Curious creative community during COVID-19
Thursday 29 October 2020
Stage 4 restrictions eased this week, and Melburnians across the city are excitedly venturing out to support newly re-opened businesses. Many of us have been working from home since March, but it’s not clear yet when we’ll be able to get back to our headquarters. Now is a time for planning a COVID-normal return to shared workspaces, but it’s also a time for reflecting on what has changed in the last seven months, and what ‘lockdown learning’ we might take with us. This week, our Administration and Operations Coordinator (and award-winning author) Sophie Overett reflects on just this in her Brain Food piece, and we take an around-the-world jaunt down memory lane with Artist Sonya Suares, who shares some of her favourite Polyglot tour experiences.
Sophie Overett, Administration & Operations Coordinator
One of the magical things about Polyglot’s office is that we’re a stone’s throw away from the Collingwood Children’s Farm. The effect is something lyrical – a background score of scrapping peacock claws, the chorus bleats of goats, the solo whinnies of horses. An orchestra in animal sounds.
In the early days of lockdown, it was one of the things I missed the most – the natural (albeit introduced) musicality of it all replaced by the thrum of the Nepean Highway not too far beyond my house, and the mechanical bell of the soon-to-be abandoned primary school, the occasional pedalling of a cyclist or the wheels of a trolley, the latter no doubt stolen from the Aldi two blocks up.
So it was a process, to find a new workplace soundtrack I actually wanted to listen to. A task to tune my ear not to the laborious sounds of an isolating suburb, but to find the living, feathered, furry station living in tandem. Parts of it were easy to substitute – the tinkle of the bell on my cat’s collar and his occasional languid, conversational meows, the guttural groan of sleek-bellied seagulls – but over the months, the seasons have brought new players, and my ears become a bit more refined.
So now I know this: magpies warble in the morning while the lorikeets sing offkey with the sunset, the bees flit between the arum lilies in my backyard below the shrill chatter of noisy miners (who inevitably divebomb the cat). There are fat, glossy-winged flies in the afternoon and silent snails in the mailbox, and sometimes muppet-mouthed nightjars in the bleakest parts of the night. The neighbour’s husky doesn’t ever really bark, but I hear its tail thump happily against the back patio floor often in a rapidly escalating percussion, and, beneath it all, moths and spiders dance under the soft glow of garden solar lights.
It’s not goats or horses, peacocks or snuffling guinea pigs, but being able to step into the sounds of my home workspace has in some ways connected me back there too. Like the same song played with different instruments or tempos, and it’s made me think a lot about how important sound is in a number of Polyglot’s work – from Sound of Drawing to Clippy to Voice Lab. In so many ways, these projects embody the way sound can be a connector – linking us to stories and spaces, to the known and the unknown, and perhaps most importantly, to not just each other, but ourselves too.
With the tentative (and exciting!) news of lockdown’s end, I’m excited to re-explore the sounds of the world beyond my five kilometres again, but I hope to stay attuned to the ones I’ve discovered during this submersion at home too. To remember the grounding, comforting effect they had, and to enjoy them all the more when they’re only the score I come home to.
Sonya Suares, Artist
What goes on tour, mostly stays on tour. But below is a select list of my most vivid non-performance tour memories.
1. Turning 40 in Perth. The team made such a special morning for me – Steph even made a custom surround AV and sound show. If you can manage it, have a Polyglot birthday.
2. Tobogganing down the Great Wall of China. This one is self-explanatory. Who knew this would be a descent option?
3. Day spas with Julie… everywhere. Honestly, Julie could find you a day spa in a desert. When not under her supervision on tour, I wandered into a rather less salubrious massage parlour experience. Henceforth, I defer to her impeccable research for all such adventures/ tour outings.
4. Breakfast with the orangutans at Singapore Zoo. My family, Nick, Daniel and Naiya, accompanied me on our Singapore tour and one of our highlights was Singapore Zoo, eating a buffet brekkie metres away from a family of nonchalant orangutans doing the same.
5. Lunch breaks at PSBK (Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja) in Jogjakarta. Our Jogja presenting partners treated the whole team, which included a veritable army of student crew, to incredible home-style hot lunches each day. It was a daily feast!
6. Drinks by the pool at the Jogja Village Inn. After sweating through a day of shows in pre-monsoonal Jogja, jumping into the resort pool and ordering a smart cocktail was a pretty heavenly wind-down. Ria’s mobile masseuse’s visit at the end of the tour was the cherry atop that delightful tour accom experience.
7. Cherry blossom season in Hangzhou. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan in cherry blossom season but being in the romantic capital of China in spring and walking amidst the scenic gardens was pretty darn close.
8. Snowfall in Philly. We were at IPAY right before a snap freeze in mid-winter. I’d never experienced snow starting to fall or what it felt like: i.e. weird rain. Venue security were fairly bemused to find a grown woman suddenly jump around on a street corner giggling and catching at snowflakes.
9. Narrowly escaping manslaughter charges in Philly. I don’t know why Americans don’t use electric kettles. It’s downright dangerous for the uninitiated or faintly distracted: i.e. those who might want to Skype their family on a break and boil water for tea! I raced right past that stove kettle and out the door to a show call only to return six hours later to a near-catastrophe of fire department proportions. I shook for hours afterwards and now Emily is scared to twin share with me which, quite frankly, is fair. Luckily Pambo has no such qualms!
10. Op-shopping in Adelaide. The Odeon Theatre is situated adjacent to a fairly ritzy shopping strip, so the local Salvos was a treasure trove of labels and as-new items. I remember rolling back to the theatre after a lunch break with a bag full of goodies. Admittedly, it was my most expensive op shop haul on record but two years on, those clothes and shoes are still in circulation. In fact, last time we made a family trip to Adelaide, I was determined to revisit that Salvos and it did not disappoint a second time around.