Head in the clouds, feet on the earth. The Walls get Xen.

Kicking off the Artist in Residence program at The Walls for 2017 is  Michelle Xen. Michelle will engineer a Benevolent System II during her three month residency in The Walls’ Mezzanine Studio throughout Autumn, as well as collaborate on an exhibition as part of the collective Lumen Cloud, which kicks off in early June. We shot her a few questions ahead of the exhibitions.

In your own words can you please describe Benevolent System II and your contribution with Lumen Cloud?

The show Benevolent System II includes my next series of experiments exploring sound, object, saturated colour and environmental immersion. I spent several years touring and recording as a musician under the moniker Michelle Xen + The Neon Wild, and this is my journey back into the contemporary gallery space. As part of the Benevolent System II, I will be launching a new project TRANSLATING.EARTH with the collective Lumen Cloud. I formed Lumen Cloud with the Gold Coast-based industrial designer Richard Candy, and programming designer Mat Johnson. Together we are building a project that is founded in the idea of shifting the voice of the artist to the voice of the natural environment: the emphasis on the creative impulse from the human body is shifted to natural systems and what data they may create. We are essentially being driven by this critical period in our cultural and environmental history, so we are attempting to develop another voice – a type of language – through which the natural environment can communicate IRL to a human audience. During my residency at The Walls, we have built a sculptural form that uses a language of animated colour and sound, relaying the captured data from the wave motion of the Gold Coast. This installation will be the first iteration of TRANSLATING.EARTH, an ongoing project for myself and Lumen Cloud.

Have you always created within multiple disciplines or was there one discipline that was an entry into the art world for you?

I have always made across the disciplines of contemporary art and contemporary music. I completed a Masters of Research in art that focussed in on this relationship between contemporary art and pop music, and how the critical experimentation of the visual arts provides a generative engine for making just about anything creative. I apply the art school methodology of experimentation, creative problem solving and critical thinking to all projects, from song construction, music video production, object making, art installation, garment design, live performance, soundscape production… it is always relevant.

Can you please give us a little bit of your history?

I studied painting and video at the Queensland College of Art and went on to do my first residency in video and painting at QAGOMA. My practice bounces between spaces so from music performance to art installation across a diverse set of public and institutional spaces; I love the challenge of moving territories! For example I have had solo shows, public installations and live performances at Metro Arts, The Walls, Brisbane Powerhouse, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art, GoMA, MONA FOMA, Music Matters Singapore, CMJ New York. I have been exceptionally lucky in my collaborations, working with a diverse field of practitioners across disciplines, I have worked with a number of amazing contemporary dancers recently, collaborating last year with Expressions Dance Company on a series of installation performances. I have made works with bio-artist Svenja Kratz using my own cells as a video material (which was interesting extracting the cells!). Musically I have been unnervingly lucky to have collaborated with Gotye, Quan Yeomans, and Scott Redford [EMI]. My band members and music team have also been like a crazy family over the past five years. I moved to Burleigh Heads about a year ago on hiatus from touring and have been developing the TRANSLATING.EARTH project since. The aquamarine waters are heavenly.

What do you hope your audience will feel when viewing your work?

This work is driven by a communication from an open and living space: the ocean, translating through colour and light to the people in the exhibition. The gallery is set up to generate a reflective and immersive space for people to become aware of themselves experiencing a spectrum of colour and sound. We are not attached to any particular feeling, but are trying to create a framework for embodied experience and reflection – to be aware of the moment and the feeling of being in one’s body (and not on phones or screens or swirling with other distractions). It is fun to operate in three dimensions and multiple senses!

Michelle’s exhibition Benevolent System II and TRANSLATING.EARTH collaboration will open at THE WALLS on Saturday 3 June, 5.00 – 8.00pm.

IMAGE: Submerege by Michelle Xen. Courtesy of the artist.

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