"The listening body is legibly more aware, more open, and more receptive than the non-listening body.”
-Hope Mohr

“The moment the look dominates, the body loses its materiality.”
-Luce Irigaray

Kyrin Chen · The Night of Dawn
The Night of Dawn is a collaborative sound - movement improvisation project between artist Kyrin Chen and other members of Next Choreography 2020 program.

Exploring free sound and movement improvisation from an interdisciplinary perspective, Chen creates sonic-choreographic scores and facilitates workshops for collaborative performances. Chen is also interested in the study of ludonarrative and play-forms in art such as game as listening events.
From September 2019 to February 2020, I have been particularly interested in finding the intersection between printmaking and sound, through exploring the conceptual / metaphorical capacity of etching and its process focusing on material engagement.

“Etching is an image making process that is beyond merely image making. It is more about touching - physical contacts between materials - than seeing. Most of the steps in etching have nothing to do with the actual design/drawing: heating the plate and apply ground by roller, “smoking” the plate, submerging the plate in the acid to create “bites”, waving away the bubbles on the surface, removing the ground with white spirits, pressing in the ink with a squeegee, wiping the excessive ink and pressing the plate on a piece of damp paper. It is a constant play between seeing and not seeing, the controlled and the unpredictable. Its materiality determines the fact that every print, every plate will be different depending on the temperature, the pressure, the chemical reaction between the acid and the metal. It is also a play of absence and presence, negative and positive, always on the edge of emerging and disappearing.” (Chen, 2019, excerpt from personal research blog)

Meanwhile I was also interested in game studies as well as the play elements in art and poetry (especially the sonic element in traditional children’s play). Through researching the study of play, I intend to develop a practice that values playfulness and improvisation.

After the lockdown, I created the guidelines of the project based on the hope of postponing the workshop till the pandemic is over. However, the quarantine continued and I started to think about our expectations that workshops/performances have to be geographically close and how to work against that habit. Is online “good enough”? What could happen if I use everything I want in a workshop situation, but do it at a distance?

The group members were scattered in different parts of the world. The process itself was experimental and improvisational. Through digital meetings, we aim to interact genuinely with the digital barrier in some way and deal with the indirectness of these interactions. Every interaction we had during the workshops was indirect, the recording of the sound was not the original sound (Zoom decided which sounds are valuable to capture), we could not see or “fully” hear each other, the collective etching was made based on the attempt of re-tracing of group members’ drawings, which themselves are just photo references. In this, we ask ourselves, can it mean that the interaction loses its quality, geniality, and tenderness without spoken language or any sense of the body?

Thinking about etching plates as our bodies that cannot physically touch each other in reality. Only through collective etching, we were able to “move” on the same plane: our traces meet each other when the etching plates were pressed into the same paper.
Stereo sound (duration: 8’55’’), etching on paper
Kyrin Chen, Ashlinn de Schonen, Alice Minervini, Saffron Mustafa, Scott Castner
The project name - The Night of Dawn - was taken from the lyrics of the traditional Japanese song children sing when they play Kagome Kagome.

かごめかごめ 籠の中の鳥は
いついつ出やる 夜明けの晩に

Kagome kagome / The bird in the basket/cage,
When, oh when will it come out
In the night of dawn
The crane and turtle slipped
Who is behind you now?

These words above are all cryptic in meaning. We do not know when, where or who wrote the words. “The night of dawn” can be interpreted in many meanings:
1) invisibility and disappearing traces
2) a purposeful contradiction of word-play suggesting a period of time that does not exist.
Kyrin Chen
Kyrin Chen lives and works in London and Shanghai.

Informed by their interdisciplinary theoretical framework, Chen’s practice seeks to explore the spatial ‘dialogue’ between body and site through attentive auditory and haptic perception in various media, including interactive games, printmaking, fiction, physical workshops/performances, multi-media installation and beyond. Chen’s works interrogate the tension between supposed dichotomies, exploring the spaces between belonging and dislocation, intimacy and alienation.

In the course of searching for alternative modes of communication, Chen isolates and recontextualizes familiar sounds, creating new meanings through reconstruction and recomposition, experimenting with the sonic materiality of everyday objects. Responding to architectural spaces, Chen uses small objects to create quiet, delicately textured sounds. A sense of fragility is further expressed through their drawings and etchings.

Chen is also interested in collective practice in which the participants co-create the works. Their upcoming workshop-based performance Tinnitus (2021) will address disability, specifically hearing loss through exploring diverse forms of listening.


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