Moe Clark “sees the world with her ears.” Transcending mediums of poetry and activism, Clark finds musicality in life’s most heartbreaking, joyous, and human. Her performances are fully immersive. Using a loop pedal and the stomp, clamp, rattle of her bangled wrist, Clark creates transportive soundscapes as she layers poetry, song, and imagery. Armed with a biting sense of social justice and a disarming eloquence, Clark renders everything from militancy to mortality into the melodious and mesmerizing.
Raised as a singer and a dancer, Clark went on to study graphic design. One day spoken word poet Sheri-D Wilson performed in her university class. “She did one poem,” Clark said, “And I told myself, ‘Okay. That’s it. I want to do that.’” Since then, she’s hypnotized audiences at TEDxMontreal, performed across Europe, and even opened the London Olympics Games. On the heels of her appearance at the Maelstrom Festival in Brussels, Clark is back in Montreal to perform at MAI’s 6th annual ECLECTIK with collaborator Shahrzad Arshadi. She talked with Where Are the Shows about the inspiration behind the piece, and her genre-bending performances. “I’m always riding that line,” she said. “One foot in the realm of vocalization and song, and one foot in the realm of poetry and language.” With such a boundless repertoire, Clark never seems lost for words, but you’ll certainly be at a loss to define her.
How is the title “spoken word poet” not big enough for all that you do?
Well, I started as a singer. I was doing more jazzy-style things, but always performing other people’s work. That changed when I discovered spoken word. All of the sudden there was a forum for my own work. I could look at storytelling, and bring the imagery from my visual life into the realm of performance. But I’ve needed to do a lot of “un-doing.” Moving from “I perform to impress” or “I perform for attention,” to “I perform because I can’t not perform,” and “I have something to say,” creates an opening and a space for sharing. That’s what’s great about being an “multimedia artist” – you don’t have to fit in one box. The more boxes you break open, the more people you reach.
How has the loop pedal changed your performance?
The loop pedal is a tool that allows you into a whole other realm… being totally immersed in voice, and song, and healing. There are real healing qualities of vocal incantation. The layering of one voice, which calls out to another voice, which calls out to another voice – you can always trace it back to the seed. There are generations of sound forming.
It’s not always easy. Because we get in our mind, and we start thinking about all the times we’ve been told we’re not good enough, or that we need to be quiet, or to stop crying, and there are all these built-up walls that surround our diaphragm. Especially as women, that relates to our sexuality, our sensuality, our womb, our motherhood, daughterhood, sisterhood… Through looping those layers start to peel way.
How do you process the everyday? How do you decide what you’ll transpose into song and poetry?
My process? I still haven’t found one that’s consistent or sane. It’s hard to know how to process all the stimuli. As a child I was really quiet and reserved – but perceiving the world all the time, but not really given the outlet to express it all. I still feel like that part of me exists. But we have to allow more than one paradigm for who we are: I’m an artist, I’m a daughter, I’m a lover, muse, victim, aggressor… We have all of these different outlets and they cycle; they’re moving.
What is the inspiration behind this year’s ECLECTIK performance?
The piece is a collaboration with my friend and photographer Shahrzad. It’s going to be a mixed medium performance called “Zan-Squaw.” “Zan” is “woman” in Farsi, but it’s used in a derogatory way, in the same way that “squaw” is used in Algonquin. We’ll be using a microprojector and Sharazad’s photography to project women’s faces onto my stomach. So it’s looking at the belly as a form of creation: the womb, birth – as well as a symbol of the voice, expression. It’s love and bloodshed, bleeding and cycles, and connection to the moon, the oceans, the Earth… But also looking at how these women’s image and voices have been masked and uncovered. How much of the image are we seeing, what are we not seeing? The sounds and faces are used as an invocation.
Don’t miss Clark’s performance this Friday and Saturday at MAI.