From December 2023 to January 2024, The Ironing Maidens (Melania Jack and Patty Preece) presented their sound, digital art and projection installation work – Pressing Topics at NorthSite Contemporary Arts. The debut of this work was well received at NorthSite and the workshop presentation explaining the work; Oscillations attracted a huge audience for a Saturday Morning of almost 70 participants. Ironing certainly still resonates with many people, but ironing sound is a unique experience in itself.
The audiovisual installation, Oscillations, turns irons and ironing boards into electronic instruments, in an attempt to deconstruct stereotypical ideas of gender and its assigned roles. The work aims to investigate the relationships we have with domestic objects and ponder their structures and significance through the design and performance of an interactive ecosystem. The project uses a sonic cyberfeminist lens to critically explore aesthetic and relational hierarchies at the intersection of sound, gender and technology.
Three irons and ironing boards have been hacked and retrofitted with embedded electronic instruments that together create a complex feedback network. While the audience is invited to physically interact with the irons instruments and manipulate samples, the sonic state of the installation also changes based on the audio information detected in the environment. Projections onto the surface of the ironing board expose the labor within.
“This opportunity to present the work in Cairns has been so important to the development of the work. Being able to see people interacting and responding to the instruments at NorthSite provided us with an insight into the experience of the audience, and gave us more ideas on how to refine the instruments to improve that audience experience. We are so thankful to NorthSite for this opportunity and support”
– Patty Preece.
The work was then presented at the International Conference of NIME (new instruments for musical expression) in Mexico City in May 2023. Joining hundreds of experimental, digital instrument makers from around the world, Patty and Melania presented their paper – Oscillations: Composing a Performance Ecosystem through a Sonic Cyberfeminist Lens and installed this work in the foyer of the Center for Digital Culture, in La Condessa. The work was recognised through two awards, the paper receiving ‘The Pamela Z award for innovation’, and the installation receiving the ‘best installation award’.
Now the duo bring the ironing instruments back to Cairns in a hybrid band of irons and synthesisers, in the next phase of the project – Hot & Heavy – an immersive experience that is “part gallery, part performance and part banging dance party”. In a World Premiere at The Tanks Art Centre.
Hot & Heavy is an aural, visual and sensory experience that invites you to lose your friends, go deep and shake free. Explore this queer new world where domesticity has been made strange, appliances are defamiliarised, and the casual horrors of human production lines and capitalist consumption are vividly transformed. In a landscape of real world glitches, the lines between performer and audience blur and break, bodies move en masse and the unifying power of a dance floor infects the crowd. Hot & Heavy is the search for multiple new futures, yearning to find utopia within the banging beat of a broken down washing machine.
“In previous live shows we [The Ironing Maidens] have explored themes such as planned obsolescence and domestic labour, but in this new work we wanted the opportunity to really expand, to really push ourselves and the work. We wanted to investigate the kind of world we are living in now; within this capitalist system, and explore what kind of alternatives we could imagine for our collective futures, we wanted to explore what this could feel like, what it might sound like.”
– Melania Jack
“We have expanded the creative team and have been working with international choreographic director Leigh-Anne Vizer and a team of dancers to develop the worlds that the audience will explore. We are also working with the Cairns community, through a series of workshops in the lead up to the performance so that we can skill share in music and dance, and invite people to come and create with us and join us in the live performance”.
– Patty Preece
This event is an Auslan Interpreted Performance. There will be a meeting place on entry for Auslan interpretation during the first half of the show. The second half of the show the interpreter will be onstage. Please contact for more details
Show might include atmospheric haze and strobe effects.
Workshops in the lead up to the show are open to the public and start this week (Monday 31 July 2023). Meet the cast, learn some new skills, and join the community ensemble. There is a fundraiser running to make these workshops free and accessible to marginalised groups in the community. Head to The Australian Cultural Fund website and search for The Ironing Maidens – $15 can support a scholarship place in the workshop. Click here to support.
This new work has been developed in Cairns through commissions from the Local Giants Program; a partnership between Regional Arts Australia, PAC and Performing Lines, and the Tanks Arts Centre and Cairns Regional Council. Development funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. Community engagement funded by Cairns Regional Council through the RADF Major Round. The project is funded and managed by Shiny Shiny Productions, a feminist, queer led, regional production company.
SHOW DATES: Friday 25th August 8pm – Cairns Tanks Arts Centre
Sunday 27th August 1pm