Signal creative partnership crosses borders

Deprived of physical audiences during the COVID-19 lockdown, artists still found clever and creative ways to make new work.

Our annual Signal program Screen X Sound went online for the first time. Artists between 16 and 25 were invited to collaborate on digital presentations that kept them stimulated and connected.

The screen and sound works can now be seen on Signal’s website.

Melbourne screen artist Bianca Billy Raffin teamed up with sound artist Rebecca Riggs-Bennett, who is based in Perth.

‘It was really weird collaborating with someone I hadn’t met before in person,’ Billy said.

‘In a six-week period we made a whole new work and it took a lot of conversations and getting to know each other.’

Each artist in the program was first given six weeks to develop a solo project. They received technical and creative support and one-on-one mentoring from experienced artists.

In the next six weeks, a screen artist was matched with a sound artist to create a collaborative audio-visual work. For their collaboration, Billy and Rebecca drew on the evocative imagery found in their solo works.

Bianca Billy Raffin

Bianca Billy Raffin, photo by Chris Parkinson

Billy’s imagery has a warm lamp-lit glow, with hotels and long drives seen in unsettling fragments, like echoes of dreams. Rebecca’s forest environment is accompanied by the enigmatic sounds of breath and wind, a human impact in a natural world.

‘When I was paired up with Billy we immediately looked at each other’s previous work and I was really drawn to her video work,’ Rebecca said.

‘Billy began with the visual and that helped me write, and I wrote a spoken word poem too.

‘I was really glad Billy was the screen artist I was paired with because she was able to capture shots in Melbourne of that isolated experience. We’d send each other drafts then meet over Zoom to discuss it.’

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 shaped much of their Screen X Sound work: The Space that Exists between Existence. Images of isolation and open space combine to express what the pair has called ‘the hyper-reality of the new normal’.

‘I was really conscious of being the only interstate artist in the project and in WA we have been very lucky,’ Rebecca said.

‘The project ended up being about different forms of distance… We wanted to make time feel distorted and make it uncanny.’

Billy said: ‘Also for me it was about the divide between public and private space and how that has changed. We’re taking the public realm of work into our homes. People are working and doing meetings at home so there’s this blurred reality.’

She said she regularly keeps an eye on the Signal program and opportunities that come up.

‘They’re always doing genuinely interesting projects with art and young people,’ Billy said.

‘It’s important to give early-career artists opportunities to make art and to experiment in a public realm.

‘It was also great to see what other people around my age are making, and to connect with them. The mentors were all really open and easy to talk to.’

‘I’m very passionate about sound art because it’s very niche,’ Rebecca said.

‘What I loved about Signal was being connected to other experienced sound artists, and being mentored was brilliant.’

‘The honesty created really good relationships and I loved all the works the other artists created.’

To explore Billy and Rebecca’s work, visit Screen X Sound artworks.

About Signal

Signal is the City of Melbourne’s creative studio that offers diverse young people the opportunity to create and collaborate with professional artists. Signal welcomes young people with all levels of experience.

To explore upcoming workshops and projects, visit Signal.