Submitted Review

Megan Cope in ‘Monster Theatres’

  • Art Gallery of South Australia • Adelaide

  • Marielle Soni • Published 14 March 2020

In the morning after she had died the curlew sang, the curlew cried. Ferociously, walls of rain began to fall. She was important this old lady, powerful. Her dance was rain and so the rain danced. The curlew awoke me, as if poised beside my bed eager to perform her duty, sounding exactly like the cries of a woman in grief & it was right. That’s how I came to know the curlew. In the northern place of Australia. And that’s how I understand Megan Cope’s work. Those emotions are in this earth. In the land, rocks, water. The music of our grief, love, fears & hope, absorbed in earth.

‘An amphitheatre at night, a sacred meeting place, mine shaft, a folly fireplace?’

Quandamoooka artist Megan Cope creates an illusion of place in her sound installation Untitled (Death Song) 2020. An amphitheatre at night, a sacred meeting place, mine shaft, a folly fireplace? Bench seats surround a 3-dimensional drawing suspended in air. Cables, steel drums, monstrous phallic drills, large rocks & timber components are suspended or placed on the gravelled ground. The elements create a fantasy of flying clefs, notes & rests. Although the anthropogenic symbols of penetration & rupture tug at doubt, are we seeing an act of violence freeze-framed mid- explosion?

Cope successfully arranges many incongruous parts into an extraordinary functioning musical instrument – a beast to be tamed. Working with composer Isha Ram Das, the score voices the pain of our country. Sentient, conscious of attack, yet still she generously warns us feckless creatures, her children so blind to our own demise.

Four local musicians entered the instrument to pluck, rub, agitate parts to create disjointed sounds. Their experimentations offered further percussive crunching sound of gravel as they walked from tin, to bow, to stump. They will return over the course of 6 weeks to learn this instrument in situ and perform the full score on May 1. The first piercing note? The birdsong of the endangered yellow- eyed Bush Stone curlew.

Marielle Soni

Written by Marielle Soni •
‘Monster Theatres’ is on at the
Art Gallery of South Australia.
Various displays extended until 16 Aug 2020.
Photography by Marielle Soni.