Machine for Making Sense

The lives of the experimental poets 10-12

Stewart, Farrell, Breeze

10. Amanda Stewart 


                                                                                         (“vice versa” I/T, p. 23)

In the voiceover to the 1991 film Eclipse of the Man-Made Sun, a film about the “language of the user” of atomic bombs and nuclear energy in times of proliferation, directed by Amanda Stewart and Nicolette Freeman, Stewart exposes the language of nuclear weapons. This is a film attentive to cinematic language and its particular modes of invention. Letters crop up red across the screen with the acronyms (Permissive Action Link [PAL]). So the language tells us, they’re your “pal”: the weapons are humanized, the victims, dehumanized. Later on, the documentary enters into increasing levels of abstraction — some might see a resemblance to the “Star Gate” sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey — but it’s that abstraction that becomes the critique. The saturated color breaks away from the cinematic citation of advertisements and clips from mid-century Australian propagandizing around atomic energy and the use of uranium.*

Autonomous machines

Two months after my initial conversation with Amanda Stewart, which I described in one of my first commentary posts, I returned to her house to continue talking: this time, to ask specifically about her work in the collective Machine for Making Sense, who were active from 1989 to 2005. Machine were Amanda Stewart, Chris Mann, Rik Rue, Jim Denley and Stevie Wishart. They simultaneously and dissonantly worked with improvised and composed music, sound, text and performance. Their recorded output includes five CDs (you can preview tracks from the CD Dissect the Body here). They toured internationally and impressed significantly on local formations. The interview below is specifically interested in Stewart's experience as a member of the collective; her answers do not attempt to represent the collective, or to speak on its behalf. The text has been transcribed and edited from a longer recording (which features beautiful early-summer birdsong of Sydney, as well as the blissful snores of Stewart's mother's dog, Suzie, who was happily adream for our nattering!)

Play "D", from On Second Thoughts (1994)

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