August 31, 2017

8.00 am: A somewhat later wake (the consequence of the early morning recording session) and start to the day. 9.00 am: I addressed the latest batch of PhD Fine Art drafts, which had dropped into my inbox yesterday. All my supervisees are within their deadlines. They’re an impressive bunch. The PhD Art History thesis that I’m external examining will require attention before the working week is out. 11.20 pm: A further inch forward on the ‘Memory’ collaboration front. The School of Art team and I need to arrange for training in dementia care before we can engage with members of the public suffering this disability.

I’ve a washing-line of Post-its beneath my computer screen:

These represent the ‘to-dos’ that orbit the central pre-occupations of my existence. Every so often, I attend to one. Too quickly, they’re replaced by another. One of the challenges of living is not so much the number of things we have to undertake as their complexity. Life is fundamentally bitty and disordered.

1.30 pm: Following a brief trip to the mothership, I settled to an afternoon in the studio, recalibrating the samples of ‘silence’ and continuing analogue to digital transfer. I’m drawn to sounds and music that cannot be readily explained in terms of their source. In other words, some audible phenomena are an enigma – appearing to have come from another place by some other means. Yesterday’s extracted ‘silences’ are a case in point. They’re filled with layers of small acoustic events and artefacts which, when extracted from their original context and repeated in a loop, are abstracted, unrecognisable, compelling, and vaguely unsettling to the ear. Comprehended thus, each ‘silence’ is a fullness of incident. They’re like small, abstract, monochrome paintings; (the visual memories evoked by sounds are always in black and white, for me):

I’d trained by ear to recognise the subtle noises embedded in audio recordings, when researching Electronic Voice Phenomena. In the otherwise impenetrable ‘surface’ of white noise, tape hiss, and the burble of digital bits, it’s contended, can be discerned the whispers and throaty exhalations, clicks and scratches, of the communicating, or otherwise still present, dead.

Audio recordings of the deceased have a poignancy which exceeds that of photographic portraits, in my opinion. Over the years, I’ve had the presence of mind to tape close relatives, who either died too early (for me) or lived too long after their ability to articulate had ceased. Sound is a time-based and kinetic sensation; recordings reanimate the dead. It’s as though they’re still speaking, but entirely deaf to the world from which they’d been cast off; still present, but beyond sight:

Throughout the afternoon, I processed the ‘silences’ by adjusting their time-span to whole numbers durations and multiple values: 1, 2, and 4 seconds. When looped, the samples can be repeated, stacked, and overlaid:

7.00 am: I continued with the process of transfer, while allowing my thoughts to take their own direction.

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