Wordlab with Zorras: A damn fine way to spend a Sunday

Blogpost from Rachel about the very first Inky Fingers Wordlab!

The clocks had gone forward. The sun had come out. And in the echoing reaches of Bristo Hall, there was wisdom to be received. Frankly, that’s a damn fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon in my book.

The first Inky Fingers Wordlab was delivered courtesy of the mighty Zorras. For those who hadn’t been to the Open Mic to get swept up in their astounding performance, Zorras are Sandra Alland, Y. Josephine and Ariadna Battich – poetry-music-video-weirdness fusion with megaphones.  That gives an idea. A little like listening to someone describe the Mona Lisa’s left dimple though. You should go see them. Somehow. Sometime. Everytime.

The workshop focus was on running cross artform collaborations beyond a random multimedia mashup. For me, it reaffirmed how much of the brilliance of Zorras comes from the integration of the separate elements of their work. The parts alone would be incredible enough, given the talent of Sandra’s words and performance, Y’s way with making a noise and a rhythm you have to listen to, and the gorgeous lyricism of Ariadna’s films . As a whole, something really special happens.

There were a few horror stories of promoters and organisers not understanding how Zorras operate as a trio, seeing one aspect as subordinate to the other and setting up inappropriate staging, lighting or sound as a result. Clear communication with event organisers is important, with soundchecks and rehearsals as a key way to get this across. The music is not a background track; the films are not music videos.  Each has something to say in its own right, and each performer functions as an artist, adding to, illuminating, reinterpreting, reinforcing the work as a whole.

Achieving a balance between live and recorded work comes down to rhythm in the performance. Synchronising the rhythms in the poetry, the beats of the music and the editing of the films come down to sensitivity to the others during the performance. And rehearsal. Lots of that.

Finally, a huge relief was realising fancy huge equipment isn’t necessary to making fantastic multimedia collaborations. Y has a percussion set incorporating two frying pans. Creativity, willingness to learn, generosity and knowledge of each other are far more important. As Ariadna says ‘You just need to make it.’


Top Tips

  • Learn your craft. Be good at flying solo before you come together.  The cadences of Sandra’s voice are complemented by Y’s music, but she isn’t singing. Ariadna’s films aren’t simply mirroring what is being said in the songs. They each have something to say
  • Learn each other’s strengths. What can you do? What are you bringing to the party?
  • Work as a whole. Respond to one another.  Don’t be afraid to change in relation to what someone else is doing.
  • Rehearsal. Rehearse. Rehearse.
  • Avoid splitting the focus of the audience. Be conscious of when they are listening to words, when listening to music, when watching images, performances or reading text on a screen. Avoid overstimulation.
  • Bring backups for any sort of technology you’re using: laptops, DVDs, CDs, USB sticks, spare hard drives. There is always the possibility that something at the venue isn’t quite as described, or it’s going to break down!