Voluminous Arts

Written from the Sunroom

by Keeli Ayn
March 27th 2021

In “Written from the Sunroom,” interdisciplinary artist Keeli Ayn (@femmekeanu) muses on their reflections and field notes on their first listen to Rat Porridge’s debut album Live From The Plant , available Friday, March 26th via Voluminous Arts.

            On the morning I started writing this piece I spent half an hour bent over the washing machine, gazing at the dirty water and pondering divination.
            -> digression on meanings of divination (finding, fortune telling, the word divinity)

            While I don’t actively (have a necessarily consistent) practice, I embrace magic and often find myself witness to its powers. Being a witness means observing, accepting, and confirming. You (I) don’t necessarily have to understand magic to experience it - in my opinion intuition can be as great a teacher as any external influence. What do you think something means? What conclusions can you, or do you want to, draw? What is it that leads us to this website to read someone’s words? Something lucky or serendipitous or magical even- I’m not sure what to call it. But there are things that line up. Seem like more than coincidences.

            For instance: The spiral of my washer’s cycle. The clothing tumbling in a whirlwater of dirt, but also detergent. The past’s dirt mingling with the idea of future cleanliness; there is something like a noise set in a washing machine’s job, the way it agitates and soothes and quite literally makes sound.

            I’ll contextualize before I go further though, because I know this all seems random. What you’re reading is a documentation of my experience with Live from the Plant by Rat Porridge. When conversations regarding this work and the potential for a write-up began I jumped at the chance to offer my perspective. I was vaguely aware of Rat’s existence and involvement with Krissy Taking Pictures (a video art org out of Philadelphia) but I didn’t have any firsthand knowledge of her solo work. Being the obsessive that I am, I immediately devised a strategy;

  1. Listen to the work as a whole, as one would a physical cassette. No google searches, no reading the information Rayna emailed me along with the mp3s, just a time to listen and note my first impressions.
  2. Then, during a second playthrough, read the notes sent to me. These included Rayna’s initial album description, a transcript of a discussion between Rat Porridge and Cam Franklin (who works at Voluminous Arts), and an artist bio.
  3. Synthesize this information and muse on how noise conveys meaning and messages. I was interested in whether or not similar vocabulary, themes, or structures would be found between my impressions of the work and how Rat conceptualizes her own practice. 1
  4. Compile my notes and compose an essay. Essay from the French “essayer”, which is the verb “to try”. I will try to document my experience with Live from the Plant from a thoughtful and curious perspective. I am not aiming to make judgements or influence others opinions necessarily, I am just showing a record of my thoughts and how I came to my conclusions. I value comments and discussion. I hope that in writing this, conversations are opened and more words are had.

            So, having a plan, I set upon it. I woke up, I opened my windows. I decided to be an absolute terror and play this noise tape at 11 am. I opened my journal and pulled out my purple gel pen and sat and smoked and started on my work.

1 As an artist, I often question how easy it is to comprehend my works. Or maybe what I mean is, how skilled am I at conveying meaning? Is there commonality of expression that makes me understood? Noise often obscures vocals, which, ironically, multiplies the potential meanings of that speech, by literally layering and encoding language (or the lack-thereof) with different sounds and patterns. Hmm. TLDR:

Notes on Side A

-godzilla, beams, transmission
                incoming--- relentless
-increasing oscillation
                sex thoughts and death thoughts
-tp the return got a light lol
-sounds from a horror game
        -effects promo
                -absurd - “cod(e)ify down to the bone”?
        -poly lo-fi game..no thing
-collage- anachronisms
        juxtaposition of organized rhythm, various fidelities
                            seesaw of chaos, lilts +tilts
-”broken bones- undead don’t care- she’s gonna have her way”
-sounds/themes of power
        -what do repeated things mean?
                -vocals and music disconnected
                            -what does THAT mean
                -ending w/crazy organ(ic) sound
-what are the recordings ? anthropological film?
-”toxic stuff leaking into...plant..hard to listen”
-”weren’t supposed to_____?”
        -ideas of expectations
                -expectations for music ?
-buzzing, shaking, excitement

Notes on Side B

-speaking in tongues
-nature of knowing and familiarity
        -who is “she” - me or the sound
-a lower intensity halfway thru side B is a nice breather
        -almost like second hand field recording (filtered)
                                    -> layers of process
                                    -> tape
-sounds like being in a room with someone running
        -being in a car, switching radio stations

                            -it winds down but what’s next?

