26 May 2023 – 9 Jul 2023
- 10:00 – 18:00
- 10:00 – 18:00
- 10:00 – 18:00
- 10:00 – 18:00
- 10:00 – 18:00
- 2 Cygnet Square
- SE2 9FA
- United Kingdom
- to Thamesmead: 177, 244, 401, 229 (Boiler House Stop)
- Abbeywood via Crossrail, 15 Mins from Whitechapel
- Trains to Abbeywood from Charing Cross, Cannon St, London Bridge
Wendy is a film fan letter and response to the work of composer, electronic music innovator and polymath, Wendy Carlos by artists Frances Scott and Chu-Li Shewring
‘You will witness the day become near-night, like the deepest twilight. Sunset colors bathe the full horizon, while a gaping black hole gazes down at you from the inky sky, eye-like and surreal, surrounded by the solar corona, a halo of pearly ephemeral light of delicate beauty. Each time the corona looks quite different, and like an old friend’s face you’ll recognize each in photographs.’
Wendy is a film fan letter and response to the work of composer, electronic music innovator and polymath, Wendy Carlos.
Translated into a series of rehearsals, the film orbits around a duet for four hands on one piano. Together, Frances Scott and Chu-Li Shewring learn to play a transcribed version of Timesteps, an original score composed by Wendy Carlos, first imagined for Anthony Burgess’ book, A Clockwork Orange (1962), and later realised for the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation.
Wendy is shown as a film installation at TACO!, with 5:1 surround sound arranged with a screen and acoustic panels that allude to the formwork of a planetarium dome. Alongside the projection are a series of lumen prints—solar photograms that composite exposures of stills from the film.
The duet realisation ofTimesteps takes place in a wood-panelled space, amid dust drifts, bleached-out light and the suggestion of umbral shadow, at the dark centre of an eclipse. Frances and Chu-Li focus on reworking sections, translated to piano by composer and musician Sasha Scott.
The music gives way to a halting choreography of hands and voices, where the players’ repetitions and mistakes complicate the shifting time signatures and underscore the human, bodily invocation of an electronic piece of music. Hammers and strings, percussive feet and voices count each other in, measuring a slow, half-speed limbo between not-knowing and knowing.
The rehearsal of Timesteps in Wendy is accompanied by alternate sequences on midi piano, vocoded bird song, improvised singing and readings with collaborators Michael Curran and Valentina Formenti, including excerpts from Annie Dillard’s essay ‘A Total Eclipse’ (1982).
Footage of the duet is synthesised with images using nascent digital volumetric filmmaking technology—a three-dimensional modelling technique—and solarised, hand-processed 16mm film footage of other rehearsals, horses, moons, and a sun, eclipsing as it rises above the horizon.
Showing Frances and Chu-Li in the process of learning, with the piano’s inherent restrictions—regulated tonal intervals, notes of finite duration and decay even with the sustain pedal—provides a new way to listening to Wendy Carlos’ original score.
Timesteps was originally imagined for the synthesiser and its capacity for programming shifting layers and textures of sound. There are several arhythmic and dissonant sequences. Rather than being a performative exercise, the duet becomes an intimate attempt to understand and inhabit a complex piece of music.
Wendy Carlos describes herself as ‘The Original Synth’, and in this spirit, Wendy channels the unbounded voice in composition and transition. Wendy is a work of translation and homage, but also of collaboration, fandom and friendship, and of sonic synthesis as a form of being.
‘…imagining a world without gender, which is perhaps a world without genesis, but maybe also a world without end.’
‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs’, Socialist Review, 1985.
Wendy Carlos is known for her experimental body of work including film soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980) and TRON (1982), electronic music releases such as Switched-On Bach (1968), Sonic Seasonings (1972), Beauty in the Beast (1986) and Rediscovering Lost Scores (2005). She was a key collaborator and contributor to Robert Moog’s synthesiser and its role in the development of the vocoder. Her expansive practice includes solar eclipse photography, of which NASA is known to have employed techniques she developed in her photographic darkroom.
Several scenes from A Clockwork Orange were shot on the Thamesmead estate, and this became the locus for a research project commissioned by TACO!
Wendy is the culmination of this research, and a number of works have been realised as part of a public programme during the development and production, including: Incantation, Wendy, both a recorded broadcast for radio (2018) and book published by An Endless Supply / Bobo books (2021) with contributors including Beth Bramich, Stine Hebert, Juliet Jacques, Mat Jenner, Tom Richards and Dave Tompkins; curated film programme Viddy Horrorshow (VHS) (2019) with Mat Jenner; moving image works, Aureole (2021) and Valentina (2020), which was a rehearsal to camera with performer Valentina Formenti; and recorded performance rehearsal letter (2021) with musician Tom Richards, that included hand-drawn phrases on the ‘Mini Oramics’ synthesiser-sequencer, designed in 1976 by electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram and realised by Richards in 2016.
Frances and Chu-Li have worked together since 2016, and Wendy is the first time they have co-authored a moving image work.
Frances Scott is an artist working with moving image, her work considers the narratives and histories at the periphery of cinematic production and its apparatus. Her films are informed by a collaborative and research-led process, with recent presentations at: Curzon Soho, London (2023); BFI, London; Curtocircuíto - International Film Festival, Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Rencontres Internationales, Paris/Berlin (2021/2022); ‘Mattflix’ Matt’s Gallery, London; Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester; 38th Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival; 67. International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (LUX distribution programme); transmediale, HKW, Berlin; CTM Festival, Berlin; ‘Unsung Stories: Women at Columbia Computer Music Center, New York (2021); and 57th New York Film Festival (2019). She was awarded The Stuart Croft Foundation Moving Image Award (2017). Her films are distributed by LUX.
Chu-Li Shewring is a filmmaker and sound designer, and has worked for and collaborated on several projects with artist filmmakers including Anagram, Siobhan Davies, Jeremy Deller, Beatrice Gibson, Steve McQueen, Ben Rivers, and Aura Satz. Her films combine interview, archival and documentary material, with delicately crafted soundscapes to create realities that sit somewhere between fact and fiction. Her most recent film, Fawley, co-directed with Adam Gutch, won Best International Short Film at Sheffield DocFest (2022) and has screened at the ICA, London and Bertha DocHouse, Curzon Bloomsbury (2023). Working to Beat the Devil was nominated for Best Short Film at International Film Festival Rotterdam (2014). She was awarded the Jules Wright prize as part of the Jarman Award (2017), for her contribution as a sound designer in the area of artists’ moving image production.
Wendy was made possible thanks to the funding support of Arts Council England and The Elephant Trust.