Swing song takes its title from a double translation (English-Dutch-English) of Samuel Beckett’s 1980 dramatic work Rockaby. Beckett’s script contains two main elements: a pre-recorded monologue of the voice of the play’s only character, and this elderly woman herself, clothed in a glittering black mourning dress and seated in a rocking chair which seemingly rocks itself. For the duration of the play the woman remains seated in her chair, listening to the recording of her own voice narrating the script, whilst occasionally doubling the recorded commentary. She also asks for ‘more’ – that the rocking resume should the chair pause. Beckett’s script sketches out a fragmented history of the woman’s life, including distant references to her mother. Imagery is layered repeatedly, with the text focusing on descriptions of the woman, in her chair, looking out of her window. As in many of Beckett’s works, this play engages with both the beginnings of life and its ending, confined within a stream of words firmly situated in the present. Shrouded in her mourning attire, the woman reflects on her waning existence whilst simultaneously being lulled by the rocking chair, an allusion to the English lullaby Rock-a-bye Baby.
The images included as part of Swing song engage with observations through windows: video screens and internet browsers, Photoshop files, and scans of old photographs and drawings. They embrace babies rocked amidst recollections and regrets in pie shops, and blood and rippling bruises posed against my artwork. All of these digital collages act as both exploratory storyboard and prelude to my video work Swing song, which re-interprets Beckett’s Rockaby as a study in dual identities and a digital framing of the here and now.
Tess E. McKenzie (b.1986, Melbourne, Australia) lives and works in London, having graduated with an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2016 and a BFA (Honours) from the Victorian College of Fine Art in 2009. Recent exhibitions include; the Slade School of Fine Art, London (2019), Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney (2018), Bus Projects, Melbourne (2018), Seventh Gallery, Melbourne (2017), Plateforme, Paris (2016) and the Hardwick Gallery, Cheltenham (2016). She has authored a number of publications, including Without Words: Writings on Act Without Words II a mime for two players by Samuel Beckett (2016). tessemckenzie.com