THE BODY ELECTRIC//LOST THOUGHTS is an experimental sound piece made in collaboration with Aberdeen based producer drymouth.
The writing created during this experience of living through a plague became dark, introspective, yet also hopeful. In many ways there was inherent tension for me throughout the year. It was more than just our shared experience of living through lockdowns, fear, the terrifying numbers in the newspapers. There was an inherent tension, a shift for me too - every part of my life began to shift and change in a fluid way just before the very first lockdown, and is now unrecognisable. These pieces of writing served almost as a reflective diary of this experience of shift and change on a deeply personal level, set against the background of "unprecedented" shift and change in the world at large around me.
Some of the pieces of writing made their way into hand-bound artist's books, made of handmade paper and typed on a manual typewriter. But this felt dissatisfying - whilst it was wonderful to have these one-off, handmade codexes full of this hard-earned wisdom and lessons of this period of shift and change, it felt like it didn't fit in with the background of the pandemic. My entire life was now digital - online calls, online classes, online online online. Even online nightclubs, and I desperately missed the dark, sticky floored nightclubs I had spent months and months before the pandemic photographing.
Enter drymouth - I floated the idea of creating an electronic, dark, noise-inspired sound work from this writing. The intimate, confessional style of the writing felt like it absolutely shouldn't belong with an electronic soundscape, yet somehow it also felt right that they would be set against something dark and terrifying and industrial. A roar of a big machine, if you will. I recorded myself speaking aloud my writing and handed those sound files over to the producer - and in the spirit of true collaboration, I provided only my rough concept sketches for the singles covers, and the recordings of myself reading my writing. I left everything else up to him.
To me; everything about this work represents tension. There's the tension between my past and current self; the sense I do not relate to the person I was even a few months ago who wrote these pieces. The tension between the style of the writing and the style of the sounds that accompanies it. And on a personal level - the tension between myself and the producer, who did not know the version of myself who wrote these things many months ago; and yet now knows them intimately through producing these tracks. And the obvious tension - the written work was composed by a woman; the sound was composed by a man.
I recommend grabbing some good headphones, turning the volume up, closing the curtains and going on a creepy little soundscape journey whilst listening to this piece.
101 IDEAS FOR A NEW TOWN is an absurdist response to my time spent in lockdown in my hometown of Livingston. For those not in the know; Livingston was a result of the UK government's post-war New Towns Act. It was suppose to be a haven to get people out of the rapidly deteriorating "slums" of the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow; offering "nicer" houses, "child friendly" layouts to avoid road traffic accidents; ease of commuting with industrial estates built around the town. Of course; like most other towns built under the New Towns Act, it is plagued with the same problems. The "slums" of the tenements were really vertical villages (to quote Sir Billy Connolly), and that sense of community vanished. Anti-social behaviour, vandalism and other social problems plague the town. I left when I was 18 and the COVID lockdowns were the longest I had spent continuously in my hometown since then. It raised lots of internal conflicts for me - I was badly bullied in my hometown, I have more unhappy than happy memories of the place; being trapped there unable to leave was difficult. And yet, more than the old sadness, I was overwhelmed by how boring everything was. The houses were all the same design; there was very little nature; even the river was tainted by sewage being poured into it everyday. My response was to write about the New Town I would build, if I was the person put in charge of a new New Towns Act. It's an absurdist manifesto; an answer to the oh-so-boring and oh-so-British and grey and repetitive new town I was writing from. 101 IDEAS FOR A NEW TOWN includes some proposals that are actually possible; and many that are impossible. Yet I hope that it encourages us to think a little more about what a New Town could be.