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Jaguar Jonze Vivid LIVE 2023 'The Art Of Broken Pieces' Interview

25 May 2023 | 10:36 am | Mary Varvaris

Through Vivid LIVE, Lynch will showcase her cultural contributions as an artist – proving that those contributions are just as valuable as her advocacy.

Photo of Jaguar Jonze

Photo of Jaguar Jonze (Source: Supplied/Therese Hall)

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Deena Lynch, the Taiwanese-Australian singer, producer, songwriter, and multimedia artist known as Jaguar Jonze, has made a name for herself by releasing music that’s personal and cathartic, fun and fierce, sparse, and theatrical with a singular aim in mind: to connect with audiences.

That goal is what led Lynch to enter Eurovision: Australia Decides last February with Little Fires. “Little Fires is a reminder about where we’ve come from, what we are fighting for, and what we can achieve when we work together,” she said about the track.

Little Fires explores the vulnerable side of Jaguar Jonze and finds strength in that vulnerability as well as community.

Jonze has since become a public vessel for change and accountability in light of Australia's #MeToo movement, winning the triple J Done Good Award and being named one of the 21 Most Inspiring Women of 2021 by Vogue Australia.

Last September, Jonze presented an awe-inspiring demonstration at the BIGSOUND music conference, where she revealed that she’s an unwilling activist. Her inspirational spoken word performance and art installation received a standing ovation and only convinced attendees more of her creative genius.

“I came to art and music to break the cycle that had followed me my entire life. To be free. I never wanted to be an activist, but my art unburied my voice,” Jonze said through a voice-over. “When you’ve lost so much, there is little to lose. If I didn’t stand up, then what about those that couldn’t?”

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In a few weeks on Thursday 1 June at Vivid LIVE – the Sydney Opera House’s centrepiece contemporary music event, the only time of year that the iconic building gives over all of its venues to live music in a whole-of-house takeover – Lynch will host a new presentation, The Art Of Broken Pieces, which follows on from her spectacular BIGSOUND appearance. The performance is an Australian exclusive and commissioned by the Sydney Opera House.

“If I'm a bit scatterbrained, I'm sorry, you're my first human contact for a while, apart from my guitarist who's been coming over and making me food every day,” Lynch laughs from Sydney, hard at work preparing for Vivid.

Lynch reveals that initially, she thought The Art Of Broken Pieces would develop almost directly from BIGSOUND. “But when I looked at things, I realised that I needed to take a whole different approach,” she adds.

“It's going to have a similar arc to the BIGSOUND keynote and touch on stories that the BIGSOUND keynote told, but instead of telling you through words, we're going to show you through action and visuals and what you hear in music,” Lynch shares, with her team taking on a huge challenge to figure out how to ride the “fine line of high concept and being understood, but also giving room for interpretation”. Lynch and her hard-working team are looking for the grey area in between those conflicting hurdles.

“It's taking a lot of work, but I'm super excited,” she says. “We're still developing it slowly as time goes on. It’s developed in a different way to BIGSOUND – that was a platform where I had to deliver a keynote. I didn't really do that, but essentially, it still had the fundamentals of a keynote. And this time, I want to develop a performance art, film, music, fashion show, that hopefully can find other platforms around the world and be a night of theatre for everyone to enjoy in a whole different way.”

The title – The Art Of Broken Pieces – stems from the Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, which is the art form of repairing broken pottery by mending the pieces with lacquer and powdered gold. “Kintsugi is definitely not my concept,” Lynch laughs, “it's a centuries-old Japanese art of mending ceramics with liquid gold. [It’s about] embracing imperfection as part of the rich history of the objects, so it's something I've always resonated with growing up because it's about finding beauty in tragedy and having that be a part of your entire story.”

The concept of Kintsugi applies to The Art Of Broken Pieces, not just through the title, but as a way for Lynch to express her innermost thoughts and experiences. “It can be so hard to explain what I've gone through in my life; it's definitely not parallel to a lot of people's lives,” she admits. 

To Lynch, many of her experiences resemble broken pieces but when put together, tell an incredible story of how she got to the place she is now – as a musician, a visual artist, and an advocate.

“All of those things wouldn't have happened if I didn't go through tragedies in my life and use that energy to transform it into something else entirely,” Lynch continues. “The way I'm trying to piece this concept together is for people to allow themselves to escape in a moment and resonate with it in their own way.

