Alwynne PritchardVisual artist, performance artist, composer
Embrace the chaos: Alwynne Pritchard is spellbinding in her own Rockaby with a duo of Foley artists and the BBC SSO under Ilan Volkov
Alwynne Pritchard’s practice encompasses a wide range of disciplines and media including musical composition, choreography, vocal and physical performance, text, video and photography. Much of her most important recent work is conceived in the form of self-contained capsule-performances in which she employs a multidisciplinary language to create a conceptual framework for esoteric and often immersive rituals. These are drawn almost exclusively from the movement and functions of the human body – her own – and can be simultaneously grotesque, fragile, terrifying and absurd.
Central to Pritchard’s performative work is the idea that the human body is an access to thought. An unpredictable force, without morality or language, it can create rifts in perception from which the unforeseen can emerge. From the physicality of this corporeal self – the pulsings, twitchings and contortions of the body – the performer’s voice also comes into being, strong, ugly, delirious and fragile.
Withdrawing into oneself, into one’s body on a public stage is a subversive act. It rejects the definition of performer and redefines the relationships between those onstage and off. To observe someone in such a state of concentrated withdrawal is fascinating to Pritchard, and her work as a composer, choreographer and performer has become increasingly about creating situations in which this takes place. But the withdrawal must be concentrated and highly controlled – a practice developed around principles of precision, discipline, intimacy and constraint. The performance is not a staging or an enactment but a kind of public rite of investigation.
As is so often the case in her recent work, it is by depriving her performers of both sight and hearing that Pritchard turns their attention inwards. Their focus is thus directed entirely towards tasks dictated by the rhythms and contours of their own bodies, and by that most primal of senses - touch. In this case, it is the very distance thus created between the audience and the performers which also brings them together: the private, intimate space of the performer becomes a shared one, by nature of co-presence with the audience. The isolation and vulnerability of the performer is cause for empathy in those witness to the challenge and intensity of the investigations she endeavours to undertake. This empathy is also an invitation to the audience to access similar processes of investigation within themselves – to explore the cognition of their own bodies.
Created after reading psychologist Daniel N. Stern’s Forms of Vitality, these performances explore how relationships between the performer's voice and body can be reconfigured to express a vast and rapidly changing spectrum of emotions and psychological states.
As a child growing up in the UK, one of Alwynne's favourite television programmes was a Japanese series called Monkey. It was based on the Chinese novel, Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en and told the story of Monkey, a bold, impudent creature born of a stone egg, who had acquired supernatural powers, but suffered the indignity of expulsion from heaven for his unruly behaviour. Twenty-five years or so later, she read the novel Timbuktu, by American writer Paul Auster. It tells the story of Mr. Bones, a dog travelling with his dying, down-and-out master, Willy. Dogs, it seems are like mirrors that reflect parts of ourselves we don't, or choose not to see. They are insuppressible. So she decided to release her inner dog and find out where it led her? But the story remains unwritten. Instead, DOG/GOD came into being.
Alwynne commissioned a series of short music-theatre pieces from some of the many the composers she has collaborated with at the Borealis festival. The theme would be DOG. To date, the DOG/GOD project includes works by Vinko Globokar, Helmut Oehring, Gerhard Stäbler, François Sarhan, Øyvind Torvund, Trond Reinholdtsen, Gwyn Pritchard, Felix Kubin, Adam de la Cour and Hollie Harding. Learning these pieces has been not unlike a religious experience in itself for Alwynne, an act of ingestion, immersion, repetition and transformation. Each work is an elliptical rite, with the performance as an extended ceremony. Her roles as madman, shaman, alchemist, vocalist, diva and dog are ritualistic enactments in subjugation to the many deities and demons that man has created in his own image.
Created for soprano and tape machines by Langham Research Centre, OBAMIX sets extracts from three defining Barack Obama speeches. The performance explores the rhetorical flourishes of the speech-maker, inviting us to question how our physical bodies serve our words. The sole sound source is the live and processed voice of soprano Alwynne Pritchard. The piece was created soon after Barack Obama’s election in 2008, composed music was set on reel-to-reel tape alongside composed and improvised vocal lines.
OBAMIX with Langham Research Centre, 2016
Filmed at the Supreme Court of the UK, OBAMIX is created by Langham Research Centre; Iain Chambers, Philip Tagney and Robert Worby, with Alwynne Pritchard. The texts of OBAMIX are drawn from the speeches of Barack Obama.
Alwynne Pritchard Timeline
- Alwynne Pritchard Timeline (0.06MB, PDF)