> WALKS > THE
MISSING VOICE: CASE STUDY B
VOICE: CASE STUDY B |
WALK | NEXT
Voice: Case Study B 1/11
I don’t really know what the stories in my walks are about.
Mostly they are a response to the location, almost as if the site
were a Rorschach test that I am interpreting. For me, The Missing
Voice was partly a response to living in a large city like London
for a while, reading about its history in quiet libraries, seeing
newspaper headlines as I walked by the new stands, overhearing gossip,
and being a solitary person lost amongst the masses. Normally, I
live in a small town in Canada, so the London experience enhanced
the paranoia that I think is common to a lot of people, especially
women, as they adjust to a strange city. I was trying to relate to
the listener the stream-of-consciousness scenarios that I constantly
invent in my mind when I see someone pass or walk down a dark alley.
It is one of my frustrations as well as entertainments to constantly
have these visions and voices, which are quite often scary or violent,
running through my brain as I encounter the simplest of realities.
I think it is a desire to dramatize my life, make it real by making
it cinematic – probably the result of reading too many detective
novels or watching too many movies. Part of the process for the piece
was to walk around and take notes on my mini voice recorder. While
listening to these notes again in my apartment I realized how this
voice became another woman, a character different from myself, a
com-panion of sorts. This voice also seemed to metaphorically represent
how we all have multiple personalities and voices. I saw the woman
in the story not only as alienated from her self, but also searching
for herself through this voice, play-acting, creating false dangers
and love affairs, wanting her story dramatized. At the same time,
her voiceover, the one that speaks in the third person, removes her
from the story, and keeps her at a safe distance.
sound of phone ringing, receptionist answering
Janet I’m standing
in the library with you, you can hear the turning of newspaper pages,
people talking softly. There’s a man standing beside me, he’s
looking in the crime section now. He reaches to pick up a book, opens
it, leafs through a few pages and puts it back on the shelf. He’s
wandering off to the right. Pick up the book he looked at … it’s
on the third shelf down. It’s called Dreams of Darkness, by Reginald
Hill. I’m opening it to page 88. ‘She set off back at a
brisk pace in a rutted and muddy lane, about a furlong from the house
she thought she heard a sound ahead of her. She paused. She could hear
nothing but her straining eyes caught a movement in the gloom. Someone
was approaching. A foot splashed in a puddle.
scary movie musicrises during
excerpt from book, girl screams, music fades out
Janet Sometimes when you
read things it seems like you’re remembering them. Close the
book. Put it back to where you found it. Go to the right. Walk past
the main desk. Through the turnstile.
sound of voices, conversations
Detective Man’s Voice,
British accent One of the librarians
recognized her from the photograph.
Janet Turn to the right,
Gunthorpe Street. A man just went into the side door of the pub.
sound of tape recorder being stopped, rewound, replayed
Janet recorded voice A man
just went into the side door of the pub.
sfx of recorder being stopped
Janet I’ve a long red
haired wig on now. I look like the woman in the picture. If he sees
me now he’ll recognize me.
Detective Found in her bag,
two cassette tapes with a receipt and a tape recorder ... As far
as I can tell she’s mapping different paths through the city.
I can’t seem to find a reason for the things she notices and
J vox recorded A
naked man is walking up the street towards me. He’s
walking as if he is sleeping, staring straight ahead. He walks past
me without seeing me. sound of recorded being stopped
Janet I dreamt last night that I was a soldier in a war who was sleeping,
dreaming a nightmare through his dream, I dreamt of a giant, white
polar bear covered in blood, chasing him down a gravel road. He dreamt
of a tea bag already spent, soaking in clear water. He dreamt of flying
over a vast forest. street sounds resume
the package a wig, beige scarf, a linen suit, and leather shoes.
Janet Go down the
stairs. I keep thinking the package that I sent to him, it was a sign
to tell him that she didn’t exist, that it was
over, but I have a sick feeling that somehow it has something to do
with her death. Keep going in the same direction.
started listening to her tapes at night in a darkened room. In the
morning I set her picture across from me, while I eat my breakfast.
Janet She’s getting on the train. He runs along the
platform. Just as it’s pulling out of the station, she sees his
face in the window and tries to hide. As the train picks up speed,
she turns her head to watch him fade into the distance. I have to leave
now. I wanted to walk you back to the library but there’s not
enough time. Please return the Discman as soon as possible. Goodbye. sound of Janet walking away
the city, you are in the company of strangers. Writing at the beginning
of the twentieth century in Berlin, Georg Simmel identified this
phenomenon as a central experience of the modern metropolis. “The
stranger is near and far at the same time,” Simmel noted, “one
who is close-by is remote [but] one who is remote is near.” London
was not a city Janet Cardiff knew well when she arrived in January
1998 to think about a possible work. The Missing Voice is Cardiff ’s
first work for a large modern metropolis. It is a work for a city
where everyone is a stranger – a city where people come to lose
themselves, or find themselves; a place where people go missing every
way Artangel develops projects is very open, so there was a bewildering
range of possibilities for Cardiff to consider. Perhaps the most
crucial issues were how and where the work would begin and end. Starting
in the Crime section of the Whitechapel Library, The Missing Voice
winds its way through the streets of Spitalfields and into the bustling
spaces of the City of London. It ends, quite abruptly, leaving the
listener alone amongst the crowd, in the public concourse of Liverpool
Street Station. Large numbers of people rush by or wait. The listener
is asked to head back to the library, this time without the companionship
of the voice guiding his or her steps. The question of how to end
her narratives is always a complex one for Cardiff, and the ending
of The Missing Voice marks a particularly brave and open resolution.
aspect of the work which we frequently discussed was its duration.
We were both interested to see what might be possible if the length
of the experience could be extended. It was not, as the walks at
the Louisiana Museum or in Münster or São Paolo had been,
part of a large exhibition or connected to a museum. It would be
out there, in the city, on its own. When the editing was complete,
The Missing Voice was significantly longer than any walk Cardiff
had previously completed. This allowed for different layers of narrative
to unfold and for the city itself to become a central character.
The female narrator is featured in two guises – as a voice guiding
you through the present, and as a recording that recounts personal
and civic traumas. The tape of the recording is now in the hands
of somebody else, a detective trying to reconstruct the missing person’s
movements and her motives. A male voice occasionally emerges – perhaps
the lover of the narrator? Who has gone missing, and why? Is she
really missing or has she deliberately disappeared? Did we see her
rushing by? The various voices entangle with the city through which
walk takes us – a
city which, as the narrator tells us, “is infinite. No-one has
ever found an end to the pattern of streets."
Near the end
of the editing phase, which took several weeks, I had some concern
that some of the particular details the narrator was describing would
not be there for very long. When the work was ready, I realized this
was not an issue. Conceived for, made for, and experienced within
a particular part of a particular city, Janet Cardiff ’s walks
paradoxically thrive on the disjuncture between what is being heard
or described and what is being seen. After five years and some 20,000
other participants, I just borrowed The Missing Voice from Whitechapel
Library again. The disjunctures have become gradually more pronounced,
but the work holds together just as well. I won-der now what the
experience of the work will be like in a hundred years’ time.
There will be no library, no lime green Ford Capri, maybe there will
be no railway station. Perhaps the station will, as the recorded
voice describes, be “empty … blackness
and rubble everywhere … holes in the glass roof.” But I
imagine the city will still be there, full of strangers. And the
desire to disappear will be there too.
|***The tracks must be listened with headphones for the full
Audio walk, 50 minutes
Commissioned and produced by Artangel. Whitechapel Library to Liverpool Street