I meet prOphecy sun in the green of Dude Chilling Park. She’s brought a sushi lunch for the both of us, and her new baby, Haäkens, held tight to her chest wallaby style in a baby carrier. sun is now a mother of two. Her first child, Owl, is now a toddler, old enough to ask her mother when their next photo shoot is going to be. Her career has been uniquely affected by her motherhood: her two children have been heavily involved in the interdisciplinary artist’s creative endeavors over the past three years. I wanted to sit down with sun to talk about the intersections between her creative career, motherhood and family life. Her forthcoming album, Shelter over Shelter, is a tribute to her children, the connections they have provoked her to make, and the inspiration they have offered her.
sun’s artistic practice ranges from installation, dance, to videography and her work is often a combination of improvised sound, imagery, costumes, objects and handheld technologies. She creates short videos like 2011’s Cupboards, in which she empties out kitchen cabinets and contorts herself through them, trying to fit through the narrow spaces. She has been in multiple bands in the city, but her eponymous solo project is what she considers to be her most vulnerable and honest work.
“I feel like [all the mediums I work in] feed each other. [It’s like] if there were a bunch of parallel lines running in a field, each of these [ideas] kind of weave on top of each other. If you imagine me working, these things are flowing through me, sometimes I feel like I’m kind of grasping at one of them. The best way to put it is that they are these unconscious choreographies that are continually floating. When I’m improvising or when I’m in a dream space these things are existing. Sometimes if I choose to grasp them or look at them or acknowledge them then they become present.”
Onstage, sun is an improviser. She may sketch out a setlist, but when her performance begins, she opens herself to chance and intuition. This improvisational work is sampled on Shelter over Shelter and reflects sun at her most raw and primal, making creative decisions based on her own urges and inclinations, moving from moment to moment. She does not suppress her instincts. After a dream that came to her while she was pregnant with Owl, sun began recording videos of herself interacting with a giant milk coloured weather balloon, an expensive and precarious prop, a symbol of her burgeoning relationship with the new life she carried inside and outside of her body. The theme of care-taking and parenthood imbued her work as she embarked on a Master’s Degree in Applied Arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
“I got accepted for my master’s and found out I was pregnant [with Owl] in the same week,” sun recalls. “It was automatically assumed that I was going to postpone [my master’s] for a year and I was like ‘Nope!’ I was offered a scholarship to work with Moving Stories, an interdisciplinary, collaborative research project that’s studying dance, movement, performance, interaction and digital technologies. So when I was accepted, I decided I would motion capture [Owl] and she would be our mocap baby for two years — we would track her physical movement patterns and development.”
Just nine days after Haäkens was born, sun played a set at Destroy Vancouver. “I had to feed [Haäkens] every half hour, so I basically asked for a family room at VIVO. They were really accommodating. My partner Darren [stayed] with our toddler and the baby in another room.” sun also chose to sample audio snippets of her labor with both her children and tracks like “Silly Dad” and “Go to Sleep” feature the voice of a giggling Owl, who also played a part in her mother’s performance at the debut Tidal~Signal Festival at Selectors’ Records.
“All the work that I’ve been doing over the last three years, the album kind of highlights those primal moments for me,” says sun. “There’s lots of them, but I’ve chosen the ones that seem the most vulnerable. I feel challenged by putting [my kids] in the album, their births are milestones for me and milestones for my own development as an artist.”
This development is clear in her perpetual experimentation with sound and her growing presence in the Vancouver noise community. “I don’t know what it is,” she says, “but sounds can bring us to a place of awareness and for me it’s like a type of meditation. I think it’s also really intuitive.” Of the proliferation of noise artists and experimental ambient music in the city, sun says, “There’s something really lovely that’s lurking and here, and people really want to listen. People really want to transport themselves or bring themselves to the present moment. That’s what I love about improvising, you just don’t know what’s gonna happen, you can plan but the rest is really up to chance. That’s one of the beautiful things about sound, there’s something nostalgic about it [for me].” It’s the past, present and future, all in one.
sun is committed to her creative life, and is determined to continue to work on her own projects alongside her new responsibilities as a parent. “When you’re up nursing in the middle of the night, why not work on something? I’ve been trying not to make everything too precious.” she says. “I’m absolutely exhausted, but I’m not just a mom. I have this innate desire to perform, this desire to share, to create. I was born and raised to do this, like it feels really important that I have children, but there’s so many aspects of still being a person I haven’t explored, and I haven’t wanted to put those on hold. Maybe that’s selfish.”
Haäkens’ little old man face crunches, and he begins to squirm and cry. sun is nonchalant and lays down on the grass, trying to get the baby to nurse. She laughs when this doesn’t work, stands up and straps him back into the baby carrier. With a bit of bouncing, Haäkens decides that lunch is served. Our time together ends when Haäkens begins to fall asleep against his mother’s breast, we collect our picnic and head back out into the city.
“The title of my album, Shelter over Shelter, it’s this idea that I’m sheltering my little ones, but they are also sheltering me,” says sun. “There’s this struggle of who has the umbrella.”
Shelter over Shelter will be released on October 15 on Panospria Records.