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MAKING DIGITAL ART
CASE STUDY 2
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THE MIXED LIFE OF AN AUDIO WORK

Jake Tilson
ROUGH NOTES USED DURING….

WMA TRAINING SESSIONS
commissioned and run by Film & Video Umbrella, London.

The session “Making Digital Art” was presented by Lucy Kimbell and Jake Tilson in 2002.

West Midlands Arts for curators/commissioners, managers, funders/planners, technicians and practitioners in that region. The programme is intended to increase overall awareness and understanding of artists’ digital media; to provide a forum for debate/networking/discussion; to encourage the production of new work and to develop audiences for digital art in the region.

Project: Hungerford Bridge, Tides and Trains.
Published audio work 1998-1999.
 

1 pre-publication

• a visit to Sweden

I was asked to participate in a music-arts event in Gothenberg by the jazz musician Biggi Vinkeloe and the artist Andrew Cowie. I’d worked with them before. They particularly wanted an audio work from me.
I had seen photos of the venue, Roda Sten, and knew where it was in Gothenberg. My idea was to find an equivalent location in London – record the sound there and play it back in Sweden.
Roda Sten sits beside the river underneath the Vsborgsbron road bridge in Gothenberg.

• digital audio

I took my digital audio tape recorder and Hi8 camcorder to record under various bridges in London. Hungerford Bridge gave the most interesting results. The water sound there seemed three-dimensional due to its stoney shoreline. People passing under the bridge echoed, adding to the 3-D effect and separating them from the sounds of the river.
The trains, unlike the monotonous traffic on the road bridges, formed a punctuation throughout the soundtrack.
Back in my studio the digital field recording was transferred onto quarter inch tape on an 8-track reel to reel. It was mixed on an analogue 12 track mixing desk back onto a digital audio tape master. This brief analogue treatment added  warmth to the overall sound. From the digital master I made an audio CD for exhibition use.
In advance of the Swedish event I sent ahead a selection of audio CDs. They had organised a recording session with the American musician Barre Phillips and the UK band Furt. Mysoundtracks were used as base tracks for part of their studio sessions  - which are now available on CD.

• a cold, abandoned, pump station  

Over the weekend event there were live performances by artists musicians and dancers.
There were 20 of us. From London, New York, Germany and Sweden. We wandered around the building in small groups looking for potential locations for individual works and places to stage collaborative works.
I used a portable CD player - placing different audio works in stairwells and rooms. Eventually I placed the Hungerford Bridge piece behind a pile of old timber and ladders in a small room. The room opened out onto the base of the main metal staircase that led to the upper floor. People would hear the work as they approached the stairs.

2 publication

• chance

Back in London what prompted me to publish Hungerford Bridge was some piggyback printing on offer. On many commercial offset litho print jobs there is excess space on the printed sheet – which normally gets thrown away. I always make use of this space. But I only had a few days to think of what to put on this particular spare space, and to design it. The space available was long and thin.
About 1500 sheets were printed. I produced an initial cassette run of 100. I think I’m on my fifth run now. I set a price of £6 retail.

•  self publication - Atlas

I’ve published my own work for 22 years – and also edited and published collaborative art-literary magazines called LAZA7 CIPHER and Atlas, from 1977 until 1994.
I used to edition these works in a demonstrative way, numbering and signing them– mainly because I couldn’t afford large print runs. I eventually made the decision to produce open-ended editions. I think it’s probably immoral to artificially limit a published work in order to give it a high price. I don’t see why an artists’ VHS video or audio CD should cost more than anything else at Tower Records.

• promote and distribute

As a Arts Council  fund receiver from and  arts&literary magazines grant - in 1984 I attended a seminar they organised on direct marketing. The chairman asked for a show of hands of publishers who included subscription info or other works available information within their publications. Out of 80 people only two put up their hands. I’m glad to say I was one of them. Maintaining communication with your existing audience is important. I produce a small Microwebsite that is advertised on the publication packaging itself – this expands the content and context of the work.

3 what happens next?

At this point a published work begins to have a life of its own and makes connections in unexpected ways.
People buy the cassettes in shops, order them online, or respond to a direct mailshot. I know of few of the unexpected uses that Hungerford Bridge have been put to:
It was used as the soundtrack to a film directed by Roger Elsgood about the artist John Freeman. He had written to me seeking approval to use my audio work after having bought the cassette in a bookshop.
Roger and I went on Greater London Radio on the Robert Elms show - we talked about our work and about the Hungerford foot bridges imminent destruction.

A friend heard it being played in an ambient room in a night club.

A shop in Kensington asked if I minded if they played it as background sound. It is also used in the design bookshop MAGMA.

The design team Rebecca & Mike Heath were exhibiting graphic design work by the late designer Barney Bubbles at Artomatic in London. They didn’t like the sound in the building so they asked me if they could use Hungerford Bridge to give the space a more positive feel.

I actually got to see and hear this usage of the work.
Collage has always been at the heart of what I do – so to have work go out there and be incorporated into other peoples work seems right.

   
London - 2002