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Music | Cockroaches | Nudity – a review

The latest issue of the journal Radical Musicology presents one of the very few peer-reviewed scholarly articles examining interspecies musical collaboration with giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The author, doctoral researcher Stacey Sewell, describes a 1997 performance of ‘Ritual’ by New York based artist Miya Masaoka in which the artist lay naked on stage while 13 giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches explored her body and broke infra-red sensors that triggered sound samples (of cockroach hissing) to compliment a musical accompaniment.
The author asks (and answers) various questions regarding a videotape of the performance – such as :

• “What affect is achieved through Masaoka’s absence of clothing?”
• “Does the sound of the cockroaches allow Masaoka to incorporate ‘nature’ and ‘animal’ into the sonic portrait she creates?”
• “Can the music represent the body?”

And what does the performance say of the dyadic concepts such as body/technology, subject/object, human/machine and presence/absence?

Hisssssssssssing. Ksssttcchhhssssssk.

“Camera zooms in and out – slowly. There are bursts of hissing, then silence, then hissing, then silence. Will there be more hissing? A cockroach falls off a leg, and the screen goes blank.”

The paper can be read in full here > ‘Making My Skin Crawl: Representations and Mediations of the Body in Miya Masaoka’s Ritual, Interspecies Collaboration with Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.’

More photos of a performance of Ritual here :

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