January 2023 will mark the fourth anniversary of the publication of Silence on Loan and its subsequent inclusion in the Artists’ Book Collection at Winchester School of Art Library. Published in the form of a 10” vinyl record, Silence on Loan sits shyly on the library shelf at 741.64 HEG: Four years of dust and silence have now come to rest in the silent groove cut into its surface.
Every year there is a free performance of Silence on Loan at WSA Library, which this year will take place on Monday the 16th of January; coincidently the birthday of my mother, who died twelve years ago. In 2022 the Silence was performed without an audience there to hear. This year the performance is open again to the public and to the arbitrary ear of all library users. As with previous iterations, all those there to hear and those who’s listening the silence borrows, will be offered a commemorative hand-made pin badge, produced exclusively for the ‘event’. As an ‘event’ the performance of Silence on Loan is unremarkably low noise and low-key: an uneventful twenty minutes in which Silence is taken from the shelf, placed on a portable turntable, and rotated at 33 revolutions per minute. The arm of the turntable is swung gently over the edge of the vinyl ellipse, and the needle dropped damply into the silent spiral of the groove. Nine or so minutes later the needle is lifted out of the locked rut of the run-off loop and Silence taken from the platter and returned to its place on the library shelf. This small inconspicuous ritual marks the end of Silence for another year, and is occasionally greeted with a closing, discreet ripple of bookish applause.
Silence on Loan annual performance with free badge
15:00 Monday 16.01.2023 Winchester School of Art Library Park Avenue Winchester SO23 8DL
To make Silence available to listeners around the world, the performance will also be broadcast live via Instagram: @sebastiane_hegarty
Imagination is the power of appearing things, not of representing them. The LIfe of Lines. Tim Ingold.
As part of two covert FM transmissions from Fog Signal Building, Dungeness, and Knowles Farm. Isle of Wight (IOW), I ‘prepared’ an autoharp with plectrum of dismantled clock hands and a pocket-sized museum of nautical litter collected from walks along the shoreline (tangles of fishing line, pebbles, shells, nails, feathers). As the sea breezes over the shingle and harp, fragments of text cut from the International Code of Signals are scattered, music suddenly appears, melodies plucked from thin and salty air mingling with the atmospheric static of FM transmission.
In this ethereal concert of aeolian song, music is immediately composed in correspondence with the breeze, melodies occurring neither in the objects or strings, nor even in the weatherly air, but appearing in-between them.
I borrowed this compositional method for a new series of drawings of sound on paper. These drawings or Correspondences, seek not to represent sound but to allow sound to appear, to draw the ear, by way of the eye, toward the potentiality of sound.
From Correspondence no.1 / no.2.
To compose the drawings, a small cardboard box was lined with two sheets of paper, and ‘prepared’ with relics from the preparation of the harp, together with fragments of charcoal, pencil, and broken ball points. The box was then weighed, stamped, and posted home second class. Three days later, having been handled with varying degrees of care, the box returned and the drawings appeared.
Composed in correspondence with the systemised transit of her Majesty’s Royal Mail, the drawings are quiet, slight, and insignificant. Occasional dots, hesitant lines, and dusty corners stained with inky stillness, mark time, and motion, providing visible residues of sounds that occurred and ceased.
A Blink From Sonic Eyes, Drawings from the Fleeting Archive of Towards Sound at re:future Lab (Berlin), Installation Shot. Image courtesy Ruth Wiesenfeld.
The composer and curator Ruth Wiesenfeld teaches Awareness Through Movement, at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler, Berlin. Ruth initiated the project Toward Sound, which ‘collects visible traces of creative processes geared towards all sound-based arts exploring diverse approaches of rendering sonic imagination tangible.’ As part of Toward Sound, Ruth curates, The Fleeting Archive. This repository for visual ephemera of the compositional process, gathers: ‘Acts of drawing, sculpting, writing, filming, ordering, assembling and taking apart’, which ‘facilitate a deeper comprehension of ones imagined sound.’ Occasionally, selections from the Archive are exhibited in the guise of the ever-changing Rampant Wall.
I was delighted to have works accepted into the Archive, and subsequentlyapproached Ruth to see if she would be interested in taking part in a new Correspondence. The drawing would be composed in the space in-between us. I would prepare a drawing and post this to Ruth. On its arrival in Berlin, Ruth would listen to the appearance of the drawing as an appearing sound.
Correspondence no.4. 2022. (636 miles / 24 days) Winchester to Berlin
The lid of a small box was lined with grey sandpaper and its base with thick handmade watercolour paper. Inside I placed an ensemble of small sculptural instruments constructed especially for this transit, using marine selvedge from Dungeness and IOW combined with fragments of graphite, chalk, charcoal, and cardboard.
