Archive, an audio-walk
Central House, Whitechapel High Street, London, 2011
A display case at the entrance of the Cass exhibits old prospectuses & photographs and forms the point of departure for an audio-walk.
During the audio-walk, a whispering voice guides the viewer through the building, opening up an alternative world of the semi-fictional past. In a silent computer suite, a picture is painted – in sound – of a bustling canteen. A deserted studio becomes a pre-computerised library is full of books, pot plants and chatty staff. The intimate guiding voice is interwoven with radio news, music, abstract sounds of life, as extracts from prospectuses are read, and anecdotes are told.
This collision of sounds, juxtaposes fact and fiction, present and past, blurring different possible events in the life of the institution from when it was built in 1965 to the present. Archive rejects the linear time of a traditional archive to consider how we judge the significance or insignificance of events, all the while asking us to think about what makes an art school.
Making this work was a catalyst for communication between staff and former students at the Cass, the librarians and the Archivist at the Whitechapel Gallery, and Tower Hamlets Planners. Archive records some these encounters and celebrates word-of-mouth communication both between artist and viewer and between the institution and its members, and between neighbours.
The work arose from research into connections between the Whitechapel Gallery and the Sir John Cass School of Art – two neighbouring art institutions, and an exploration of archives, and how we record of the history of an institution. The Whitechapel has a well-curated archive, whereas the School of Art had none. The work is the seed of an archive for the Cass School of Art.