I met Audra Wolowiec at an artist-assistant gig where we were gold-leafing glass rods. Audra’s precision and care with her words struck me as unusual, powerful. Decades into our friendship, I’ve witnessed her embodiment of intentional language coalesce into an attentive artistic practice. Her multi-disciplinary work attempts to materialize the intangible: scores for breath or cast wave interferences, for example. Her works implore their audience to keep still and pay attention to the quiet. Audra and I corresponded via Google doc during the last days of 2021, on the occasion of her exhibition Viscera/Epiphora at Compound in Yucca Valley, for which she presents a score for water in the desert composed of “oo”s and “oooo”s.
Meg WhitefordWe’re doing this interview over Google Docs, which is a sort of living document (documento vivo). I like seeing your avatar in the corner. It’s like we’re sharing a digital room. But it makes getting started on an interview weird. Can you describe the AFK room you’re typing from?
Audra WolowiecI love the shared space of a Google Doc. There’s something very generative about it, conversational but also spacious.
I’m writing from my studio, which is a bit of a mess at the moment. A show just ended, and I’m sorting through the work and the residue of process. I read this quote by Joan Didion, who just passed: “What I want to tell you today is not to move into that world where you’re alone with yourself and your mantra and your fitness program or whatever it is that you might use to try to control the world by closing it out. I want to tell you just to live in the mess. Throw yourself out into the convulsions of the world.” I’m sure she wasn’t talking about a messy studio, but it’s a welcome reminder.
It’s quiet today and cold—a low hum of the heater, a few birds outside.
MWI’m writing as the sun goes down thinking about how much I love short days and how quickly time passes. I can hear the sound of a circular saw somewhere outside and kids screaming in the park. It’s sixty degrees in December, too, which I both love for today and hate for our existential tomorrow. Speaking of climate change: you’re doing a project in the desert of California about water. I know you’re inspired by Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva, a title which means “living water,” or perhaps “life water.” Can you talk more about this?
AWI make sound scores or sound texts from existing writing, where I use a method of removal or extraction, like an editing tool, to deconstruct the text, to bring certain parts of speech and language to the surface. For this project, I removed all letters and punctuation from Água Viva, with the exception of the letter “O.” Each page has a different configuration of the letter “O,” suggesting new ways of reading and sounding. This particular sound score made sense in the landscape, how it refers to absence, water, and the body. It’s something I’ve been working on slowly for a few years.