The correspondence was digitally tracked, leaving the UK on the 20th April and arriving in Niederaula, Germany on the 24th. It waited some time in non-EU customs for ‘preliminary import checks’, ‘processed’ and marked with a blue exclamation mark it arrived in Berlin on the 15th May. All instruments were broken in transit, but Ruth emailed:
‘I just opened the box, look what was drawn…a whole symphony. It will sit on my desk until sonic responses emerge.’
Silence on Loan. 2022. Performance broadcast live on Instagram
On the last Monday of January 2022, the annual performance of Silence on Loan, took place at Winchester School of Art Library. It was performed alone in the early morning before the library opened to the public and without an audience present. During the silence I wore industrial Ear Protectors, so even I could not hear the silence as it occurred.
The annual performance was announced in advance on social media and this blog, which included an invitation for people to not attend or listen. The performed silence was however, broadcast live (and mute) via Instagram, so that those who wished, might watch and not listen, together. The Instagram recording of the broadcast was unceremoniously deleted (by accident) immediately after the performance.
In order for those not listening to inform others of their lack of attention, a limited edition, I Am Not Listening, pin-badge, was available to purchase and wear on the day. The 1” pin sold out, adorning the lapels of people not listening, as far apart as New York and Keyhaven, Australia, Berlin and Wolverhampton.
This year, Silence on Loan was unheard by what could have been its largest audience to date. A big thank you to all those millions of people around the world, who were not listening.
Last year the annual performance of Silence on Loan, was postponed by the ‘silent epidemic’ of COVID. In January, I had hoped to perform a socially distanced version, completely alone in the Winchester School of Art Library, where the publication is held – a lonely withdrawn silence, performed but unheard. But lockdown restrictions meant that visiting the library was not permitted and the annual performance had to be rescheduled, eventually taking place in August 2021 – coincidently in the same week as the publication of my essay Withdrawn from use: silence, listening and undoing, in the journal Organised Sound 26/2 (Cambridge University Press).
This year silence has been recalibrated, returning the annual performance to January so as to synchronise with the original month of publication and the inclusion of Silence on Loan into the Artists’ Books Special Collection at WSA in 2019. But this year’s performance is different to the previous three. In remembrance, perhaps, of the socially distanced, isolated performance which never occurred, the 2022 performance will take place behind the closed magnetic gates of WSA library 2.
On Monday 31st January, around 8:30 am, before the library opens and without visitors or audience, the unpaginated spiral slither of Silence on Loan, will be taken from the shelf and placed on the turntable platter. The unheard audio cassette that has documented every silent anniversary will be rewound. Last year’s silence will be simultaneously erased and recorded over with this. I will keep vigil as silence rotates, my ears defended from it: silence occurring with no one there to hear.
There is strictly no admittance to this performed anniversary of Silence of Loan. But you are invited to not listen with me. You may not listen wherever you are, at home, at work, alone or in company. You may also watch but not listen via a live muted Instagram broadcast at @sebastiane_hegarty
Around 4pm on Wednesday 25th August at Winchester School of Art Library 2, a slim slither of vinyl will be exhumed from between the hardbacks on the library shelf and placed on the platter of a portable turntable. Silence on Loan is an artist book published in the form of a 10″ vinyl dubplate, cut with a silent groove. [re]Turning at 33 revolutions per minute, silence will ‘play’ for just over 9 minutes and the performance will then be over.
This year the ‘performance’ will be prefaced by a short reading from a new essay discussing silence and listening as participation. The full essay, titled, ‘Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing, will be published in the forthcoming issue of Organised Sound (26/02).
As has become my habit, the performance will begin by rewinding the cassette recording of last years ‘event’, so that it might be taped over and erased (unplayed and unheard) by this year’s recording. Once silence is done, the tape player is stopped, the cassette put in its case and silence quietly returned to its position on the shelf at 741.64HEG.
Postponed due to Covid, the annual performance of Silence on Loan is free to attend, and this year will also be available live and socially distanced via Instagram: @sebastiane_hegarty
Thanks to Catherine Polly and all at WSA Library for their help and support.
Piss Walk№ 6 is the first of my stained perambulations to be published in the form of a limited-edition set of 13 purchasable A6 postcards. Printed on uncoated 600gsm card and seamed in ‘sunny yellow’ the photographic sequence retraces the sixth of my early morning ‘lockdown’ walks, as I sniffed around the back streets of Winchester and along the river Itchen. Each card is rubber stamped on the reverse, with the date of the walk and numbered with its position in the sequence of damp patches encountered that day. As discussed in a previous post, my lockdown walks had no predetermined purpose other than a modicum of exercise and time away from the paralysis of Zoom. Rebecca Solnit notes that the casual acquaintance of a meandering stroll ‘allows you to find what you do not know you are looking for’. My meander, coupled with the quiet physical vacancy of the ante meridiem environment, acquainted me with the occasional and previously unnoticed, damp trails of urine left by the toilet of local hounds. It became my habit to follow and photographically collect these moist encounters. A habit that has resulted in the creation of an unintentional archive of (to date) thirteen Piss Walks.
