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Jaguar Jonze Is Breaking Out of the Silence She’s Been Held in for Too Long

The multi-faceted artist will tell her own story in her own inimitable way at Vivid LIVE

Jaguar Jonze Vivid LIVE Sydney Opera House

Supplied/Therese Hall

Of all the shows at this year’s Vivid LIVE, few sound as thrillingly thoughtful or physically visceral as Jaguar Jonze’s performance.

The Art of Broken Pieces is described as a “fusion of music, film shibari rope art and contemporary performance,” and will act as the artist’s “defiant reclamation of her body and artistic voice.” 

“Moving between the dangerous and the beautiful, Jonze looks at the intersection of life and art, blending storytelling, her known elevation of provocative visuals, and intimate songs performed live for the very first time,” the event description reads.

There’s a lot involved in The Art of Broken Pieces, put simply. And yet Jonze – aka Deena Lynch – had minimal time to prepare for it.

“We’ve only had two months to develop it,” she tells Rolling Stone AU/NZ one nervous week before the one-off performance. “It’s been just months but everyone on the team keeps saying how this is a show that should take years! We’re being really ambitious with this show and it’s felt like a full-time job for the last two months.” 

The monumental effort – the “blood, sweat and tears,” as Jonze puts it – will all be worth it in the end, because there are myriad special components involved in her endeavour. 

For the Taiwanese-Australian artist, who came to this country as a young child, performing at Sydney Opera House will be a landmark occasion. 

“It’s really emotional for me because it does really feel like a lifetime moment,” she says. “I had this map as a child where you had all these iconic destinations around Australia. I’m now going to have played two that I was obsessed with – I got to play at Wave Rock in WA and then the other is, of course, Sydney Opera House. It does feel absolutely surreal.”

In fact, Jonze has never even been inside the iconic Sydney Harbour venue as a visitor. “It’s my first time! I’m just excited to step foot in it,” she adds with a laugh. 

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Performing at Sydney Opera House for the first time is a rite of passage for all artists, which is one reason why Jonze has been exerting herself so much in preparing her performance. 

“I’m really trying to take this opportunity and push the creative boundaries of what a live music show can be,” she says. “Vivid and Sydney Opera House really believed in me as an artist. They wanted to give me a platform that doesn’t exist commonly in Australia. They wanted to support who I truly was as an artist.”

Having limited time, infrastructure, and finance proved difficult for the ambitious Jonze, but she always envisaged the pay-off. “I know it’ll be worth it because of the artistry and commitment and expression,” she explains. “I came into music and art in a desperation to be able to express myself freely so I find it liberating.”

When I ask Jonze if any of her family are coming to see her Sydney Opera House debut, she has a story at the ready. “My mum’s coming alone because I’m super occupied with the show and the rehearsals and trying to pull off such a big show.

“My mum is the most adorable, she doesn’t speak English fluently, doesn’t travel around Australia, she’s a proper Asian mother, Taiwanese mother, so I’ve asked a fan who’s also flying from the same city to escort her! They’re even staying at the same hotel! They’ve never even met each other.”

If one’s not careful, that’s the type of improbably cute story that would provoke dastardly looks in greedy Hollywood producers’ faces. However, a distinctive artist like Jonze, someone so protective of their own story and identity, would never be tempted.

Art-pop powerhouse, multimedia artist, groundbreaking activist: she’s worn many hats well recently, and remains one of this country’s most singularly visionary talents in 2023. 

Doing so much, though, comes with tribulations, and things haven’t always been easy for the 31-year-old, hence the name of her Vivid LIVE performance. 

The Art of Broken Pieces was largely inspired by Kintsugi, the centuries-old Japanese art of mending ceramics and, philosophically speaking, embracing repair and imperfection as part of the rich history of an object or life.

“My life has been a turbulent life,” Jonze says quietly. “It’s definitely made me the artist that I am today, who I am as a person. I think a lot of that character comes from my ethos in life to always fight and to rebuild. 

“When ceramics get smashed into pieces, they use liquid gold to mend it back together. It resonates with me as the symbolism of how I’ve treated my life.

“I should look at my life, when it’s smashed into pieces like ceramic pottery, and realise that I do have the option to use that liquid gold and put it back together again, and celebrate it as part of my rich history.” It sounds like a moving philosophy to have, particularly in these trying times. 

This performance is for her proud mum, her mum’s travelling companion, Australian audiences, but it’s also for Jonze herself. I’m using this show to feed the reminder back into me and see the beauty that can come from a lot of tragedy,” she adds.

Shibari rope art is also a key part of Jonze’s art piece, which is, to Jonze’s frustration, better known as bondage to most people. “It really is so far from that,” she counters. “It’s like whipped cream can be part of a really great cake recipe or something a bit more kinky.”

For Jonze the artist, Shibari is merely a way for her to fully express herself with her body. “It rides a fine line between vulnerability and control, strength and submission,” she continues. “It says so much in a simple, serene way.” After a moment, she adds: “But at the same time, it’s a method of torture. I think all of those juxtapositions really symbolise a lot of what life is about as well.”

The way Shibari is perceived by outsiders is also how Jonze sees herself as being viewed in the past. “I’m also someone who receives a lot of that – I’m often put into boxes. I hope people give this show a chance and see that there are many different ways one thing can exist in the world. We can’t put everything into boxes.”

Much has been made of Jonze’s widespread advocacy and activism in the last few years. At BIGSOUND last year, she unveiled a powerful multimedia performance (a clear precursor to her Vivid Sydney vision) that centred around Jonze finally being able to tell her life story outside of her activism. “I have power, I have a voice, I’ve found purpose,” she said pointedly during that performance. 

That’s why The Art of Broken Pieces matters so much, to Jonze and the Australian music industry as a whole. 

“Even though the show is very much still wrapped up in my advocacy, and it will always inform my art, I am so desperate to be able to exist freely and have a sustainable career as an artist in the Australian music industry,” she says. 

“That’s been taken away from me for so long. I want to be able to create and give cultural contributions back into the community. I really hope it resonates and connects with the people in the audience.”

Boundless thought, exhaustive preparation, weighty expectation: surely Jonze will need ample rest after her Vivid LIVE performance? “I’ll just start twiddling my thumbs,” she shouts down the phone but it’s clearly a joke. “I’d rather it was a five-night run. After Vivid, I’m going to head to Taiwan and the UK to write more music. I’m excited to step into my new chapter.”

More information about The Art of Broken Pieces can be found here.