Virtual Residency Chronicles: Ally Poole
The beginning of March has marked the start of wendy.network’s first online residency. The virtual residency will culminate in the presentation of six creative projects, each different and exciting in their own way!
In this installment of the Virtual Residency Chronicles we take a moment to appreciate our six resident artists. We discuss their inspirations, their life, their practice and of course their project idea for the wendy.network residency.
Ally Poole is a multidisciplinary mixed media artist working and residing between the US and the UK. Most of her work revolves around artistic explorations of sound, race, politics and contemporary pop culture. She approaches her themes from various perspectives, be it installation, theatre performances, or mixed media.
Her project for the Virtual Residency is the creation of an audio-guided journey through aquatic landscapes named 45 Beats: A Water Walk. By incorporating theatrical styles of narrative Ally, will guide the audiences through a digital installation that bends the borders between the real and fictional and questions the structure of time.
Your artistic work is focused on the creation of sound journeys. Why do you choose this medium to express space?
My background is as a classical actor and singer; so I was mainly used to performing narratives that relied heavily on the visual, but that also had music as a key component. When I shifted and expanded my practice from just being only a performer, working with music became the first logical step in my exploration. So my earliest sound pieces were text that I either wrote myself or were many bits of found text that I smashed together, then layered over known music. As I began developing my practice, I wanted to push beyond my comfort zone and explore how I can tell a narrative using just sound that I designed, and not known music. What I discovered through that is that text is just as important for me and my work as sound is. I am really interested in how you can sonically take an audience on a journey and it feel almost cinematic. I find the line between what we can imagine and what is reality to be an exciting way to create space as well as tension.
In your project proposal you mentioned that these journeys push the improbability of time. I wonder what do you mean by this?
I started creating sound works while in my Masters program, and I would continually get feedback from my classmates that they could never tell how long my pieces were; which really excited me. What started as an unintentional component, has now become a purposeful element of my work. What I am wanting for both this project and the sound journeys that I create, is for the audience to be taken elsewhere; and to completely leave behind their outside world. My hope is for a total immersion in which time flies by and also goes slowly, I want the audience to question how long they were “gone” for.
What did you change in your perspectives in the last year and how does that translate into your art?
I really love being in the room with the audience as they experience my work. And typically there are performative elements in my sound work, so being active and in a space with the audience is another aspect of my practice. I am so used to the embracing of liveness, and not being able to do so at this time has been a difficulty that I’ve had to overcome; and also embrace. The performative aspect of my sound work has been shifted into how I use and perform text in my pieces, which is something that I’m further exploring in this project.
How are you planning to adapt your practice into the online format?
I am adapting my practice for an online format by really looking at how I can use sound to transform an audiences’ home into another world. Typically I’ve performed my pieces in a theatrical setting, where I had control of what came in or out; but that won’t be the case for a home audience. I want to use sound and also the narrative that I’m writing to achieve this for me; so that wherever the work is listened to, the audience will feel and hear my intention for the transformation of their own space.
You also mentioned your plans of joining your sound journeys with the additional digital installation. Why do you need the element of theatricality? Why not just a sound journey?
The plan to add a digital installation element really came out of the fact that I’ve never done something like that before and I wanted to push myself artistically throughout this residency. I have created a few pieces that are solely sonic journeys and while I find that work to be really fruitful, I am curious to see what it does to the journey by adding a visual element; especially when my idea for this kind of work was born out of the fact that I did not want to work visually. I can’t wait to test this idea out and am hopeful that this will add another exciting layer to my practice!
You intend to introduce the element of water in your work. What does this mean to you? Why and how?
Water has always marked transitional periods of my life. I was specifically thinking about how I had to leave London last year when the pandemic hit and my journey across the Atlantic, back to my home in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia Beach is actually situated on the Atlantic and is surrounded by water on literally all sides. So water has been a constant present in my environment. Being near water and in nature brings me peace, and it has also become a creative retreat. In literature, water is typically used to signal cleansing or renewal, and those are themes that I am wanting to explore through this journey.
Your work is based on viewers participation. Do you feel like interactive art has something more to give than passive art?
No, I don’t think that interactive art has something more to give than passive art, or vice versa. I think it comes down to what you, as the viewer, take away from whatever art it is that you are viewing. There is some interactive art that I’ve seen that I couldn’t relate to at all and there are pieces of passive art that have stayed with me for years. And that’s what I find so enjoyable about both art forms, you find your meaning through it and take from it what you will.
Why did you choose the wendy.network residency?
When I came across the wendy.network site I was excited by the headline of “collaborate, make, inspire, exchange.” Beyond my own practice, I work mainly in collaborations so being able to collaborate is a vital part of my practice. This is why I choose this residency, I was very interested in the potential to collaborate with artists I didn’t know and who were from around the globe. I find being able to send bits of sound or text and getting an outside eye to be so important. It’s so easy when you’re working alone to get tunnel vision and being able to have people who know your work and who you can turn to and say “Hey, can you just listen to this and tell me what you think?” is so important to my practice. I am really excited by the potential and the spirit of collaboration.
What are your expectations for the virtual residency?
Over this past year I haven’t really been able to focus on my practice in this way. Having a dedicated and rigorous month to work towards a work-in-progress is a really excellent push to have, especially at this point in my career. So, I’m expecting to use this month to really focus on this project, test my ideas out and further examine my practice. As I mentioned before, the digital aspect of this is totally new to me so I’m so looking forward to see what I can do with that. I just can’t wait to see what I end up with at the end of the month!
What do you expect as a result of the collaboration with 5 other artists?
It’s been really fascinating seeing how different all six of our practices are, but also finding the similarities within them. Having this network of 5 other artists from all over the world is such an exciting opportunity. I’m expecting a connection and a potential collaboration that doesn’t end once the residency does. And while we are working together, I expect that we’ll be able to pick up skills and techniques that we are perhaps missing ourselves; and find them within each other. This is such a unique group of collaborators that we otherwise would’ve never met. I find that the potential and possibilities for what we can all do together in this month, and beyond, to be really very exciting.
For more details about Ally’s work, the virtual residency, our guest faculty and the other five artists in residence, stay tuned on the wendy.network!
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