Sore Throat (Magang Lalamunan)

Solo exhibition at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, UK, November 2023
Solo exhibition at Kriittinen Gallery, Turku, Finland, 2 - 28 August 2024

Sore Throat, (or Magang Lalamunan in Tagalog) is an interactive film that explores how sound overheard through walls has impacted queer people and queer spaces in the Philippines, where the interpretation of sounds is informed by monstrous mythology and the distortions of colonisation and gentrification.

The research-driven work is filmed in Edinburgh and Manila and features music from Manila-based band Kalye Teresa. Produced by queer arts company Pollyanna, Sore Throat blends cabaret and moving image using a newly developed interactive technology made with Studio Autonomic. As in live cabaret, audience members make noises as guided by the on-screen performer for the film to proceed.

In a glowing midnight world a performer traverses shape-shifting forms and spaces. Sound and music travels from rural Philippines to the Malate queer district of Manila. Maximalist spaces glimmer from birds-eye view on vertically-sliding theatrical backdrops.

A knock at the door. ‘Tao po!’, the traditional announcement (‘I am human’) is heard. It declares that the voice is not a monster’s. Filipino folklore has long been filled with Aswang, monstrous creatures who shape-shift into animals such as dogs, crocodiles and birds. As Spanish colonisers descended upon the Philippines in the 16th century, they exploited pre-existing beliefs to propagate the notion that women and queer people were Aswang. At night, it can be hard to tell if the noises heard through the walls of rural homes are the calls of jungle animals or the cries of an Aswang.

A sole performer, appearing as a young queer person and a figure reminiscent of both a cabaret emcee and matador, emerges from the glowing midnight world of Sore Throat. Surrounding them is our audience, who are conducted to make noises, breaking through the theatrical fourth wall.

On screen, the malleable walls of theatrical backdrops struggle to contain either safety or sound. In this world of illusion, monstrosity lingers but cannot be pinned down. Rejection and self-judgement swirl, and music and costume pluck our sole performer from rural Luzon to Manila, a city that has long been a destination for queer Filipinos. Areas such as Malate have come alive at night as queer districts, with karaoke bars bustling and streets becoming overflow social spaces. Yet in the glittering night, the vested interests of new businesses and residents desire a more quiet and respectable neighbourhood, as the play of sounds shake the certainties of this contested world.

Funded by Creative Informatics, The National Lottery through Creative Scotland, and Newcastle University. With thanks to Fruitmarket, Edinburgh College of Art, Reid School of Music, Edinburgh Dental Institute, ECA Film & TV Department, Julie Bills and Ross Buchanan.