The Tension That Holds
Video 7 minutes, 32 seconds
This work draws parallels between machinery and anatomy: threads of yarn and audio cassette tape to ligaments; audio data storage to implicit memory.
I am performing gestures historically used by mule spinning operators with the wool replaced with cassette tape.
Sounds of machinery, spoken word and sine waves are affected as I apply tension to the tape, akin to the use of tension in the spinning process to strengthen yarn. Weaving memory, machinery and people into a warpable soundscape.
I live with hypermobility and was inspired by a doctor’s explanation of how my body needs to work harder: “there is a tension that should hold you”.
Description of the film:
The film opens with a close up of the head and shoulders of the artist, Maryanne Royle. She has shoulder length shaggy brown hair and wears a black dress. The soundtrack is the recorded noise of machinery.
She is performing in a space between the two long carriages of a machine called a spinning mule in Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills. The space is filled with light from windows that run along both sides of the room, but the surroundings are dark, with a lot of wood and machinery.
Maryanne’s equipment includes a cassette deck with a digital display of numbers and sound bars, a mixing desk with rows of knobs and other technology. Unspooled cassette tape continues to play, despite extending out from the door of the deck. Several lengths of tape stretch across the ten feet or so of floor space to be looped around the mule’s metal spindles. These spikes form a long row along the width of the mule.
Ordinarily these would hold spun yarn, but here cassette tape takes its place. Close ups show the tape moving across the metal bars, rods and levers of the mule.
Maryanne moves carefully and purposefully around her equipment and the mule. She tends the lengths of cassette tape and gently lifts them, altering the tension. She sometimes gently rubs the tape between her thumb and fingers. Her actions distort the sound that the cassette is playing.
As scraps of voices join the soundtrack, Maryanne stands for a moment and watches the machinery, turning knobs on the deck to further change the sound.
Again she returns to lifting and manipulating the tapes. She sometimes runs a hand up her own arm in a smooth motion from the wrist to above the elbow.
Her movements become less frequent as the sound gradually winds down, and she switches the equipment off.
BSL translation of Maryanne Royle's statement.
Translated by Khalid Ashraf.
Maryanne performs a version of The Tension That Holds at an event at Leeds Industrial Museum on 28.10.23.
9 minutes, 2 seconds.