“I'm not going to force people to understand my own story, but I hope people can find their own little stories within what I'm trying to express in my story, and allow themselves to just imagine, explore, and connect for a moment.” That’s why Lynch’s upcoming Vivid LIVE performance means so much to her, and why preparing for it is “a lot”.

“I think the reason why I'm really pouring my heart and soul into it is because there really aren’t that many platforms in Australia that allow an artist to intersect between live music, art, fashion, film, and visuals,” Lynch notes, feeling appreciative for the Sydney Opera House taking a risk on her as an artist. “That's why I'm working really hard. I'm trying to push boundaries on expectations, which the industry has put on me for many years.”

Pushing creative boundaries is also vital to Lynch, as she wants to create a whole new piece of performance art and a whole new genre that weaves together numerous forms of artistry. The sky is the limit. “My biggest stress at the moment is that I'm dreaming really big,” Lynch shares, admitting that she’s “very good” at stretching $1.

“But I'm really enjoying the creativity of this process,” she says. “It's been such a long time since I've been able to solely focus on my artistry, and I'm so grateful that Vivid and Sydney Opera House believe in me as an artist, and not just as an advocate, not just as a diversity quota but as a human being. They believe in me and in the whole picture. I'm really excited to prove that that risk was worth taking and put on an incredible show.”

What exactly can audiences at the Sydney Opera House expect from Jaguar Jonze? “You definitely can't walk in with expectations,” Lynch chuckles, pointing out that it’s not your ordinary live music gig. During her BIGSOUND keynote, she told her story through words and bent the expectations of what a keynote is, in that moment.

She explains, “This is completely different because the expectation is music and live gigs. I didn't want to tell my story through words, I wanted to tell my story through the music I've been writing and releasing, as well as the visuals that came out with that music and use performance art to help supplement the stories behind the lyrics, the melodies, and the arrangements.

“I'm going to be using another traditional Japanese art form, which is the shibari rope. I'll be using the shibari rope in a different way again for this performance, creating new works of film and existing artworks, but mainly, I'm going to be rearranging some of my music that has been released in the past and performing in a very different way,” she shares. 

In exciting news for Jaguar Jonze fans, Lynch will play a lot of the songs from her debut album, Bunny Mode, which she’s never actually performed before as they came from a very vulnerable moment in her life.

At Vivid LIVE, Lynch will reclaim her stories. “I'm still going through it – everything around the #MeToo movement and bringing awareness around safety in the music industry, for our vulnerable people, and then my own experience in that – I’ve never been able to perform those pieces because it was just too raw. This moment in the Sydney Opera House is to show that I've been able to repair myself with liquid gold, my broken pieces and reclaim my body, my voice and my power, and be able to tell these stories and sing these songs for the first time ever.

“I am scared, I get excited because I think I've always been vulnerable,” she admits. But having spent the last few years as an advocate, Lynch had no choice but to be extremely strong and carry herself with a thick skin “as I speak on behalf of hundreds of voices that have been hurt by this industry.”

As a result of that resolve and activism, Lynch hasn’t had the opportunity to tell her own personal story through advocacy. “I'm showcasing these songs because I wrote some of them straight after my sexual assault, and I didn't hear them again for years until I started putting the work together around Bunny Mode,” she says.

“And when I found them, it was just heartbreaking to hear myself many years back in a place that is so different to where I am now and what I've been able to overcome up until this point. I'm just ready to invite my audience and the people who have been there for me the whole time through this journey, and share that fragile story with them, grow from it and find the strength to accomplish and overcome more obstacles.”

It's been very difficult for Lynch to move on from the advocacy, “because I think people have a lot of respect for me as an advocate, but I'm not quite seen and understood as an artist yet,” she shares, ready and determined to find her place in the Australian music industry.

Through Vivid LIVE, Lynch will showcase her cultural contributions as an artist – proving that those contributions are just as valuable as her advocacy. “I’m going to tell my stories in the way that I entered the music industry to do in the first place, which is through my art. So, I’m gonna spend the year doing that.”

Jaguar Jonze will perform at Vivid LIVE at Sydney Opera House on Thursday, 1 June, fusing storytelling, provocative visuals, shibari rope art and intimate songs performed live for the very first time in her new art performance piece, The Art of Broken Pieces.