Yvonne Buchheim’s art practice examines contemporary song culture in a visual art context. Her Song Archive project spans more than 7 years of international investigation into how cultural identity is reflected through a country’s song tradition. Integral to her process is the necessary interaction with local communities. Her interest in Welsh song culture has been built upon through residencies and exhibitions, in particular ‘A Song for Newtown’, 2006 – 2007, ‘Sound Water Beat’ and ‘Earworms’, Cardigan 2008 – 2009. She has also developed and presented events that challenge and subvert the idea of performer and audience, these include ‘Stagefright’ and ‘Ubersong’ hosted at Chapter Art Centre, Cardiff 2011.
Yvonne created the performance piece ‘Sound Water Beat’, which took place as part of the Holy Hiatus public art festival in May 2008, (a series of performances and a symposium addressing issues of ritual and liminality in performance art). The piece was staged at the local swimming pool. The audience gathered around the poolside to watch as two professional singers performed a partly improvised song based on the motion and movements of two swimmers. The ordinarily bright space was darkened, with spotlights and torches illuminating the pool and swimmers.
Following on from ‘Sound Water Beat’ was Yvonne’s intervention ‘Earworms’. For this she played snippets of songs from her Song Archive through underwater speakers in Cardigan Swimming Pool during public sessions. When submerging their heads under water, local people who came to swim could hear the song fragments. In this way Yvonne hoped to imaginatively trigger the swimmer’s inner melodies. The title is a borrowed word from the German Ohrwurm and describes a part of a song that repeats within one’s mind.
Through the various presentations and interventions that Yvonne has made during her ongoing investigations into the relationship between singing, identity, performance and audience, an interactive element of engaging participants has emerged. Yvonne has explored this further in her ‘Ubersong’ and ‘Stagefright’ events. At both these events the boundary between performer and audience is eroded and audience members find themselves voluntarily going onto the stage and singing a song of their choice.
Yvonne also worked with a designer to create an artist book setting the Song Archive Project in a critical context by bringing together writing by thinkers and professionals in a range of fields including medicine, social science and music. The collected elements were united through the voice and imagery of the artist. For further information on Yvonne’s project and to find out how to purchase the book visit: http://www.song-archive.org/buchheim.htm