Liza Lim – Ochred String (2008)
for oboe, viola, violoncello, double bass
Peter Veale, oboe
Axel Porath, viola
Dirk Wietheger, violoncello
Florentin Ginot, double Bass
Janet Sinica, video
Jan Böyng, editing
Julius Gass, sound direction
Two substances which are centrally important in traditional Australian Aboriginal cultural economies are ochre (coloured earth mixed with water used for painting) and string made from human hair which is then rubbed with ochre and animal fat.
These elemental substances coming from the earth and the body are widely used in the production of ritual items accompanying key ceremonies, such as for birth, initiation into different life-stages, marriage, funerals, healing, increase of fertility, of natural resources, love magic and sorcery.
In several Aboriginal cultures, an important aesthetic component lies in the quality of the ‘shimmer’ created when skin and hair is rubbed with oils and ochre. The glowing, light-flickering effect is associated with transformation of matter and connection to spiritual states.
In 2003, I was invited to Dhanaya in North-Eastern Arnhem land, Australia as a guest to attend funeral ceremonies for a very important Yolgnu woman, artist and cultural leader. My first exchange in the ritual camp was to give some of my (straight) hair which was used to make extremely fine paint-brushes that were used to paint the coffin-lid. In exchange, I received mica-flecked red ochre to ‘protect and make me invisible to any bad spirits’.
Ochred String does not borrow any elements of Indigenous music in terms of rhythms, melodies or language but is indebted to that experience in Dhanaya in its exploration of aspects of the aesthetic category of ‘shimmer’, presence versus hiddenness and choreographies of calligraphic mark making.
Peter Veale about Ochred String by Liza Lim