I've been working this week in Newcastle city centre with the artists and collaborators of Skimstone Arts, run by Claire Webster Saaremets and Peter Saaremets. The project I'm working on is based on a concept that I've wanted to develop and realise for a few years now. This residency brings everything together in one place, with the right people and support.
The residency came about in response to an open theme 'What if?' I responded with 'What if we could hear ourselves as others hear us?' in which I sit with people from all backgrounds, age groups and so on, record our conversation, then play it back and record their comments, observations, (typically) discomfort, at the sound of their own voices. Of course playback through speakers, no matter how good the technology, isn't the same thing as others hearing us, but it's as good as it gets. The conversations and responses have allowed a range of themes to emerge, many of critical interest to myself and the artists at Skimstone. Discussions around identity, self-esteem, belonging, the voice as a marker of race and nationality, and social awareness have all come to the fore in most of the conversations, but so too have other interesting sub-plots. Of interest to me are the degrees of self-awareness of one's disembodied voice as sitting on the cusp between sound-as-sign and sound-as-sound. Language, expression and communication versus pure phenomenological perception.
With respect to technology I have to say that if anything can go wrong it will, the immutable law of McPherson (Murphy if you're Irish) holds true as ever. Devices change settings on their own. Files disappear, without any human mediation, then reappear somewhere else, defying physical laws.
And of course one of the biggest demolition jobs in the history of Newcastle's city centre is taking place right outside our window on Pilgrim Street as (what once was) the Odeon is being scooped up brick by brick into trucks and recycled. The redeeming feature here has been an excellent recording I made of one of these sonically rich operations from the third floor of the Commercial Union Building .