Arts House chat: Kate McIntosh

Musician Kate McIntosh was born in New Zealand and lives in Brussels. Her new work, All Ears, runs at Arts House in North Melbourne from 3 to 6 September. Her live music is described as an “improvised laboratory for unusual recordings and acoustic experiments” where everyday objects like glasses, paper and chairs become part of the soundscape.

Kate McIntosh. Photo by Robin Junicke
Kate McIntosh. Photo by Robin Junicke

The idea for this work began because she doesn’t like audience participation in shows, and wanted to create a piece where participation was welcome but never expected.

“I don’t enjoy audience participation in the theatre”, says McIntosh. “I don’t like interactive works and I’m often uncomfortable and suspicious when audience participation is called for”.

This dislike lead to the idea of making a kind of interactive performance that she “could be comfortable with – or more importantly that I could also find interesting if I was an audience member”.

She explains that the next step was exploring the “strange” social set up of traditional theatre where people gather in a room and most are pushed into the dark while a few “get up in bright lights and attract all of the attention”.

With her experience of orchestras and choirs, she thought about how a choir is set up like an audience in front of a conductor and wondered if this concept of a “big group of people making music together” could be used to make an interactive social situation with an audience. Asking the audience to collaborate on making sound is the interaction in All Ears.

Never forgetting the experience of the audience, McIntosh said how she asks herself questions when she’s in an audience. “I find myself wondering who else is there. Who are the people around me? Who are these people I’m sharing time and space with? Who is this audience? Who are we this group in the audience? How do I feel about being here with these people? I wanted the performance to stimulate this question for audience members.”

She remains cautious about audience participation and wants to make it “really clear” that there’s room for her audience to choose when or if they interact. “I don’t take for granted that people have a good will for that or that they should have a good will.”

All Ears
3–6 September


Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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