            This is where my notes end and I begin reading the collected materials sent to me by Rayna. Of course, there are immediate synchronicities; in the interview with Rat many of her words are ones already written in my notes, she talks about power, field-recordings, using sounds. Before I’d even read her words, I intuited a number of the elements and themes of the work by immersing myself in it. A quote that struck me was,

            “I talk about a lot of not being able to communicate things with words in the way that I want to. So there is a push and pull between getting drowned out by the sound, and in a way that feels better, but then there is something that pulls me to the words, too, because people are able to connect with it more so than, like... the noises can also be a shield from vulnerability.”

            She noted the “push and pull” inherent to the nature of her practice. I noted ”oscillation” in the sound. When I first listened to the album I could feel that tension, the back and forth, the repetition; the creation of a spiral, ideas and sounds creating echoes and feedback. Like the laundry in my washing machine, certain items keep tumbling to the top while some things remain a constant swirl underneath, adding a fullness to the sound. This description of her process also stuck out, seeing as one of the words in my notes was just “collage”;

            “it’s just a matter of fine-tuning, and like I said, there’s that kind of undercurrent, that I added more recently. I started playing with, basically like a tape-recorder, and layering that with the sounds I was producing on the MacBook. So most of what I’m doing right now is basically bringing those recordings into the other recordings. [...] it’d be like playing the same note over and over again and chanting. So the shruti box, there were recordings on the tape recorder, it was mixing the field recordings and the shruti box. And then there’s also television noise and internet noise.”

            While at times these elements crash together momentously, there are also periods of calm; Side B of the tape, for example, has an extended movement where the chaos recedes and field recordings, or maybe found sounds, take over. While not the only “break” in the album, it is the longest and it brings a sense of relief; it is the culmination of the previous breaks, a true heavy sigh that eases the ears. This intentional cycle of tension and release is emotional. Of her work Rat Porridge states, “I see it as a healing practice”. The point is not just to make “nice, calming, relaxing tones”, but to “address a bunch of really deep trauma”. For Rat, “addressing the brokenness, or addressing those really difficult parts, is like, a step towards the healing”. Like the way putting dirty clothes in a washing machine makes brown water, but also gets things clean.

            I can’t help how my thoughts keep circling back to metaphors; cloaking an idea in the skin of another should make it incomprehensible, but with metaphors the opposite occurs. When we add a layer, it increases the meaning, makes things understood in a different way. It’s also interpretive language; it relies on common knowledge and having similar frames of reference. Maybe now we can get back to the point of noise, or my point that noise carries meaning even when that meaning is not clearly stated. And my point about magic, or serendipity, or how certain things seem to line up.

            What was it that I was hypnotized by the swirl of my washing machines water? Why did it stick when I started my first draft, and further, when I listened to Live at the Plant? There is synchronicity and repetition that one can notice when they’re willing to reflect and simmer in their feelings. I myself feel strongly that time is experienced in a spiral that starts where you’re born and just keeps going and going and growing. That experience is condensed when you listen to the same album back to back. You notice the structures more, common elements become more evident; with time understanding becomes easier.

            The dirt clears, the clothing comes out clean, and the cycle repeats.

-Keeli Ayn

Keeli Ayn is an e-girl and interdisciplinary artist who spends their time between Texas and Florida. They love to be critical and play dress-up when not working on a variety of multi-media projects. Keeli can be found on social media at @femmekeanu and are available for all sorts of engagements, you just have to ask.