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SOUND SPACES: Chloe Alison Escott with Makiko Yamamoto vs. Magic Steven


Saturday 18 November, 3-5pm
Monash University Museum of Art 
Ground Floor, Building F,
Monash University Caulfield Campus
FREE /// No bookings required

Strange, fruitful and rarely visited spaces somewhere near the intersection of experimental sound and comedy


A Saturday afternoon program at MUMA featuring three artists who operate in strange, fruitful and rarely visited spaces somewhere near the intersection of experimental sound and comedy—queering and querying the conventions of each.

Tasmanian Chloe Alison Escott has long pursued parallel practises as both a stand-up comedian and a musician (in electro-acoustic punk duo Native Cats and solo as Zevende Klasse) but recently she’s begun to explore the overlap between these practices in the form of highly reflexive, experimental and honest sets that mix stories, jokes and electronic noise to great effect.

Melbourne-based Japanese artist Makiko Yamamoto has a very rare and special sense of humour which plays out in long-form monologues, dialogues and self-interviews that apply the artists’ self-consciously broken treatment of English language—the struggle to speak and be understood—to often perverse and confusing subject matter. Recently these works by Yamamoto have been presented as ‘songs’ forming parts of sets by local conceptual meta-band ‘The Band Presents’.

Melbourne’s Magic Steven is a proper stand-up comedian with jokes, complex callbacks, and impeccable timing. But thinking his work ‘in the space of sound’ helps bring to the foreground some of its most distinctive features - the way his repetition of words brings the sound of language to attention, his monotone pitch and patterned delivery resembling minimalist composition, his use of negative space and silences finding humour in between the jokes.

This program is in response to the exhibition, The humours, which examines how artists use comedic personalities, strategies and tropes to address questions of race, labour, gender and history.

Presented by Liquid Architecture and the Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA as part of Sound Spaces.

The Voices

Of her entry into the world of comedy from another world, experimental music, Chloe Alison Escott writes “I was awakened to the potential of experimental sound in comedy through Jon Wurster’s in-character calls to Tom Scharpling on the Best Show on WFMU, in particular his trademark of punctuating their exquisite sprawling conversations by delivering extremely loud noise of some sort – live drums, a bubbling bong, the crack of a “laser whip”, the Rocky theme – directly into his phone mouthpiece. I’ve had separate careers running as a musician and a standup comedian for a long time, but close study of the transcendent joy of abrasive noise deployed with care and precision as a comedic device has led me to what I feel is a strong overlap.”

Makiko Yamamoto often uses self-interview as a strategy to dissolve the boundaries between speaker and listener, subject and self. Her repeated attempts to pronounce English words and escalating embarrassment seem to produce an increasing incapacity emblematic of the psychic dislocation built into transnational lifeworlds. But her stutter is as much signal as it is failure, as these repetitive mispronouncements are also articulations of the dialogical self. For from the spaces between her utterances surfaces an expressive space, in which the social and cultural codes organising her experience as a Japanese woman speaking in an English-speaking society may be ventilated. What we witness at the point of language failure is not the artist’s actual shyness or humiliation, but rather her performance of these, as gendered gestures towards the ideal.

Magic Steven is a Melbourne-based artist, whose work has been alternately described as autobiographical storytelling, deadpan comedy, guided meditation, group therapy and long-form beat poetry. He was described by The Age as having ‘less emotional range than Siri’.


Sound Spaces is a performance series of experimental and improvised music organised by Francis E Parker for Monash University Museum of Art. The series runs in parallel with MUMA’s exhibition program with occasional direct dialogues with particular exhibition projects.

Images: Chloe Alison Escott (left), Makiko Yamamoto (middle), Magic Steven (right)

in Public programs