Amber Goodwyn

Amber Goodwyn translated her album into a science fiction musical.
2 min read

When multidisciplinary artist Amber Goodwyn (a.k.a. Natural Sympathies) was writing her latest sequence of songs, it made sense for her to name the resulting album Porous.

“Porous refers to the sense of being transparent or sensitive or open to communication. In the period of writing these songs, world leadership changed, my mother died, I was raising a small child, and I was pushing my art practice to do things that scare me. Porous album coverThose things made me feel very porous,” she says. “It’s like a mesh grocery bag. It looks fragile, but there’s a strength in the porousness, an ability to expand to hold more experiences. The songs were coming from the feelings of sadness, betrayal, joy, strength and change that come with being a caregiver and trying to become an uninhibited artist.”

Goodwyn received an Independent Artists grant in 2017 to write the songs and another grant in 2019 to translate the album into “an episodic, experimental feminist science fiction musical” with the help of eight filmmakers and 25 collaborators in total. Goodwyn served as composer, producer, supervising editor and lead actor.

The film, also named Porous, is a story about an extraterrestrial named Natural Sympathies whose spaceship crashes on Earth and her journey to fix it before ultimately discovering that she has everything she needs and wants (a safe and loving community) right where she landed. “The film presents a universal allegory about the importance of building community to heal personal and cultural hurts.”

Amber GoodwynEach filmmaker directed a segment that was sequenced together to construct the greater narrative. They worked separately and made their section of the story their own, reflecting the aesthetics of their filmmaking practices, which included paper animation and 16 mm photography.

“We were not going for traditional narrative logic. We were playing with dream logic and a poetic sensibility. Some of the filmmakers are quite abstract or experimental in their approaches, and I felt that suited the nature of the songs and the project,” Goodwyn notes. “I’ve always been really excited by juxtaposition in any medium, so I sequenced the filmmakers and songs with an eye on how they might play off each other.”

The film segments were rolled out online, one per day, with the completed work released on the final day. Plans are in development to tour the film with a live musical component and submit it to film and music festivals.

“Many people have told me that they feel inspired by the project and have started working on new projects of their own or taking their music or other work more seriously,” Goodwyn says. “It’s a pretty over-the-top, ambitious musical. It felt like ‘serious playtime’ for all of us making it. The hutzpah was contagious.”

Photos of Amber Goodwyn by Gina Brass