On the Couch with Roslyn Oades

Roslyn-Oades-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Roslyn Oades?
An award-winning Melbourne-based theatre-maker best known for her innovative work in the field of headphone verbatim and audio-driven performance projects. Most recently she’s been working on a new series of place-based audio experiences. Her current project, The Nightline, is an audio-portrait of Melbourne overnight, using real-life anonymous voice messages left between midnight-6.00am (www.nightlineproject.com). She is the partner of novelist, Chris Womersley, and together they parent a beautiful boy named Reuben.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
In a parallel universe, I could see myself in a more hands-on occupation, committed to the health of the natural world. Caring for the land, supporting wildlife. Perhaps a National Parks ranger, in the field of environmental science or sustainable energy. I’m deeply disturbed by our country’s willful participation in the destruction of the natural world and have found the students for climate change movement so profound and inspiring. Our young people calling us out for destroying their future… powerful stuff.

Who inspires you and why?
My current art crush is Canadian artist, Janet Cardiff. Seeing her epic sound installation, Murder of Crows (in collaboration with George Bures-Miller) at the Sydney Biennale in 2008, had a huge impact on me and the sort of work I aspire to make. I’ve followed her work with great interest ever since, and she’s become something of a bench-mark role model for me as a female artist working at the intersection of sound, art and performance. I admire original, curious artists who continue evolving what they do across their career. She optimizes that spirit of creative adventurer.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Encourage more listening. The values of capitalism are deeply unfair and unsustainable. We urgently need to challenge this narrative and listen more closely to the voices of indigenous elders and environmental scientists. It’s a time of reckoning in Australia. We have a lot of work to do in terms of reconciliation, equity and environmental reform. We should ban all new investment in fossil fuels for a start.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Speaking from stage four lockdown, my ideal fantasy holiday right now is a meandering road trip out on the wide-open roads. I’m in a campervan with some of the beloved friends I’m missing, singing loudly to our favourite nostalgic tunes. We’d camp under the stars, swim in waterholes, go on long walks, drink whiskey and talk all night.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Traditionally, Melbourne is such a fantastic arts and culture destination. I’d likely book them tickets to an innovative performance work at Arts House or The Substation – or one of our great arts festivals. Out of towners also love our distinct café culture. Grub café in Fitzroy is one of my go-to places for a sunny outdoor coffee date. It’s located in a whimsical plant-filled greenhouse and features a stunning old silver-bullet caravan serving coffee.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve been reading a lot of great new Australian writing during lockdown. After Australia, a timely short story collection edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad is an excellent read – the piece by Omar Sakr is eerily prophetic. I’ve also been enjoying Melbourne writer, Sophie Cunningham’s City of Trees. And Adelaide’s working-class poet, Geoff Goodfellow’s new book, Out of Copley Street. For a bit of old school sci-fi escapism, I’ve also been dipping into J.G. Ballad’s short story collection.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m a big Gillian Welsh fan, her melancholy folk-country vibe has felt comforting during lockdown. I also spent one unhinged night screaming to Jimmy Barnes’ top hits while lying on the couch -which I recommend as a lockdown therapy. On better days, some of our favourite go tos for dancing in the loungeroom have included Pulp and Lizzo.

Happiness is?
Being in a rainforest taking in the ancient trees and colourful fungi, listening to the birds and breathing deeply. Magnificent cathedrals do not get better than that.

What does the future hold for you?
Hmm, that’s always a tricky question as a freelance artist – and even more so at the moment. There are a lot of new creative projects I’d like to pursue. How possible they are is foggy. For my sanity as an artist, the COVID experience has taught me it’s wisest to live day by day for now and not plan too far ahead. I’m currently blessed to have an exciting commission with Rising Festival, which will see me through to May 2021. After that, I honestly don’t know but it’s sure to be an adventure…


Roslyn is the director and co-collaborator (with Bob Scott) on the Melbourne edition of The Nightline – an audio-portrait of Melbourne overnight, using real-life anonymous voice messages left between midnight-6.00am. For more information, visit: www.nightlineproject.com or www.roslynoades.com for details.

Image: Roslyn Oades – photo by Patrick Boland

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