Melanie Wilson is a London-based performer, writer and sound artist making performances, installations and sound walks centring on the use of sound as a distinct, immersive agency powerfully evocative of place and state of mind.
Melanie’s recent work includes British Council Edinburgh 2011 Showcase selected every minute, always (with Abigail Conway), one-on-one performance The View From Here (2010), Iris Brunette (2009) and Simple Girl (2007). Melanie’s latest work, Autobiographer, is on at the Toynbee Studios in London. Find out more about her work and her upcoming show with Contrary Life‘s interview…
Autobiographer is about Flora, a 76-year-old who suffers from dementia. Why did you choose the subject of dementia for your latest performance?
I am keenly interested in experiences of identity and subjectivity in the performances and sound works I make, and dementia poses some very challenging and fascinating questions about those themes.
I knew initially that I wanted to make a poetic performance that utilised an ensemble of performers to depict differing sides of one person. Having had some personal experience of dementia, I saw a way in which I could harness this form to speak about the experience of the disease in a lyrical, textural way.
You worked closely with dementia sufferers and medical experts to create the show, how did you find the experience?
It was a great honour. I felt very lucky and very humbled to be allowed to gain an insight into the lives of people who live with the disease, and to witness the immense and ceaseless compassion of the medical and clinical professionals and carers who look after them. It was also undeniably very emotional and challenging, but I felt very fired by it and very clear in my role in contributing to the illumination of this particular landscape of human experience.
What do you hope the audience will get out of the show and what kind of reactions are you hoping to get?
I hope people will feel they have been offered a highly crafted, beautifully transporting and sometimes heartbreakingly acute set of questions. Autobiographer is first and foremost an affectionate, intriguing and intimate portrait of a woman’s life. The aspect of dementia is the framing for her life, and as such the piece is fundamentally about memory and language, which is underscored and accompanied by an intricate surround soundtrack. The staging of the piece is in the round, so the audience really forge a strong and thrilling sense of comradeship with the performers and their fellow audience members.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time (if you have any!)?
Lots of books, films, walks, food, music and rum and cards for money with my friend Abigail.
What’s next for you after Autobiographer?
Some exciting sound projects in Cologne and Berlin and the making of a new solo show.