Wen-Juenn Lee

The telephone is a river: it asks you to cup your hands and pray

Let's Take Over - Saturday March 5 | Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre

The telephone is a river; it asks you to cup your hands and pray is a meditation on the relationship between language, distance and God; made manifest in a telephone, an object defined by what it reaches for. For a telephone resembles a prayer, a desire for distance to be overcome. In speaking, one acts with the faith that our words transgress boundaries; that something is heard.


Set in the liminal Sun Room at Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre, this piece invites the audience into a space where things absent become present. Inspired by the interactive performance poetry of Yoko Ono and Manisha Anjali, the telephone is a river... also leaves us with an event score, an invitation for audiences to perform and disseminate the poetry of a phone call in their own time.


In the backdrop of the ongoing and everyday solitude that we experience, the telephone is a river... makes the phone call an event again; an ode to those we reach for and who reach us.

A young Asian woman with long black hair wears glasses and a forest green collared shirt. She looks forlorn to the camera.

Wen-Juenn is a poet and editor who lives on un-ceded Wurundjeri land. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Meanjin, Antithesis, Landfall, Scum Mag and Going Down Swinging. She previously served as a poetry editor at Voiceworks.

Why did you apply for Let's Take Over?

I had a growing interest in bringing poetry/text into public art - the outcome of a 'take over' seemed perfect in exploring that. I was also keen to meet other like-minded self-producing artists and to develop and learn as a group the skills and topics emerging artists have to consider.

What have you learnt in Let's Take Over?

I have learnt a lot about conceptual rigour and the importance of planning and budgeting for an event or piece of work. With writing, most of the materials are 'conceptual' or minimal. But manifesting an idea into something physical requires a whole different set of skills and language! I've also learnt about logistics, how things will actually work with time, budget and spatial constraints.

What is one thing you are excited about for the event?

Getting to see everyone's work. I've heard so much about them and it's so rare (and nice) to witness someone else develop their work from conception to completion.  


Image by: Pia Johnson