Karaoke Mythographs: Essay by Sacha Kahir

Karaoke Mythographs: When the Stars Come Down From Heaven and onto the Dance Floor

Press Play and Record brings together a body of work created by EC Davies over the last three years including video, animation, sound works and textiles. The works develop aspects of her collaborative work with Choirs in Berlin and North East England, where choir members donated lines of song lyrics and their recorded voices at events in exchange for gifts from the artist.

Holy Relics as Soft Furnishings

One of Davies’ recurring motifs in her textiles works and video pieces is taking religious symbols and ceremonies and reimagining them as everyday objects and the kind of rituals you would associate with a night out on the town. Pairs of ’Love Dolls’ central to Davies’ work are angels in soft form i.e cuddly toys. The cuddly toy as all children know are a kind of guardian angel protecting them at times of distress. While communal singing, which is central to most ceremonies, is secularised through Davies’ regular collaborations with Lyndsey Cockwell’s Berlin Pop choir at Monster Ronson’s Karaoke Bar in Berlin every Tuesday.

Masks, dressing up, pop song lyrics, and gestures are all reedited and recombined in Davies’ work. In new video piece ’Spring’ Davies uses that word uttered by multiple participants at an event at rosalux gallery (Berlin) and cuts and repeats the word ’spring’ to form a dance track and video. 

In a new animated work ‘Follow My Leader’ Davies records participants movements creating a kind of feedback loop where montage brings disparate staged actions into the same scene, forging the illusion of togetherness. Though, this staged and highly stylised choreography is then continually brought back into public spaces where the audiences again reenact these routines, feeding an ongoing process.  Real emotions and artifice merge, central to this is the pop song. While medieval religious congregations meditated on the suffering form of Christ on the cross, pop fans meditate on the universal conditions of falling in and out of love. Solace is found on girls’ nights out were various sisterhoods invoke mantras like ‘I Will Survive’. 

During the exhibition Davies will continue to explore these themes with gallery visitors, choirs, and community groups.

Dancing In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction 

In Black American culture, which is at the root of most forms of popular expression that we have all become accustomed to, old dances like ‘the mashed potato’ or newer ones like ‘Jooking’ are often referred to as social dances and embody communal togetherness.  Manchester and areas like Salford have historically been key sites for the trans- atlantic transmission for these ‘social dances’ from the days of ‘Northern Soul’ to ‘Rave’. The tensions that the ‘social’ face under the glare of constant recording and replaying are evident in Davies’ work. As a video installation artist Davies’ work operates like a ‘silent disco’ where all the dancers are separated by music that they can only hear on their headphones. The participants in Davies’ videos are alone in a silent masked ball for one but in the edit become part of a larger group or dance routine.  This is then replayed and can be seen as both a critique of our ability to manipulate images and an affirmation of the power of images to bring people together and get a message across. 

Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice (and will be Televised)

Davies’ latest work utilises previous themes while also introducing the game of dice into the mix. Previous work incorporated fortune cookies that again secularise the mythical notion of the oracle but in a sugary form. In the new work masked players from the audience will throw dice to win a prize (one of the cuddly angels aka love dolls), while the game will be projected on a large overhead screen creating a kind of distancing effect on the players.  The same effect that at once brings us closer and further to our favourite bands who are often magnified to the size of titans on screens, to be captured on smart phones and shrunk down to fit into the format of social media. E.C Davies’ work plays with these tensions while still believing in the power garnered from snatches of pop lyrics and chance encounters.

This work is the culmination of installations and performances at music festival Sounds From the Other City, Salford, 30/04/17 and The Late Shows, Museums at Night at Vane 20/05/17.