On Air, 2000
(walking) On Air
(walking) On Air made in the year 2000, was a live transmission via mobile phone of a 400mile walk from my home in Northampton to Fabrica in Brighton. This two-person show which I titled Journey took place over 6 weeks in the year 2000. My walk was devised to occupy this time taking me through the South Midlands, Cotswolds, Wiltshire, Hampshire and upon reaching the coast at Havant I headed east towards Fabrica. The sounds from my phone were transmitted continuously to the gallery whilst it was open, and was channelled down a series of 6-metre long pipes suspended from the ceiling. Fabrica, being a church space is architecturally influenced by sound so it felt right to have my presence felt through this medium. No sounds were recorded.
The original impulse for the work began whilst on a Fellowship in India and witnessing pilgrims undertaking pilgrimages. I saw (walking) On Air as a pilgrimage of sorts in the sense that in my journey through the landscape I was being led by an ethereal force, the signal from my mobile phone had to be maintained, where black spots were encountered a new signal had to be physically sought in order for the work to continue.
Thoughts were spoken, observations relayed, feelings were communicated to the gallery during the walk against the backdrop of the everyday sounds I encountered. Sounds were apprehended - the shrieks and chatter from an aviary, a church organist practicing, a conversation about jazz, the fast approach and recede of a high-speed train. At places where no signal was found I picked up objects that spoke about the immediate landscape that I found myself in and sent them back to the gallery as a way to visualise those disconnections, those silences, to make the picture more complete.
Throughout the journey I found myself slipping in and out of different consciousness.
My attention was constantly with the atmosphere and of the electrical signals and sounds that inhabit this space. It was the mobile phone signal that was leading me through the landscape and that helped me construct the route, that gave the work meaning and purpose.
I was brought out of such reveries and back to reality when, at the end of the day's work, a camp site had to be found and rituals before sleep were undertaken.
So much of England is private
Discreet, quiet, don't leave a trace
sight of a dead pig
The mobile phone placed at the end of a stick served a practical purpose alongside a visual one. The phone elevation in order to receive a strong signal.
I remember at some places my arm needing to be held straight for up to a mile at a time and where a deviation of a few inches meant disconnection.
The image was also employed to attract people, to engage in conversation,
adding to the rich audio texture of the work.
Upon reaching Brighton we realised it was a Bank Holiday.
Every B&B and hotel we tried was full.
A bench at a church served as our bed.
The next day I delivered a talk about the work at Fabrica. After six weeks of being guided through the landscape and not uttering many words, it felt at odds to talk, to reason.