December 2024

Rubbish Culture

Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Dylan Martorell Text: Michael Kucyk Images: Dylan Martorell

A few months ago I was asked to contribute a mix that would be the soundtrack for a mysterious installation-based project that Melbourne artist/musician Dylan Martorell was undertaking in Vietnam and Indonesia. It was briefly explained that Dylan was planning to construct and tour a multi-purpose nomadic structure made from bamboo, tarps and market bags, which he would perform music and dj in. With the themes of his musical and visual output in mind, I pieced together a that was organic and earthy; meditative and psychedelic. Upon Dylan’s return to Australia, I quizzed him on the outcomes of this hair-brained scheme.

Michael Kucyk: Why the trip to Indonesia and Vietnam?

Dylan Martorell: Indonesia has had such a strong influence on my various practices – the use of time within performance, the materials, the music, the costumes etc. Improvisation, ritual, spontaneity and music are a daily fact of life there. I’ve always gone to other places knowing that I’d go to Indonesia one day and now that I have I’m in love with the place.

I really didn’t want to come back to Australia. I didn’t plan to go to Vietnam, but a Vietnamese friend of ours does textile tours focusing on the hill-tribes near the Chinese border and after going to one of her talks I was convinced it would be a great experience, which it was. Amazing place!

MK: Were your installations organised with galleries or any artist institutions, or were they entirely guerrilla operations?

DM: The installation in Jogja was part guerilla, part organised. Before I got there I didn’t know what was going to happen, I had no idea what to expect. Luckily I hooked up with the South Project and ICAN (Indonesian Contemporary Art Network) and within a small amount of time I had the perfect outdoor space and all the materials I needed to get to work. I’m used to working in rubber time so I loved it.

MK: If the installation was a travelling show, how did the construction differ each time? Were you always using the same materials that you carried around?

DM: I travelled with my family which includes Inez (six) and Xavi (18 months). It became pretty clear early on for various reasons that my fantastic plans to travel with the structure weren’t going to work so the Bali and Vietnam part of the project became more about collecting materials and documentation. During this time I recorded about 30 hours of field recordings of rituals, wildlife and traffic, and documented various things that I was really interested in.

Mainly various types of bamboo construction, the ways in which people use public space and the different ways in which places dealt with their rubbish. Hanoi was particularly amazing. They have no bins. You just throw your stuff straight onto the street. But the city is very clean and they have a small army of women who each have a material they collect – foam, cardboard etc. They then push their carts of material to the edge of town where it’s sorted into trucks. Chaos meets communism. I love rubbish culture!

MK: Tell me a little about your daily performances and their audience reactions.

DM: The daily performances were quite diverse. They averaged three to four hours and were mainly solo performances which involved me playing on the various instruments and constructions I had made or collected. These included ant covered sugar crystals, gongs tied to a hand cranked bejak (large cyclo), various motor driven instruments, guitars and bottles, experiments with microphones, fans, stones, insects, tiles, cheap aquarium equipment and field recordings of buffalos and frogs from Vietnam and Bali.

It was really liberating as I don’t usually play as a solo performer. This gave me the chance to really experiment in front of an often bemused but often highly appreciative audience. Sometimes the guys that lived around the gallery would spontaneously jump onto the instruments and we’d have a crazy gong driven psych-out. It was really everything I’d hoped it would be.

The performance on the last night was a kraton tea ceremony at sundown. This was my favourite performance.

The crickets where all in chorus to the sound of the call to prayer in full swing while I went into a dazed trance. The concept was to play furniture music but I got a bit carried away.

Download Michael’s mix here… Right click and save!

Dylan Martorell

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