Justene Williams – Sounds Absurd


This activity leads students through a process of reinterpreting other peoples ideas and expressions to build an abstract and possibly absurd performance.

In A Metal Cry (2017), Justene Williams combines painting, sculpture and a customised piano with a performance by musicians, dancers, singers, and a gymnast. Follow the steps to create your own experimental performance. This activity works best in groups of three.


  1. Form groups of 3 (or 4 if this is not possible).
  2. Mime the action of playing an instrument – this can be a real or imaginary instrument and can be as performative and theatrical as you like. Perform and teach your mime to the other students in your group.
  3. Choose a mime from someone else in your group. Imagine what kind of sound could go with the mimed action e.g. a high pitched noise made using your mouth, or percussive sounds created with your body. Perform your sound to each other in the group.
  4. Choose the sound from another student in the group. Listen to the sound and imagine what the instrument might be that is creating this sound. Create a costume version of this instrument using cardboard, sticky tape and string. It could be a real instrument or a completely imaginary one. The costume could be as realistic or ridiculous as you like.
  5. Join together with your group to create a performance using the costumes, the sounds and mimes you have all created. You could film this performance using an iPad or camera.



  • Williams is inspired by the Dada movement. Do some research about the Dadaists and find one artwork or performance from this movement. Can you find similarities to Williams’s work in the ideas or in how it looks?



You will need

  • iPad, iPhone or camera.
  • Lightweight paper e.g. butchers paper, tissue paper or crepe paper.
  • Sticky tape


  • What was it like to reinterpret other people’s ideas? What was it like to have your own ideas reinterpreted?
  • Did your performance seem silly or absurd?