streetlights and Long Nights go after its appearance at Adhocracy?

No hard plans yet, but I’ll be applying for grants to make the work post development, and then looking into presentation options!

Anything else audiences should know?

No, but if audiences have anything they’d like to TELL me I’d love to hear it. While talking about this piece I’ve found that people often have a very immediate response. “Oh when I was young I used to-” etc etc, and I’d love to hear as many of those stories as possible, so come to Adhocracy and hit me up, tell me about your nighttime/intimate/dark chats!

Find out more about Streetlights and Long Nights at the Adhocracy Website.