HELD DOWN, EXPANDING (2018) - DOCUMENTATION
A sixteen speaker single person sound installation in pitch-black​​
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Finalist in the 2019 APRA-AMCOS Art Music Awards for Excellence in Experimental Music
Watch the video (5 minutes) or read the text below. Watching fullscreen in HD with headphones or a quality sound system with a subwoofer recommended.
"The idea of surfaces disappeared and I existed somewhere in a mist of vibrations. They were comforting, surrounding, my weight existed within it. Something in the back of my thoughts was changing and shifting, healing a little, being arranged into a shape that made more sense, that could be understood and integrated."  
- Audience Member
Held Down, Expanding ​is a sibling work to Love Songs. ​It reinterprets the first movement into an experiential artwork that takes audience members through three stages - reading, listening and written reflection - one person at a time. As with Love Songs, ​the work addresses the experiential impact of abuse within intimate relationships, its interconnection with physical and so-called mental illness, and meditative and creative processes for trauma integration. It reflects the perceptually disorienting aspect of emotional abuse through a perceptually disorienting experience of abstract sound in pitch-black, where the audience member loses all physical bearings.

This experience is choreographed as follows: 

It begins in a waiting area, where the audeience member is instructed to read a small, black book of concrete poetry (the same one that accompanies the Love Songs release). Once complete, the invigilator reads a scripted disclaimer in a clinical manner (to evoke a surreal sense of visiting a doctor), asks for consent to proceed, then guides the audience member into the large, black structure.
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Once inside, they are seated within a central reclining chair. The invigilator then locks the door behind them so only a small amount of red light remains. For the audience member, the light becomes so minimal they can barely perceive the environment around them. The invigilator then raises the audience member's chair, pulls it backward, then reclines it, positioning the ears between two central speakers. The audience member in a state of complete submission.
The invigilator then switches out the light. The room is completely sealed so that no light can enter; it is absolute pitch black, even once eyes adjust for darkness. The sound begins quietly and at first, it feels as though it is emanating from within the head. It soon expands upwards and outwards, sweeps over the body, and immerses the audience member in its crescendo. With nothing to orient them, they become lost in an expanding and contracting sound field of perceptual ambiguity, a meditative space and mirror into their own perceptions, emotions and mind. Below is an excerpt of a two-channel version of the sound from the installation​.
Once the sound finishes (is is ten minutes in total) the audience member is left in darkness and silence for about 30 seconds before the light is turned back on, and the invigilator lets them out of the chair. They are then invited to reflect upon their experience within a combined audience  journal, and read the reflections of others who have experienced the work before them. ​​
Examples from the audience journal: 
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Full Credits: 

Concept, direction, speaker arrangment, spatialisation, composition and lighting: Thembi Soddell
Industrial design: Stuart McFarlane
Sound composed using samples from Alice Hui-Sheng Chang and Jim Denley

An interview about ​Held Down, Expanding can be found here.

In 2018, Held Down, Expanding premiered at MONA FOMA, Hobart (pictured below), and was further developed for presentations by Liquid Architecture at Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne (pictured above) and the Booktown Festival in Clunes, Victoria (pictured in image gallery below).
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