Locative audio artwork exploring memorial, the past and present, proximity and distance

Jen Southern & Samuel Thulin

Commissioned by In Certain Places and Preston Remembers, with technical development by the Media Innovation Studio.

Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston. 23rd May – 13th November 2016

I collaborated with Jen Southern on this locative audio artwork based on the Lancashire Infantry Museum archives of letters to and from Preston soldiers serving in WW1. The work brings together soundscape composition techniques, epistolary narrative, and sonified GPS data to make connections between distant locations: the battlefields of WW1 and Preston’s Roll of Honour and War Memorial.

Participants pick up a tin with headphones from the Harris Museum; as they walk around the flag market they hear letters from the infantry museum archive read by students from the University of Central Lancashire, the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, and the North West Officers Training Regiment. The readings of the letters are however interrupted by interference, a sound generated from GPS data that makes hearing the full story impossible. Without a full story participants hear fragments: a stilted marriage proposal, an enquiry about health, a thank you for kippers sent through the post, a description of conditions in the trenches. Proximity to the war memorial make the interference more intense, an auditory and emotional intensity that isolates the participant from the rest of the square. The live audio and the GPS interference are forms of absence, and suggest that a connection to peoples lives is impossible through a memorial, but is available through experiential engagement amidst the everyday activity of the flag market.

Images from research trip to the Somme

With thanks to all who read letters from:

The North West Officers’ Training Regiment, 4th Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

Students of the Acting course, University of Central Lancashire

Students of the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, North West

[short version]

Year: 2016

Role: Artist/Sound Designer