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The Eavesdropper

Aaron Williamson is currently artist in residence at the Walker Art Gallery and is using his time to ‘eavesdrop’ upon the paintings in the collection.

This ‘eavesdropping’ will result in performance-based interventions taking place in the gallery on 15, 16, 17 November.

“As a deaf person, it seems to me that the Walker’s Victorian art collection is vibrantly alive with whispers and questions, taunts and sayings: the mutterings against the silence of tight-lipped Victorian society. I want to listen to the collection, imaginatively, and use this research as the source of an entirely fictitious new interpretation of the paintings.” – Aaron Williamson

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The Hearing Test

The Hearing Test is a developing online residency between the composer and writer Ailís Ní Ríain and the creative technologist and artist Andrea Pazos. Both artists are hearing impaired and have been using their personal experience of hearing loss to develop this new web-based art project which asks users to take an online hearing test with a difference while questioning their perception of hearing impairment and deafness in contemporary life.

Jupiter Artland

We visited Jupiter Artland to test the new recorded descriptive tour before it opens to the public in May.  Diana, the education officer, recorded the tour following live tests with Artlink members last year.  Diana quite naturally described works, with some lovely visceral comaprisons.  She describes Anish Kappor’s Suck as the feeling you get when your heel catches in the bath plug as the water drains away.

On this tour we used Artlink’s portable FM loop system to broadcast the tour.  I held and controlled the only MP3 player and everyone listening had a receiver.  A simple box with a volume control, easy to use and no fiddly buttons.  as a group we walked round the artworks and listened to the recording.  this helped us focus on the content rather than the recording.

The tour will be available on handsets along with information from the artists and fictional stories by children in response to the artworks.  Hope fully the tours will work well for visitors to Jupiter Artland.  Follwoing feedback, the tour will be re-recorded for next year.  The group suggested a few improvements and tweaks but these were described as minor.

MP3 players

MP3 players, which i thought might by a bit fiddly, failed to work taking up a lot of time and causing frustration.  As a result I didn’t properly explain the contaent and there was confusion as to when to stop listening.  We didn’t listen as a group but individually at different times.  In future leader should be seperate role from dealing with anything technical, this way delivery should be less affected by any hitches.

The next event at Jupiter Artland is also with MP3 players, so a chance to try to make this run smoothly.  Next time – better explanations, have all the same players, use splitter cable for headphones so 2 people can share and listen together.  It would also be easier to use MP3 players with screens so its easy to check whats going on.  the players used by Poor Boy had a hold feature, allowing only volume control, which ws useful.

Sound art at Cramond

A cold and windy day at Cramond to listen to site specific sound and fiction pieces on Mp3 playres.  The sounds sparked some memories but we were too uncomfortable to listen carefully.

We abandoned the walk early and headed for welcome hot drinks.  We discussed the possibility of having sound equipment that would enable everyone to listen to same thing t same time with a central control.  Perhaps using the fm loop or ADA hire equipment.  However we decided if its a group experience, it may be best to have a live guide.  Not only is this easier but there is also more discussion, it is more direct and lively.  A recorded tour would have benefits as it would be flexible, enabling people to listen at convenience.  However best suited to 1or 2 people together.  Simple equipment, keeping hands free would be best such as the Playbutton.

“One of life’s good little experiments”

We have been working on this project for some time now.  This trip didn’t go to plan but it felt that we were trying something together that was part of an exploration, developing ideas for the project.  This realisation felt positive about the project and everyone’s involvement.

Things going wrong produced useful learning points, we realised the decisions we need to make and people offered to take more responsibility, such as bringing their own equipment.

you need a destination but be flexible about how you get there

you need a leader but open and encouraging input

take time to understand different perspectives and notice the overlooked

the destination is not an end point but a pause, time to reflect, share and discuss

each walk is part of a longer jouney, drifting may happen between these

there are different ways to take part and influence

A quote from Jerom Bruner that for me sums up the afternoon:

“There is something antic about creating although the enterprise by serious.”

Bruner defines creativity as an act that produces effective surprise.

Along the (L)edge

A walk with artist Anthony Schrag along Portobello Prom, finishing with hot chocolate on the beach around a bon fire.

Along the way we learnt about the inquisitive, surreal and political practices of walking.  We discussed the idea of drifting, of being led by the walk without a final destination.   Led by Anthony we drifted through many topics and heard a few tales.  It was March, in Scotland, by the sea, there was chittering and chattering and a warm atmosphere.

Going on a guided walk, ending at a fire with hot chocolate led to many questions about creativity and participation more generally.  We discussed the idea of drifting, not knowing, within one journey but also the creative process in general.  Alan said “wandering” is necessay, Martin its exciting.

There was also a feeling, that there is a need for structure, parameters and for some one to take the lead; other wise we would have been freezing and without hot chocolat.  There can still be choice within the structure and a project as a whole drifts with different ways to shape it at different points.

What I took from the group discusison is the process is important and lets not be too set on where we’re going or how we get there, but you need to get somewhere.  There’s a need to to get to the fire, to gather, pause and share ideas. These opportunities are important to the idea of adoption and ultimately making a wider cultural contribution.

You can hear an extract from the walk and group discussion here: