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A Feminist Sound System


Laura Marsh is a feminist sound system builder, conceptual object maker, and sound and installation artist. Very recently she also became a mum.


Growing up in Dunedin and Wanaka, Laura could often be found dancing around the lounge with her walkman in hand. 1989 was a formative year with Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and Redhead Kingpin hitting the charts - Laura Marsh had found American hip hop.


Laura studied film at Ilam in Christchurch whilst also putting in a healthy effort maintaining her status as a snowboarding and surf bum. It was then that she got her first taste of DJing, with hours upon hours of hangs n’ jams at a friend’s flat with a resident set of turntables and yet another friend’s collection of 90’s hip hop records.


Upon graduating from Ilam she moved to the North Island, to join the ‘film industry circus’ in Auckland, finding herself working on American turn around TV.


Living with DJs it was only a matter of time before Laura learnt that one could get paid 80 bucks an hour to play records for other people. With that valuable piece of information in hand she hit the secondhand shops to expand her fledgling 80’s vinyl collection, found herself a couple of party slots and excitingly, a way to fund a transition from working in film to ‘being an artist’.


In 2009 Laura enrolled to do her Masters in Art and Design at AUT. Her Masters Project ‘The Trouble With Being A Proud Pākehā’ spoke to the culture shock she had experienced moving from the South Island to Auckland, and the troubles inherent in claiming one’s white ethnicity.


While Laura had spent her life ‘making’, she was ready to ‘make’ with deeper ideas to inform and shape her practices, which were many and varied. She has a lot of good things to say about the AUT Art and Design School, with its amazing facilities, contemporary approach and openness and support for its students.


While in Auckland Laura started the radio show ‘The Lushelection’ on Base Fm, which kept going for ten years and became somewhat of a breeding ground and point of connection for female DJs, who Laura had come to realise were few and far between.


A three-month art residency in an ‘arts town of 3 million’ in Java, Indonesia supplied Laura with another culture shock to fuel her creative direction. Some of the projects she initiated there would feed into the PHD proposal that she submitted upon her return to Auckland. One of these projects was a women’s only dance club, for which she hired a big sound system for one night in order that local women could freely enjoy low frequency music in a safe environment.


Laura’s PHD thesis focused on the creation of women prominent spaces, to support greater gender diversity in what have traditionally been strongly male dominated and masculine environments; the DJ and bass-music scenes.


The benefits associated with growing up in a family of engineers became evident once it became clear that she was going to build a feminist sound system by hand for her PhD. The result is ninthWavesound - a sound system which ultimately is about enabling everyone the pleasure and the benefits of experiencing low frequency music, in a free space that everyone can feel comfortable in.


NinthWave has been the soundsystem in Wendy’s Wellness tent for the last two Splore festivals and was the system for the electronic stage at the Earthbeat Festival last year, with Laura curating the stage’s lineup, getting a few more female DJs behind the decks.


Laura Marsh is pretty stoked to have landed in the Tairāwhiti at this point in her life and is excited to get amongst some community projects, to collaborate and see what happens when women move into a space of ownership around sound making. Laura’s aspiration for ninthWavesound is as a safe space for people to find their way into sound, and to feel it.


While she is currently navigating the early days of parenthood Laura looks forward to hearing from people interested in collaborating with workshops, listening, dancing and sound healing events, and rangatahi-based events…anything involving sound, inclusivity and requiring a kick-ass sound system!


You can listen your way through Laura’s old radio shows and mixes on mixcloud.com/djlauralush, connect on instagram @ninthwavesound and check out her art or connect with a sound collaboration idea at lauramarshartist.nz


Image credit: Brett Crockett

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