PODCAST #4 — MAIA CONRAN — MONKEY PUZZLE
AUGUST 1, 2020
Quote—Unquote’s podcast series provides a broadcast space for sound works, spoken word practice, readings, teachings and aural miscellanea by artists, anthropologists and researchers.
For the fourth episode, artist Maia Conran has conceived a sound work as a site-sensitive introspection that investigates the significance of putting public speech out there into the void, while observing the immediate effects of the lockdown. Juxtaposing four different character voices — the fungus, the Monkey Puzzle tree, the narrator and the artist herself — the sound work reflects on the meaning of speaking in public in a vacuum. It delves into eco-criticism through the voice of the fungus that generally feeds the trees and the Monkey Puzzle tree which becomes a transmitter as well as a communicator. By speaking out in the world to the same Monkey Puzzle tree and linking the loneliness of an individual daily walk to networked communication, the artist problematizes contemporary concerns about 5G technology and our impact on the environment, while considering the ongoing impacts of colonialism and globalisation.
The Monkey Puzzle tree is endangered in its native Andes, while since the late 18th Century, when they became a symbol of status, they are numerous in gardens in the UK. Monkey Puzzle trees are increasingly unpopular because they have sharp spiky branches and grow very large, so they are often removed and destroyed.
Gradually, as time progressed, the tree began to intrude upon my thoughts more frequently. I didn’t go to visit it, nonetheless it occupied increasing amounts of my excess bandwidth. I walked past the tree on my way out, and again on my way back home. The tree hovered beyond my visual spectrum, giving ground to the building behind and the native Oaks at its periphery. I barely saw it, yet we talked.
MAIA CONRAN is based in London. She works primarily in installation, moving image and performance. Internet politics, voice and ideas around ownership and privacy are central interests of her practice. She has been awarded solo exhibitions at Kingsgate Workshops, London; Grand Union, Birmingham; IMT Gallery, London; Phoenix Gallery, Exeter; G39, Cardiff and Skelf website, online. Her work has also been selected for international group exhibitions, screenings and residencies. Conran’s film Term was published on DVD by Filmarmalade and her work is the subject of a monograph entitled Here is the Yard published by Grand Union. Research networks and collaborations such as Format and the Disembodied Voice are vital to the development of her work. She is a Senior Lecturer at Camberwell College of Art, London.