Interlude and Film Series
These pieces were created during the first lockdown in response to the covid-19 pandemic, which started in March 2020.
Like many people, I was sent home from my place of work indefinitely during this period. Boredom did not, and does not, bother me that much, and I found this a calming period, despite all that was going on at the time. Weeks went by quickly, days seemed to merge into one, and I spent a lot of time in my room watching films, playing games, reading etc. I was, however, frustrated that I could not, nor did I feel safe to, leave the house to realize soundwalking pieces or create new projects – I had finished borders #2 by this point, and was starting to create the ideas and scores that would later become borders #3. Since these new pieces were scores for walking on the edge of town, I felt that these pieces were becoming irrelevant, and with the simultaneously clear and unclear government advice (and excessive doom-and-gloom of media coverage, and general public confusion and worry), I found it difficult to put this new project into practice, so I decided to put it on hold. There were projects by other artists at the time who were recording the soundscapes during this country-wide lockdown, many recordings of which can be found on sites such as Radio Aporee. Since I did not feel entirely safe, I chose not to participate in recording the sound of lockdown, however I did notice changes within the sound environment – the constant drone from the A303, which can be heard from nearly any point in Andover, was quiet and muted, and sometimes seemed completely absent. I wouldn't say I entirely 'missed' this keynote sound, which has always been a frequent motif of realising borders pieces, at least up to this point, but after the sound of traffic slowly crawled its way back into the consciousness after the first month or so of lockdown, I did miss the quiet and relative stillness of the town's soundscape.
As my projects so far largely consisted of walking through outdoor environments, I realized I had to adapt to this massive, global change. Stripping my thoughts back to the bare essential themes of the research project, liminality, outsiderness and solitude, I started to think about pieces to do in the home. I had two pieces in borders #1 that could be realized at home, one of them specifically for home use. The piece standing in an open doorway... seemed like a good jumping off point for development. As walking was now a major part of my practical work, I started to create what I thought of as the 'sister piece' to standing in an open doorway..., which consisted of simply walking through doorways and into different rooms, listening to the changing sound spaces of each room. This new piece was a blend of the aforementioned one, and a kind of microcosm of the pieces that consisted of walking from urban to rural environments, albeit in an internal, restricted environment.
With this new piece, the aim was to bring the theme of liminality, crossing borders and change within the home. This piece was partly inspired by Georges Perec's Species of Spaces, in which he describes the mundanity of such homely spaces and rooms. I hope with this new piece I made it open enough so anyone can attempt it in their own homes – every room is different, and every home is different. Each realisation, like most of the scores for borders so far, would be unique to the person realizing the piece - unique to their homes, and unique to their experiences. The intention of the score is for the performer to listen to the home and to become aware and attend to this environment and its spaces – the ultimate mundanity, the almost absolute definition of 'the everyday' – in a different and engaging way.
The second piece written during this period was the simply titled window scene. Since I spent a lot of time in my room during the lockdown period, I got very used to the view from the window. I had not long moved into this new second-floor flat; in fact, I moved in just a couple of weeks before lockdown began. Attempting to adapt to the situation, and trying to think of new ways to explore liminality from this restricted position, I was beginning to get interested in potentially new ways of listening, in the context of my own previous work, which could be accessible to anyone. During this period, I spent plenty of time looking through my bedroom window, and understood that a lot of the population was doing the same – I imagined that during the period when lockdown was in full swing, many people got very familiar with the images that their windows framed and presented. Restricted by these new limitations, this was an attempt to bring the outside in, suggesting towards the idea of imagining soundscapes. If certain soundscapes could not be experienced, due to restrictions such as the lockdown, I came to the idea that everyday images could encourage imagined soundscapes. This was the principal idea behind this piece – another 'home' piece from which the soundworld was created in the imagination of the listener/performer – imagination as an area that could not be limited by the situation.
The concept of liminality here is presented by two aspects: the physicality of the windowpane itself, separating the internal and external environments, and the connection between the real world and the imagined.
This project was developed from window scene, when I attempted to record a realization of the piece, by simply filming the window frame from my bedroom. This idea came from that realization, by filming static, silent shots of scenes from which the soundworlds could be realized in the imagination of the viewer. These films are intended to be visual scores from which the viewer creates the soundworld.
These films were made mostly, but not exclusively, in edgeland environments. I attempted to find and frame scenes which were a little mysterious and which lie on the edge of the everyday, except for one which takes place in a suburb. The first film was taken at the southern underpass near the western entrance to Ladies Walk; this underpass has been a frequent point of focus for myself when beginning new projects – although it's slightly beyond the last houses and suburbs, I see it as the last frontier of the town before moving into the countryside proper. It is a typical edgeland location, the underpass itself is unkempt and grubby; the brown/grey walls are sparsely-yet-sporadically covered in druggy, rough graffiti, and the ground underneath is an old gravel track that consists of dirty, dull mud. The sound environment is a typical edgeland soundworld – loud, constant traffic, from the trunk road overhead.
The framing of this first film is a close up of the edge of the underpass concrete wall in the left half of the frame, and the right half is the bank that leads up to the road, out-of-focus. The idea for this framing was to lend an air of mystery to the location and the potential soundworld, for the viewer to hopefully question the environment and lend an openness to the potential imagined sound experience(s). Obviously the trunk road is out of frame, however the dirty brown of the wall and foliage of the bank heavily suggest the edgeland-ness of the location. I think of this film as the most challenging visual score of the film series, and the films that followed contain and hint at more visual information for sounds and soundworlds to be imagined.
The films that followed shared the same framing techniques, attempting to hint at the environment without totally giving everything away. These include: a shot overlooking the town from a hillside, where the town is largely obscured by the tall grass, the lower-leg of a pylon, backgrounded by unkempt edgeland trees (in light rain), a train line through a high metal fence – a train never appears, hinting at a tension and absence – and a simple shot of a suburban street. I hoped that these films presented a variety of different imagined sound experiences, however I struggled to settle with idea of the project – I found that the actualisation of the idea was not perfect, finding it challenging to film what I wanted to get across; I felt like I was running out of ideas for films quickly, and from feeling nervous with being outside during the heart of the lockdown period, I decided to end the project (for now at least) with ten films. I realised that borders was more to do with walking and listening through different environments.
I consider window piece and the film series to be an offshoot of borders; they are related to the project in terms of certain themes, mainly liminality, but the focus of the project in terms of experience is walking and listening - a more active participation and moving through and exploring place and space. At the time of writing, the world is still deeply unsettled and trying to adapt to the covid-19 pandemic; not only do we need to change habits in a societal sense, but also individually – the act of walking through different environments may become more challenging, and I wonder what shapes future projects may take.