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Events Day 2022

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

Every year Middlesex University art students stage Events Day, an opportunity to display, perform, or engage people in experimental arts practice. Last year's Events Day was conducted entirely online, and I note from my blog that that I had said "it would be good to offer and extra pair of hands more often", and while I do not remember writing that, I had obviously internalised the sentiment as I volunteered to be on the organising committee this year. I also proposed that I would present some work again this year.

The day seemed to come round spectacularly fast - February 10th is not quite far enough into the year for me to have settled into the rhythm of a new year. I was wondering how I managed last year - particularly as I'd just started my course - but I see that Events Day was a whole month later last year. I feel slightly reassured by that.

With it coming so early in term and the date having been announced just at the end of last term, there seemed to be little time to do anything as an organising committee. We had one meeting two weeks beforehand where we agreed a couple of actions around the production of posters and leaflets. One of our new MA cohort whose previous degree was in graphic design took on the brunt of the work, leaving the rest of us to ponder what else we could really do to help. Our academic organiser, one of the Fine Art tutors, has been running this for many years, and believed that much of the rest of what needed to be done would simply happen on the day.

Assured by his optimism I relaxed a bit and decided to just wait and see how things turned out, but being ready to take on anything that needed to be done as it came along. I had also decided at this point not to participate with any of my own work on the day. I had been considering an IRL version of the game / performance that I had done of Zoom last year, but it just seemed like too much trouble to organise... for some reason I just did not feel sufficiently motivated.

Then I'm not sure what happened. I was still turning over ideas in my mind about giving something a go. I'd bumped into Tansy, our course leader from last year, when I was in the studio a week before Events Day and she invited me to join in with hers and a former student, Alex Morillion's, musical improvisation ensemble - Tuned Out Art Ensemble. The ensemble takes its musical cues from a television screen which displays a picture generated by feeding an audio signal into the video channel - an idea developed by Alex. I agreed to take part, but had not really decided what I could do to make a noise

Encouraged be the possibility of being part of the improvisation ensemble, I suddenly decided I could come up with something of my own. I'm not sure what came first, the title, or how to use it. I was obviously continuing to be incensed by the antics of Johnstone and his government over the parties held at 10 Downing street and the attempts by Conservative MPs to play down both the seriousness of the lies being told and sentiment of the public over the parties. Running the titles of three songs together, I came up with the the sentence, "You gotta fight for your right to cry if you want to for all tomorrows parties". I'd done something with fragments of song lyrics during my Foundation Diploma, recording the voices of my fellow students speaking song lyrics and then using some code I'd written to play the voices in response to the same words appearing in twitter posts. I felt I could do more with this making it a participatory work during Events Day by recording voices of whoever was around early in the day and then running code as an installation later on.

I've developed the code quite a bit since I first used it. For an exhibition in December, I made it more robust to run automatically on a Raspberry Pi and I added multi-channel audio support allowing me to direct sound to specific speakers. So while conceptually the work is similar to what I'd done before, it has increased in sophistication and I was using it in a slightly different way.

In order to reduce the workload on Events Day I tried to gather some of the voices on the

preceding days. I'm glad I did as every sound clip needed a little bit of editing and as I had 60 or so clips, this was pretty time consuming. Even having pre-recorded some voices, I still spent most of the time in the afternoon of events day editing newly recorded clips which meant that I missed some of the performances and activities being presented by my colleagues.

However, I got things done in time, including creating a wee sound player on my laptop to play some of my making sounds (popping jam jar lids and fermenting sauerkraut) as part of the Tuned Out Art Ensemble. This was great fun: In addition to Tansy on electric violin and Alex on his screens, Jan, one of our MA cohort, was blowing mightily into gramophone horns creating a wonderfully resonant sound, and some of the other students were providing voices and percussion.

I was up next on my own. I had seen my work as an audio installation, but in the end it was much more of a performance. this was probably assisted by me making some mistakes in my set up which meant that only one of the three speakers was working when I started running the code, but as I brought the other speakers online, the piece began to operate as I expected producing a continuous stream of voices that seemed to keep the listeners engaged. I ended by reducing the volume of each of the speakers one by one, adding to the performative element. That it was a performance was confirmed by a round of applause at the end.

I really enjoyed that the work turned out in this way and it has made me think of performance as an alternative to an unattended gallery installation.

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