I’m preparing a piece of video for the performance on thursday evening. Every ten minutes I film for two. However hard I try, I always end up producing some Heath Robinson setup for filming: bits of cardboard precariously balance to block out reflections! A bit embarrassing, since the gallery is right next to the photography department here at the University of Gloucestershire with its professional studios. Oh well! I have no idea how long it is going to take for this piece of chalk to dissolve away, but in the meantime the gallery is nicely filling up with the smell of vinegar.
Today I am experimenting with a computerised reading voice to turn some of the highlighted text into sound. Let me introduce Oliver, the name of the voice that I am using. I like the way that he misreads some of the words, so I have to respell them in such a way that he reads them correctly; also how his pacing is completely wonky. What is missing is breath. I am placing hyphens all over the place just to give him the chance to catch his breath and pause between two words, rather than slurring them into some ungodly conglomerate. I am not surprised: just like any of the technologies that I use, each one has its own quirks and you end up doing pretty non-sensical things just to get something usable out in the end. Breath Oliver!
It was one of those days: Tadek’s car blew up so he couldn’t make it, so I had to get on on my own. I’ve started to put together some structure to the score, and it looks like there are going to be five different elements: computerised voice (called Oliver), prerecorded sounds, live ‘foley’ sounds, speaking voice and live looped flute (oh, not to forget the visuals). Well, we see if I can get all this together in time. Next need to film those CO2 bubbles.
This morning Tadek and I have been working on the ‘Score for a Flautist‘, getting our heads around the loop station (on the floor with the green lights) with which we can layer sounds into a complex soundscape. It’s new territory for me, allowing music into my work. It can be so seductive. So I am trying to work out the right balance of music and other sounds, such as the voice of Thomas Henry Huxley, whose words are highlighted in blue on the wall. Well, a few days to go yet before the performance: exciting times!
This morning I am listening to the bubbles produced when chalk is dissolved in vinegar (malt vinegar, Sainsburys). Yes, you may well ask! It is the sound of carbon dioxide being released back into the atmosphere, reversing a reaction that took place millions of years ago when small marine plankton extracted CO2 to make their ‘shells’, which subsequently became chalk. So, you might say that I am listening in on the Cretaceous (66–145 million years ago).
Today I’m setting up for the show in The Hardwick Gallery. This is the second time in the past few months that I have relocated by studio into a gallery for a short period; and I’m finding it a good way of working. Bringing all the different elements together – drawings, materials, videos – here in the clean and clear space of the gallery, gives me the freedom to think and work that is just not possible in the studio. Too many established habits there! It’s strange: for so long I have shied away from the gallery environment exactly because of it ‘white cube’ effect, of its isolation from the world outside. Now, it is just that artificiality which I am after. The next couple of weeks I am working here with sound/music, in collaboration with the flautist Tadek. Just with that in mind, the most solid of objects seem to vibrate, fluctuate, become fluid. Looking at this flint, it is moving, turning into something else, just so slowly that I can’t see it. But then isn’t that the nature of fluidity; as much to do with the timeframe you are working with as to do with the material itself – my slow is a geologist’s fast.
So, yes, I am really happy to be able to confirm that the talk-performance with Tadek is going ahead on Thursday 17th! We have just met in the gallery to test out the acoustics, and started the collaboration. The two week exhibition/residency at the Hardwick Gallery is in preparation for this event. So if you can make it to Cheltenham on that evening then it would be great to see you.