An individual experience in a collective forum: the sounds of epigenetic landscapes

A/Prof. Michelle Duffy1

1University Of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia


The Encounter (2011) is a solo theatre performance based on Petru Popescu’s book Amazon Beaming (1993), which in turn is an account of Loren McIntyre, a National Geographic photographer who found himself lost amongst the remote people of the Javari Valley in the western Amazon Basin in 1969.

Described as an ‘hallucinatory, tech-augmented tour de force’ (The Age), the audience is brought into the bodily space of the photographer via the connections between headphones we wear and a binaural microphone that is shaped like a head located at the centre of the stage. The entire performance is heard through these headphones.

In this paper, I want to explore the significance of affective relations between the unconscious, aesthetics and place, by drawing on Conrad Waddington’s (1940) concept of epigenetic landscapes and its focus on (cellular) differentiation. While originally used as a visualisation of interactions between genes and the environment, I would like to discover what happens when we use the concept of epigenetic landscape to map a sonic world where an individual experience occurs within a collective forum.


Michelle’s research explores how interactions between people and place contribute to notions of community and identity, and hence the processes of belonging and alienation. Her work includes a critical examination of community resilience, wellbeing, and sustainability; the significance of emotion and affect in creating notions of belonging and exclusion; the role of art practice – specifically that of sound, music and performance – in creating and/or challenging notions of identity and belonging in public spaces and public events; and an exploration of the body as a means of embodied, emotional and affective communication

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