Five Short Blasts – Listening the harbour

Von Aileen Heggen, Insa Stepniewski und Helena Unger

Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey have a passion for vessels, water and sound. In addition to that they are wonderful artists, so the conclusion that they would participate at “Theater der Welt” seemed quite natural. With “Five Short Blasts” they developed a performance, which shows the connection of the harbour with the people. When the Australians did some research for it in Hamburg, we took this opportunity to get to know them. Helena asked them some questions about their life and their work.

Helena:
Please tell us a little bit about you: Where are you from, what is your professional career, what are you doing ?

Madeleine:
My name is Madeleine and I’ve worked with Tim for 20 years now. We create experiences for people. I started a life as a serious classical piano player and so my training is in music and composition and sound.

Our practice is a joined practice which is sort of defining things as well. We are also partners in life, that gives us a particular way of taking risks actually. A way we can think about what we are doing.

Helena:
And what are you doing?

Madeleine:
We are making situations where people can listen. Always making situations where people can listen. That takes to different forms. For example it could be a sound installation, public artwork that is outside, something inside, a theatre, something that is online. And all the different forms that come back to the principle situation of listening. And that situation of listening is also considered with where we are in space. Which means it is not with a set of headphones. It is a situation in a room, in a space, in an environment and how sound is working in there.

maddie-and-tim-at-weekly-ticketTim and Madeleine

Helena:
And how did you get to know each other? How did you find each other as a team?

Tim:
Madeleine auditioned me as a musician in a small theatre company where we were working in, back in 1993.

Helena:
So you were auditioning him. How did it come that you say we will work together?

Tim:
I guess as we worked together in this little company, we realized a certain affinity and we sort of knew we fell in love with each other and the process. We could develop joy and gradually the time built up opportunities. And we discovered opportunities.

Helena:
Did you have a vision „I have this competence, I can do that, I can make this project reality.“ Did you have a vision of something you never did before?

Madeleine:
I guess no. Not as concrete as that. I think what has happened for us is that we’ve had the ability to work alongside each other in a sort of intuitive way. He is extremely good at some things I’m not at. And I am really good at something that he is not good at. But we don’t even need to talk about that. It does sound like luck doesn’t it?

I mean in some ways I feel very grateful that we’ve been able to do this. We didn’t have a plan. Continued to not having a plan, about what the work it is that we want to make, or how we want to do that, it continues to be a series of invitations and trust. The good thing of having done that for a long time is that we know we can trust each other, but we can trust the process that we have developed together. And the person who is inviting us to work can trust us in that too.

Helena:
Five Short Blasts: What is it about, what story are you telling?

Tim:
Five Short Blasts is a term for marines. You can make five short blasts with a horne, or with a light. That basically means that I am sure of your intentions and fear that we may collide. Whenever you see something coming like this, you don’t know what to do. You give it a five short blasts. So you can make it go away. It is the framing metaphor for this work. About listening to a place, listening to the future, past, present aspects of a place on the water.

Helena:
Is it related to the harbour here in Hamburg?

Tim:
Definitely. Because it is Hamburg. And it is the HafenCity. Yes of course. But I think there is something what you might not obviously see. The harbour is there and I guess we are trying to listen to it and not to see it. It is not just about the history. It is about the many layers of varities that exist.

five-short-blasts-prague-photographer-kate-blissFive Short Blasts in Prague [Photo by Kate Bliss]

Helena:
What is the content related connection to Hamburg and „Theater der Welt“ ?

Madeleine:
The theme of „Theater der Welt“ is harbour. There is a very specific connection. In terms of the content and the process we are going through together now, we are having many conversations with all sorts of people whose life, work, history and future is connected to the water. So that’s where the material comes from. Material comes from here, from this place. It suits to material from Australia. In a way this place and Australia are in conversation, is of course who we are. We are an outsider to the beautiful city of Hamburg and so we bring it out in another perspective.

Helena:
Can you tell us a little bit about how the peace will take place, the procedure of how it will be. What is the plan, do you already have an idea?

Tim:
We are here for research and development. We are here to look at a few possibilities. It will involve boats and will involve a journey early in the morning, when listening is the most keenest. We want to make that journey in the boat as a metaphor for the linking of the city to the harbour. The harbour is here, but how is this linking articulated? Articulated in a particular way.

Helena:
What about the location at the harbour for the performance?

Madeleine:
We are right now here for searching for a location. A journey on the water. Because anything on the water of course is a very practical consideration. You have to think about where you get on, you have to think of where you get off, the strength of the water, the tide, the weather. On the Alster there are only rowing vessels, at the harbour they have to have an engine. So already all those beautiful pragmatics of the practical process of being on water is the start of how we design the experience.

Helena:
The last question: Where does your passion for all this come from?

Tim:
That’s an interesting question. We actually did the work for one boat a while ago which was in a small coastal fishing town in southern New South Wales. There we kind of discovered the possibilities for listening to the vessels. So then we had a commission from the city of Melbourne that wanted to draw attention to the harbour in Melbourne which was mostly ignored by most of the population. And that’s how we developed Five Short Blasts with quite a generous commission from the city. That was quite a long time ago. Maybe six or seven years.

Helena:
Thank you for the interview. We are really looking forward to your performance at „Theater der Welt”.

Both:
Thank you very much!

 

 

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