Could you tell us about the work you will be showing during this year's E17 Art Trail?
I will be presenting a Sound Map comprised of stories and interviews compiled from members of the community living along the Drive and Atlee Terrace. The map, essentially a simple graphic representation of the layout of buildings and neighbouring streets, will show different numbers corresponding to specific locations of importance to the stories of the area. Each number will represent a “Sound Track” in a “Track List” containing all the stories and interviews.
Members of the public will be able to either download the map and the “Track List” onto their personal sound systems or borrow a CD Walkman from the drawing shed’s project base LockUpNo11 on The Drive (where printed maps will also be available) on May 31st. People can either take a CD with the Track List or they can be guided through the download process.
As each person explores the map they will be able to reencounter the environment in a new way, by noticing things that we normally take for granted or through the stories of the people who live in the area. The stories and map will exist online after the Arts Trail is over so that visitors, as well as old and new residents, can access them for as long as they want, as many times as they want, for free. The drawing shed will be helping me launch this project through the LiveLunch taking place on 31st at which fellow artist Leena Chauhan and I will be showing participants how to make quesadillas (a simple Mexican snack).
How have you been preparing for this year's trail?
Over the last month I have been visiting the drawing shed’s project base and spending a couple of days at a time in Walthamstow to get myself acquainted with the area. I was commissioned by the drawing shed to make this work, and since I live in Bristol, I’ve had to travel over here a few times to get a sense of the place and meet the people who live here.
It’s been a very interesting process, particularly in engaging the public to take part and have a chat with me. At first it’s always difficult because nobody knows who you are, but eventually the right conversations start to happen. People have a myriad of stories to tell. I find there is always something interesting about how people see the world, which is what I have been trying to capture through my interviews. People share the most unexpected things, either about local history or their own experience of going through life, revealing a great richness in the oral history of the area.
Some of the sounds included in the Sound Map correspond to sounds that you can hear all around the area, specific bird calls, wind chimes, people’s music, the wind as it passes through the trees. Part of the process of working from LockUpNo11 has involved walking around and recording the sounds I can hear. We rarely have the time to simply walk around and listen to things, so I feel privileged to be able to share this world with the public.
I will be spending the next couple of weeks editing the sounds I have recorded and making sure that things online are clear so that the public knows what to do.
Could you tell us about an artist that particularly inspires you?
For this project I was greatly inspired by Daniel Meadows (www.photobus.co.uk). He is a British artist who, over the course of his life, has documented the stories of hundreds of people. I saw him speak at a conference and was struck by his commitment to listening to others but also by the way he aspired to capture true passion in people’s voices, by teasing out the real story they wanted to tell. This is a very difficult skill and listening to his work has made me both gain a lot of respect for him and think about my work in the community in different ways.
During the 70s he drove around the UK in a Double Decker bus that contained a small recording studio. In this way he was able to capture lifestyles and professions that are no longer around today. People felt relaxed around him and showed their true selves to him. Because of this there is a lot of sincerity and integrity in his work. I also like the way he works with photography and sound. We live in a world where everything is video, or just text or just photos. His slideshows with sound are very poignant because of the simplicity of the material. Strong images combined with honest interviews leave enough space for the mind to join up the dots and read between the lines. Video seldom does that because it gives away too much too quickly.
How does inhabiting a community like Walthamstow help your practice?
Even though I don’t live in Walthamstow, visiting the area regularly has given me a very different perspective of what it means to live in London. Through the project I have been able to experience the urban environment in a more relaxed and contemplative way, something that I don’t usually do in my own city. Therefore it has been an uplifting experience to be given the opportunity to walk around the area and make conscious notes of the things that would inspire me if I lived here, the details within the urban environment that would make me feel good and that I would love to highlight to others through my project.
What are you most looking forward to during the E17 Art Trail this year?
I’m looking forward to the drawing shed’s LiveLunch on 31 May. I think it will be a great event for the community but also a way in which people can get to know each other a little better and discover new things about their surroundings. I’m also excited and a little nervous about what local residents will make of the Sound Map and the way I’ve embedded the stories within the geography of the Estate.
For more information on the project and the LiveLunch event, visit www.thedrawingshed.org