CUD refers to the chewing-over-again of partly digested food eaten by ruminants (animals like cattle, sheep & goats). To ruminate is to think, or dwell on a thought repeatedly – as a creature throws up its meal only to chew it over again.
CUD is a sonic collage intent on reanimating (& ruminating on) a range of ferally scavenged archival media: advertisements for Aotearoa’s meat, milk & farming products; radio cooking shows; queer local cinema; the violent semantics of authoring sound effects; & the hauntological grief of a dance only heard, not seen. The work seeks to explore relations between reproductive/nonreproductive & human/animal bodies, their associated technologies & byproducts through repurposing archival media.
CUD seizes on what Mel Y. Chen refers to as ‘leakages’ between classifications of what is human & what is not, with an emphasis on the idea of “naturalness” & its other, the “unnatural” – a term frequently deployed in reference to queer sex & reproduction. CUD asks you to lean into the leakages, to reiterate & invert them – irrupting the smooth semiotic surface of naturalness’ normative containers.
The word ruminant is derived from the Latin rumen, meaning ‘throat’ – the site of both the voice, & the breath. The recorded singing voice featured at the end of CUD is that of the only Castrato singer ever recorded, Alessandro Moreschi, singing Tosti’s Ideale in 1902. The dancer you can hear panting & stomping is Douglas Wright, dancing Elegy, a piece made in 1993 for his friends who died of AIDS. Spliced together – with reverence – across almost a century, they offer a surrogate lament regurgitated from a gender-bent throat.
CUD opens with an invitation to see, perhaps in line with Barthes’ dictum that to see well, you must close your eyes. I wonder then, if to hear well, one must close one’s ears, or perhaps lean into sounds of the errant, the monstrous, the distorted: the unideal.
Ideale (Tosti, 1882; translated from the Italian)
I followed you like a rainbow of peace
along the paths of heaven;
I followed you like a friendly torch
in the veil of darkness,
and I sensed you in the light, in the air,
in the perfume of flowers,
and the solitary room was full
of you and of your radiance.
Absorbed by you, I dreamed a long time
of the sound of your voice,
and earth's every anxiety, every torment
I forgot in that dream.
Come back, dear ideal, for an instant
to smile at me again,
and in your face will shine for me
a new dawn.
Frances Libeau (they/them) is a queer Pākeha interdisciplinary artist. Their sonic compositions, sound designs, & writing feature across live, screen & digital platforms of contemporary music, fine art (film, sculpture & performance), film (feature & short), theatre & dance. Libeau’s work often explores the textural & semantic possibilities of storytelling through sonic collage of found materials & possibilities for queering sonic & compositional & archival practices.
Frances' sonic works & collaborations in moving image, installation & performance works include Sriwhana Spong (a hook but no fish; 2017, castle-crystal, 2019/2021), George Watson (They are Cruel, in Kōtiro, Emepaea; 2022), Selina Ershadi (The hands also look, 2020) & Owen Connors (DUIRVIAS, 2020). These works have been exhibited at Pump House Gallery (London), Edinburgh Arts Festival, Gesso Artspace (Vienna), Atonal (Berlin), Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Art Gallery, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Dunedin Art Gallery, Blue Oyster Project Space, Enjoy, RM Gallery & more.
In 2018 Libeau won sound designer of the year at the Auckland Theatre Awards for Nisha Madhan/Julia Croft/Virginia Frankovich's devised work Medusa (Zanetti Productions). In 2022 they composed the score for the critically acclaimed feature film Fiona Clark: Unafraid (Curious/Cucchiara Prod.).
Frances is an experienced live art performer, having staged works at galleries & venues throughout Australasia both as Frances Libeau & with their project i.e. crazy. In 2019 Frances was the artist in residence at Audio Foundation, a venue & community for experimental sonics in Tāmaki Makaurau. They, with Selina Ershadi, are a 2023 recipient of a Karekare House Artist’s Residency.
Libeau’s writing has placed/won awards with Overland (AU), Nightboat Books (US), and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook.
They are currently an interdisciplinary arts PhD candidate at the University of Waikato where they are carrying out creative practice research exploring queer remediations of reproductive animacies in Aotearoa’s audiovisual agricultural archives.