On the leash of the dogs’ morning privy, I tail the stained criminal records of an intimate act in a public space: an evaporating souvenir of corporeal presence. The obsolete technology of the picture postcard would therefore seem to be an appropriately ephemeral method of recording and mapping these trails. Sent back to where we are not, addressing those we are apart from, the cheap, disposable souvenir of a postcard, announces presence whilst confirming absence. As it passes visibly through the public body of the Royal Mail, the postcard reveals a dysfunctional relationship with intimacy, a mischievous liaison, characterised by the saucy offence of seaside communique and an obsession with bodily function.
The 13 postcards of Piss Walk № 6 have now been sold and sent. Protected and concealed by the hard-backed buff of a manilla envelope, each postcard has passed modestly through the systemised transit of national (and international) mail. Extending the scent of canine territories from Winchester to Brighton to Bristol, Wolverhampton and beyond the sea to Canada, the postcards are a souvenir of an evaporated walk, a memory dispersed, fragmented and lost in the post.
In a second limited-edition, Piss Walk № 9 has been published as a complete set of ten postcards. Archived and preserved in an ironically acid free box, the postcards will remain enveloped and unsent as part of the Artists’ Book Collection at Winchester School of Art Library.
I am also delighted that the damp traces of Piss Walk № 4, have been included in Right Here Right Now, Observations, Speculations & Hallucinations; a new book gathering together the personal lockdown of numerous artists, designers and writers. Published by Book-Lab 2020 (isbn: 978-1-71680-539-4), designed and edited by Danny Aldred, RHRN is ‘a kind of visual atlas [providing] multiple perspectives of the same moment.’ There are plans to exhibit the book at the Design Transfer Gallery (Berlin) later this year.
I have thought I might ‘celebrate’ the end of the pandemic by offering a Piss Walk Tour of Winchester. In direct competition with English Heritage, Jane Austin’s House and the public tours of private education, the WinchesterPiss Walk Tour would meet beneath a plague flag on Water Lane and proceed along the river Itchen, through the Water Meadows, around the u-bend of Winchester College, before passing down the cloisters of Winchester Cathedral and finally through the Water Gate, past The Quaker Meeting House and back across the bridge to rejoin Water Lane. Along the way I would recount stories of infamous stains and perhaps leave a trail of Piss Walk postcards in our wake. DM to reserve your place.
On Friday the 31st January 2020, I arrived at Winchester School of Art Library to find a table ‘reserved for activity’. It had been one year and one day since Silence on Loan was added to the Artists’ Book Collectionat the WSA Library. Held without the protection of cover or sleeve the book (a single-sided 10” dubplate cut with a silent groove) is shelved at 741.64 HEG. Wedged between the hardbacks, this mute slither of vinyl is easily overlooked, but once a year it is taken from the shelf and placed on the platter of a portable turntable. [Re]turning at thirty-three and a third revolutions per minute the dubplate slowly pronounces the dust and harm that has come to its surface: the silence that has been lost. Once played the silence is put back on the shelf, where it is left un-sounding for another year.
As a performance, this annual audition is rather disappointing; nothing much happens for slightly more than nine-minutes. Those who are here to hear (and those library visitors who’s listening the silence loans) listen to silence being broken and unheard. Perhaps the tables are turned, and it is the listeners who perform the silence rather than the record player’s stylus. For many of those who came, this is a return to silence, having been here last year when Silence on Loan was performed at the moment of its inclusion into library stock. Just as the dust collects in the groove, so silence returns and gathers in the ear of those who come to listen and remember listening again.
Everyone who is, and now was, there to hear, receives a souvenir in the form of a Silence on Loan 2020 pin-badge, whilst a paper wristband and UV hand-stamp, temporarily confirm admission and attendance.
I had been inclined to record each performance, so that I might document and measure the changes that time brings to the silence. But such calculating permanence would surely imprison that which does not sound, that which is fragile, fugitive and evasive. Silence, is more concerned with the potential for sound than its absence, most [in]audible when we imagine what we don’t hear. The analogue frailty of a physical recording can be used to augment this un-sounding potentiality. The performance on the 31st was documented using an old portable audio cassette recorder. Such obsolete media is characterised by a distinct lack of [hi] fidelity, recording its own imperfections and imposing its own magnetic patina upon the sound it records. This failure to create a faithful document is enhanced by the recording not being monitored – the tape can be seen slowly winding from left to right, but no lights or needles visibly meter the units of volume.
The quantity of tape used measures the duration of silence recorded, transcribing [no] sound into a spatial length, but the cassette is never played, and the silence remains unheard. Paused at this distance, the silence waits next year’s anniversary, when it will be re-wound and next year’s silence recorded over this. An [un] sounding and unfaithful record, this audio document, simultaneously returns and erases the silence of another year.
The next performance of Silence on Loan will be in January 2021