Flights of idealism: Turbulence online and in print

Since November last year I’ve been working with a team led by composer Juliana Hodkinson to re-version our chamber opera Turbulence for LIGE—a project commissioned by the Danish Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs, and the Danish Agency for Culture. Launched last week at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, LIGE is a digital collection (or e-book) of contemporary art published to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the achievement of women’s suffrage in Denmark.

Amendments to the 1849 Danish Constitution gave women the rights to vote and to stand for parliamentary election, and were signed into law on 5 June 1915. In Denmark, 5 June is a public holiday known as ‘Grundlovsdag’—Constitution Day; this year the full weekend of 5–7 June was given over to government-sponsored celebrations. ‘Lige’ is the Danish word for ‘equal’. Since 1915 Denmark has been a leading nation for legislative recognition of gender and same sex equality. (As marriage equality is so topical in Australia right now it seems worth acknowledging that on 1 October 1989 Denmark became the first country to make legal provision for same-sex marriage.)

The new digital version of Turbulence comprises ‘chapter’ XIV of the LIGE collection (keep scrolling … ). Over six months, it was developed with co-creators variously based in Berlin, Copenhagen, Melbourne, Sydney, and a snowbound village in Sweden. The live recording made by ABC Classic FM in 2013 became the basis for a mesmerising dual screen video work, which might be described as a visual meditation on impermanence (impermanence at once mechanical, emotional, and in nature). Filmmaker Peter Humble’s response to the libretto and music of Turbulence is a moody and surprising essay layered with 16mm and 8mm handprocessed footage; a shifting landscape made vast, at times, to accommodate the sonic pattern of oblique lines given to the opera’s main characters—a Mother (soprano Deborah Kayser) and her Daughter (Anneli Bjorasen).

The vision for Turbulence in LIGE was to include a range of multimedia options, such that, at any point, the opera might be read, listened to, and watched. Digitally embedding such a variety of experiences proved beyond the means and scope of the LIGE project. Yet with the ‘reading’ in mind, Juliana and I integrated the libretto and musical score into a single object, now published by Edition Wilhelm Hansen in Copenhagen (you can preview the book here—again, scroll down).

The LIGE project is framed by idealism in abundance. Recognising that ‘the art world is a place where gender equality and the balance of gender representation still lag behind’, the editors introduce the e-book as a celebration of ‘gender equality in the arts’. As with the possibility of such equality, so with ideas for a truly flexible and multifaceted online experience of opera: let’s continue to hold them richly in the imagination.