Instructions for Humans - Day 12
I’ve been getting quite obsessed with Karen’s summaries of the recordings of my conversations with people in the gallery. It started as a way to deal with my terrible short term memory when I’d know I’d had an interesting chat but couldn’t remember what we’d talked about. By recording it I could, in theory, scrub through and make notes. In practice I didn’t have the inclination or time, but it turned out Karen did. At some point I’m going to properly explore why she’s enjoying summarising these fairly long recordings, but for now I’m just grateful.
What’s interesting about her work is it’s not transcription. She’s listening to a passage and then writing down what was talked about. Given the background noise and lack of visual cues she sometimes gets it “wrong” (or at least her writing doesn’t match my memory) and I find that really interesting as it reveals another level of interpretation is going on.
This show appears to be becoming about the communication of ideas and how media and context can shape, filter and emphasise those ideas. The recordings are a mediated version of what happened in the room, but they’re also being mediated through Karen’s understanding of what’s going on, which involves a lot of inference and assumption on her part.
So where’s the truth here? Does the truth matter? Do I need a truthful account? What do I even need these accounts for?
Karen’s work is now a tangible manifestation of the work I’ve been doing in the gallery. I can use that as a material to make new work with. And that’s what I plan to do.
I spent most of today going through the text editing it for public consumption. Removing cruft and personal information and just leaving the descriptions. The results look like this:
Living in her own bubble, Woman often wonders how others can have spun the interpretations they come up with. Pete notes a person coming from another perspective would wonder the same about her.
Woman mentions a young blonde woman who is on the right, She’s been watching her videos. She says a lot of people find this woman’s opinions legit. Pete mentions Trump. Woman says it’s often out of desperation that people turn to such individuals. Pete tells woman he would rather stay out of picking over the Trump victory right then and there.
Pete says he’s interested in confirmation bias, adds that people are welcome to come and read stuff from his library. Talks about fitting a new piece into a into a pre-existing puzzle. If the piece fits you accept it, but reject it if it doesn’t. The fitting is the confirmation bias.
These transcripts have a quality that is ever so slightly disconcerting. Maybe by trying to be objective, Karen has stumbled upon a the bureaucratic Orwellian surveillance style; my own personal Stasi, documenting the minutiae and presenting it in a deadpan, almost boring, manner. The disconcertion comes, I think, from the knowledge that it’s incomplete and the worry that someone coming it to fresh might not realise that because of the way it’s written.
Of course, the way it’s written is invaluable exactly because Karen has striven to keep herself out of it, but in doing so maybe she’s allowed something else in? The exact nature that something feels worthy of study.
I want to bring these transcripts back into the gallery somehow but simply printing them out doesn’t feel right. They need to be processed again. I’ve been getting my Mac to read them out in one of the machine voices with some success but will keep exploring. Maybe gallery visitors could record themselves reading passages?
Once they’ve been “verbalised” somehow I’ve been looking into parabolic speakers which focus the sound into one specific place. I like the idea of people drifting through the gallery and suddenly hearing a representation of a conversation that happened there previously. It feels… right.
Also of note today was a meeting with Emily Warner, one of my performers, where we nailed down the basics of what we’re going to be doing in November. We’ll be testing it on Thursday evening so I’ll report in more detail then. But suffice to say it currently involves tying her hands and torso to winches. Of course.