Eight channel sound installation, 12 mins, 2019.
A work commissioned for a historic courthouse space, focussing on the ‘voice’ of 14 year old Ann Lupton, a defendant accused of shoplifting in 1853, the voices of her two co-defendants, and the disruptive shouting of the courtroom public gallery. The installation mixes spoken word with sung vocals, and in this case has a musical approach reminiscent of a collision between AG Cook’s shiny pop surfaces and a rowdy chorus made up of Men’s Choir Shouters of Finland. Ann’s hymn singing, shoplifting spirit has appeared to us via the stolen fragments of this work’s numerous sources (which include a Taylor Swift chord progression, a Jean Genet novel and a Victorian hymn), and on the way she seems to have picked up a liking for the idea of thieving – and for contemporary pop phrasings – as revolt and liberation. Her story builds to a disorderly evocation of some liberatory mischief involving a malfunctioning bellows organ. Commissioned by Ripon Museums Trust. Thanks to Moira Smith, Kath Beeken, Neive Zenner, Amelia Andrews and Highside Singers.
Six channel sound installation for large space, 7 minutes, 2012-2017.
A small child’s whispering voice is heard in the gallery space, along with dissonant noises and piano sounds. The child, as well as attempting to speak to ‘you’, the gallery visitor, is also, it seems, voicing over a film that we cannot see. The child haltingly reveals that the film may have been shown in the gallery sometime in the past. It contains a disturbing scene involving the death of the child’s pet stoat, seemingly staged by his father, the filmmaker. It seems that the child’s voice over has departed the body of the film to haunt the gallery: seeking someone, maybe ‘you’, to lay it to rest. Commissioned by Grundy Art Gallery. Thanks to Sean Rooney. A stereo version of the work appears on the Paul Rooney album Futile Exorcise on Owd Scrat Records.
Two screen video installation with stereo sound, 8 mins, 2010.
The footage on one screen is of the petrol station shot in 2001, on the other screen are the same views re-shot nine years later. The subtitles on each screen appear to be having a sardonic conversation with each other about fonts, the weather, the passing of time, music and silence, why an artist would want to re-make a video work nine years after making it, personal and artistic regret, and failure. Commissioned by Durham Art Gallery.
Purchased in 2015 by The Arts Council Collection.
Thin Air – The Psycho-Vocalic Discoveries of Alan Smithson
by Dr Annette Gomperts
Four channel sound installation for lecture theatre (with projected still images and accompanying book of lecture notes), 60 mins, 2009.
Belgian architectural historian Dr Annette Gomperts and her collaborator Paul Rooney have produced Thin Air: part academic lecture, part science-fiction story. Thin Air highlights the legacy of 1970s Leeds Polytechnic student Alan Smithson, who claimed that ‘voices’ he had recorded in the Polytechnic’s H Building were sonic manifestations of memories that had been somehow preserved in the electromagnetic ether of it’s rooms through a process which he called ‘site-anamnesis’. Smithson also asserted that the particularly radical and eventful — and ultimately tragic — history of the building had contributed to it’s facility for preserving and recalling the charged moments of remembrance. Commissioned by Sound and Music, Leeds Metropolitan University and MAAP. Thanks to Ron Crowcroft. Smithson’s recordings appear on the Alan Smithson and Annette Gomperts album Interference Zone on Owd Scrat Records.
Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine) review of the work.
Abi Bliss (Frieze magazine online) review of the work.
There Are Two Paths
Two-part performance installation work for purpose built stage and two five piece bands, 40 mins each performance, 2003.
Two groups of musicians alternating two verses from ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The verses are played by one band, then repeated by the other band but played and sung backwards. Then the verses are played forwards again … and so on. The ‘Satanic’ phonetic accidents of the reversed song make lines such as “there is power in Satan” audible. Following the initial performance of the piece in the Shropshire countryside, the work was next performed in a Birmingham city centre square (this video cuts between the two performances). The popular myths of guitarists selling their souls to the devil in order to play the blues like no-one else. The English need to obsess about a rural ideal to pretend that the selling of their souls to the ‘dark satanic mills’ of industrialisation never happened. Commissioned by Meadow Gallery/Ikon Gallery.
Six channel sound installation for three monitors, 2 mins looped, 2002.
A former resident of a Liverpool block of flats, which was about to be demolished, was asked to list the objects that filled three rooms in her former flat. This list was set to music and spoken and sung by a female voice, layered and harmonised with itself, which forms the soundtrack to static video shots of the same, now empty, rooms. The description of the hand made furniture made by the resident’s husband, who died just as they left the flat, forms the lyrics for the lead vocal harmony in the piece. The lead vocal is both a lament for a human relationship and for the soon to be demolished flats, and a claim for labour as its own memorial. Commissioned by Further Up in the Air. Thanks to Doreen Hughes and Marie Therese Escritt.
Purchased in 2015 by The Arts Council Collection.
John Schofield essay referencing the work.