This is the first blog post connected to my residency and project. As the project title suggests, I am interested in the possibility of giving a space a voice or thinking about a space as a vocal system. In this first post maybe it’s worth giving some background to the project? This interest has come from a general preoccupation in my practice with scale and connection. I really started getting to grips with this during my PhD in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths where I did practice based research around scale on the internet, and how artists work with big and small in such a vast networked environment. I was especially interested in the small side of things, and the closest concept I could find to work with was retreat, so the research ended up being about where do you go on the internet if you, for whatever reason, don’t want to engage with the massive scale of it. This also tied into a particular scaling down of my life, socially and professionally, due to moving from London to Liverpool and kids coming along. 

a wireless mast made from branches in a forest

One of the key things that came from my PhD research is a relationship to situatedness, or how online locations can be tied to the physical spaces we inhabit. I got into making wireless hotspots of small-scale networks as artworks in unlikely locations, a forest, a train station, a gallery. Reading Donna Haraway’s Situated Knowledges essay was a revelation, and I liked the idea of making something that included where I was, and what I myself was tangled up in. When I popped out of the end of the PhD mill I was looking for a new space to explore, but for a while nothing was forthcoming. To remain ‘creatively engaged’ I started livestreaming audio, via Icecast, of some of the tasks that I had to do at home, washing school uniforms, doing dishes etc. at random times. This used a dormant platform that I had built for a performance at Bluecoat in Liverpool, where I livestreamed the sounds of the gallery and some of the objects used in exhibition making, flat screen TV’s, speakers, lights etc. Individually, these live broadcasts from home were pretty inconsequential, but I continued to do them alongside other projects, and cumulatively, something started to happen. I started to think about the sounds of the home, how I had to tease sounds out of domestic devices because they are designed to be quiet or silent, and how isolated we were as parents undertaking this caring and domestic labour. I used to announce the livestreams via Instagram, half-jokingly, with things like ‘live audio of a tap dripping into a bowl of dirty dishwater for the next 30 minutes’ and had some nice interactions, someone listening in asking ‘is it raining there?’ or ‘did you have burgers for tea?’ I began to enjoy the ridiculousness of it, how opposite the process was to the livestream Zoom calls I was part of at work, or the corporate entertainment livestreams of Netflix.

At first, I wanted to keep the sound ‘pure’, just the sound of the thing, the tap, the washing machine, etc. But this eventually grew boring so I started to introduce some guitar effects pedals and a mixer so I could begin to combine signals and process them a bit. This escalated and ended up with me getting the ironing board out, setting it up in the kitchen, connecting all manner of devices, and generally getting tangled up in cables to generate some quite peculiar sounds and stream them live. I did this for a while and, wary of becoming some sort of kitchen bound Jean-Michel Jarre, decided to take a break to decide where the work was going. I’ve struggled to define what these things are – are they performances? I don’t feel really like a performer. I'm not a musician. I don’t really want to be at the centre of this thing or control it, that’s not how our house works. The livestreams themselves were quite unpredictable, which I liked. The language of radio was useful, they were broadcasts, but with a washing machine as a co-host. This, usefully, led me to think about the sound that was being produced, what was it? Could it be more than noise? I looked for some definitions of voice and was excited to see that the human voice is the product of a system. Was our house a system too? Could it have a voice? And here we are. 

audio equipment on an ironing board

I am now three weeks into the residency and have done some really useful research and had some great conversations in the PMS. I have started a public page with links to stuff I have been looking at, and will talk more about that in my next post!