In tune with divergence
A unique music piece inspired by the life of an extraordinary Geraldton woman has become available for the public to experience, shining a light on the talents and realities of neuro-divergent artists.
I’m Still Here, a sound art exhibition by Clare Lynch and her nephew composer Dane Yates, with an accompanying short documentary directed by Brendan Polain, telling Aunty Clare’s story and the development of the work, has been installed in the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery theatrette for a three-week run.
The 40-minute sound artwork, displayed with visuals of Aunty Clare, was arranged and produced by her nephew, who grew up in Geraldton before moving to Perth to study at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and whose mother is her sister and carer.
Aunty Clare’s audiovisual work reflects on key moments in her life, which Mr Yates said he helped create to initiate a dialogue around the lived experience of Alzheimer’s disease and disabilities.
Over two small developments between 2019 and 2020, Mr Yates recorded Aunty Clare’s keyboard improvisations, which he digitally arranged into a semi-autobiographical audiovisual work.
“This work details and reflects on key moments in Aunty Clare’s life, as well as broaching a discussion around the lived experience of Alzheimer’s disease which I feel is celebratory, emotionally resonant, relaxed and nostalgic,” he said.
“If you see Aunty Clare and hear this work, you wouldn’t necessarily put them together.
“I hope people who listen will take away some awareness of the disabled community and also show disabled artists they can do this.”
Aunty Clare was born in Tardun in 1970 and has lived in Geraldton her whole adult life after going through school in Perth.
She was born with Down syndrome, and since 2017 has slowly been losing her cognitive skills — tests which showed notable brain shrinkage confirmed she had developed Alzheimer’s disease by 2019.
She had menial jobs to do around the house as part of her treatment, but since mid-last year she has refused to do them and has become wheelchair-bound.
Her sense of purpose was dwindling until Mr Yates’ mother Helen, “thinking outside the box”, put his childhood keyboard in front of her, and Aunty Clare has been glued to it since.
“This small creative activity not only brings her joy but ultimately re-establishes a sense of purpose in her life,” Mr Yates said.
“It was around this time that I had the idea of working with Aunty Clare to create a work which would enable her to create her own artistic voice, creating a lasting and resounding artistic testimony of her life.”
Mr Yates and Aunty Clare recorded the work over three sessions late last year and early this year.
“She would get focused on a group of notes and I took that as she was enjoying that sound,” he said.
“I would sustain the note to create a drone, then raise and lower it to form a chord. Then I’d play it back to her through headphones while she continued to play, with each improvisation informing the next one.”
The work is set to tour around WA art galleries next year, with Mr Yates saying “big things” were being developed for the work in 2022.
The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries-funded exhibition opened on November 20 and will run until December 12.
Entry to GRAG is free, with the gallery open Tuesday-Friday from 9am-4pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9.30am-1.30pm.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails