I facilitated a workshop for Doctoral students and other guests at Brighton University as part of a two-day programme exploring Undisciplined Methods. Drawing on Lynda Barry and various other automatic writing, meditation and improvisation techniques, the workshop enabled 20+ people from a variety of academic and practice backgrounds to co-operatively create a large-scale drawing. The workshop allowed everyone to make marks in an uninhibited way, responding to the materials, the space and each other.
I’ve been looking for ways to get away from the page or screen with my writing, where it gets a bit precious and fiddly. Whilst in the Welsh hills, I thought I’d try out some ideas about text in landscapes. The results are below – it’s an interesting start but I’d love to get back out there and with some different materials and work at different scales. I used rolls of greaseproof paper for this, which was sturdy enough when wet, and pleasingly translucent under the water. It was too windy to try anything with the 16m poem I wrote out; this one-line piece was about 6m long and already quite unwieldy and fragile in the stiff mountain breeze.
Pictures almost entirely by the ever-patient Timothy Bird.
It’s been a noisy few weeks for me, as I sand and drill and build in my home. This experience of sound as something tangible, physical, is helping me form ideas for a new opera project with composer Stephen Bentley Klein and Tete-A-Tete. Looking at astronomer Annie Jump Cannon; whose life work was the cataloguing of over 300, 000 stars using spectroscopic photographs, we were struck by the isolated nature of her work, and the link between this and the severe hearing impairment she suffered.
Annie was born in 1864, and went deaf after a bout of scarlet fever at the age of about 20. She was studying physics at the time; an unusual occupation for a woman in the 1880’s. Did her deafness help her single-minded concentration as she spent four decades counting the stars?
I have also been looking at early hearing aid technology as research for the project. In the examples below, there are many objects that funnel or pour sound into the ear, but the ones that intrigue me most are the bone conductors. These convey sound- which is a vibration, a physical presence – into the body without needing the ears. These objects allow you to hear through you teeth. Sound is a made a sense of touch, a haptic hearing that requires the whole body. We will be harnessing this concept in our opera piece as we develop work that deaf and hearing audience members alike can appreciate.
This is a work in progress exploring London sounds that have become extinct. Using the language of civic monument or communication, I attempt to bring these elements of the past back to life in the imagination of the viewer. Ultimately, I would see this as a public artwork positioned on parliament hill alongside the extant panoramic guide to the buildings.