Text works produced during the development of the film Earthquake House (currently in post-production), stemming from Cove Park residency, Summer 2016.
Before its development as a 2018 video/audio installation, For Matthew began life as a performance work commissioned for the East End Transmissions project by curator Francesca Zappia at The Pipe Factory, Glasgow, November 2014. In this instance it was a work for a trio of physical theatre performers, audio and video.
For source material, it draws upon the conflicting historical accounts of a macabre event that took place in 19th Century Glasgow when a 35 year-old colliery worker named Matthew Clydesdale was hanged for murder on Glasgow Green in 1818. Within hours of his death his body was moved to Glasgow University’s anatomy theatre whereupon a pair of the city’s most eminent surgeons attempted to resuscitate him using primitive electrical apparatus in front of a packed crowd of students, journalists and onlookers. The resulting accounts of this macabre experiment vary wildly – from one medic’s sober and detailed (though not entirely morally neutral) summary, to a local journalist’s hysterical (and doubtless apocryphal) description of the dead man rising to confront the doctors and audience.
I used looped and treated audio transcripts of these accounts, played back on portable tape machines, as well as a trio of physical theatre performers and projected video ‘cues’ to which the performers responded. With the trio of performers lying motionless in the middle of the performance space I began the work by playing narrated transcripts of the historical accounts of the Clydesdale experiment on the portable tape players (the kind of equipment used for transcribing interviews, reports, autopsies etc.), laid out on a cloth-covered table.
I gradually looped sections of speech and treated them with a variety of effects until a sonic flattening of this information rendered any reading impossible. In conjunction, the performers were ‘activated’ by sudden bursts of video (framed close ups of trembling, spasmodic arms, hands or legs) and shrill audio (multi-layered, atonal vocal clusters) which they would have to ‘interpret’, while negotiating a designated, theatrically illuminated area of the performance space.
Text insert for As Long as the Signal Is… (solo exhibition at The Briggait, Glasgow, June 2013). The exhibition placed particular emphasis upon the dual nature of the paired gallery spaces at The Briggait, the structural pairing of transmitter and receiver and an implied, fluid and indeterminate space dictated by the possibilities of poetic association in language. This text drew from writing experiments undertaken during my recent CCA Creative Lab residency (see update below). For images from this show please click ‘images of work’.
Snap Entr’acte was a short performance that I undertook on 1st of May 2013 at the CCA, Glasgow, to mark the end of my CCA Creative Lab residency during the month of April. It was a two-person piece for voice and percussion involving myself and drummer Laurie Pitt. I had spent some of the time during this residency working with short fragmented clusters of text, drawn from the lexicons of broadcasting, studio and theatre. Predominantly archaic and outmoded, these chosen words and phrases, when removed from their contextual ‘moorings’ in order to emphasise poetic resonances, seem peculiarly evocative and mysterious. Given my interest in mannerism, gesture and presentation in broadcasting (and in particular the ‘stiffness’ of the old-school ‘Received Pronunciation’ or ‘Queen’s English’ approach) I began to approach a vocal articulation of these text pieces in a very mannered, clipped and highly theatrical fashion. Thinking all the time of the twin poles of transmitter and receiver, I began to sing/iterate these phrases and in response Laurie would improvise a rhythmic contrapuntal dialogue, beating, stroking and tapping different areas of two large ceiling-suspended metal wire grids which were wired up with piezo contact microphones that were plugged into amplifiers. This pulsing, morse-like, to-and-fro exchange was lit by a pair of floor-level stagelights which cast fabulous gridded shadows and rendered Laurie’s ‘arms-out’ percussive motions semaphore-like. During the performance I placed or hung several component pieces from my sculptural practice upon the metal grid framework -coloured, ink dipped sheets of translucent voile (which glowed beautifully), and lengths of metal wire. These not only provided a wonderful visual counterpoint to our actions but also minutely altered the sound of Laurie’s percussive explorations.
Keening Luna was a two-part performance /audio piece that I created as part of ‘High-Slack-Low-Slack-High’, a suite of audio works for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012. It was created in response to the tidal cycle of the River Clyde in Glasgow. The first part took place on the north bank of The Clyde at high tide on 26th April whereupon I conducted a group of vocalists through various gestures, motions and actions in order to create an improvised vocal tone poem. Within this highly ritualised presentation I hurled three buckets into the river in order to extract water and sediment for use in the second performance, a few days later.
The second part of Keening Luna took place on the evening of the 28th April in the circular wood-panelled Trust Hall of the Clydeport Authority Headquarters, an opulent 19th Century relic of Glasgow’s maritime heritage. I used the water extracted from the river during the first performance to create a semi-improvised sound work on the musical glasses, using my fingers, a loop pedal and a delay pedal. An audio link to a recording of the performance follows the image below.
Script for a Television Continuity Announcer, adapted for solo performance at the opening of Under Ancient Boom Shadow at The Mutual Gallery, Glasgow 13/05/11.
Short audio excerpt from Papa Oom Mow Mow, 18 min digital video by Douglas Morland and Christian Newby. Audio by Douglas Morland – guitar, vocal, effects, loop pedal. Performed live to accompany the video, DCR, Den Haag, Netherlands. 26/08/11.