I’ve been reflecting on the exhibition over the last three weeks. It’s almost easier to spend time interrogating our curatorial process in hindsight than it was when we actually doing it. As the lead on creating the audio content for the site, in particular I’ve been listening to the audio pieces over and over again on the website. I can even quote some of them word for word at his point.
Audio was something we were very passionate about including, especially after an introductory session to how art museums use audio for exhibitions by Sam McGuire, Interpretation Curator at Tate. There was a danger, more so now that we were making the move online, that the experience of interacting with the artworks would be bland, flat, lifeless. Although these are concerns for any exhibition, virtual and physical alike, that immediacy and life is already inherent to a physical exhibition. It’s the experience of being there and then, with the works so close you could touch them if you wanted. You are surrounded by other people all talking and moving and actively looking.
We were very conscious that visitors would be experiencing Unquiet Moments very differently. Maybe sat at home, alone, in front of your computer. Something was needed to lift these works off the screen, to give the site a voice, and tell stories to the visitor.
It was this emphasis on companionship and conversation that guided our audio journey. Having all become well acquainted with Zoom calls, I set about interviewing the other nine curators for pieces focussed on guided looking. Similarly, I asked various people, both individuals and families, to reflect on their personal experiences. The stories that emerged were surprisingly intimate windows to their lives, memories and musings. Alongside Berthe Morisot’s intimate etching of herself drawing with her daughter, I interviewed mother and daughter Kim and Daysee Thornton. They talk openly about how they’re relationship has grown over the years and laugh about Kim’s wish for a son. It is this raw and real storytelling alongside Morisot’s touching print that allows us to come to it with our own experiences and relationships and connect with the work.
Another audio accompaniment that I love is the commissioned sound piece for Kathy Prendergast’s sculpture, The End and the Beginning, 1996. Sound artist, Iris Mathieson responded to the artwork by looping together sounds of her hair being brushed and old tapes of her chatting with her mother. The result are these mesmerising layers of sound, that hold a distinct nostalgia and personal resonance.
I’ve learnt a lot about the power of listening during this project. I constructed multitudes of interview questions over the lead up period, often unwittingly attempting to lead the speaker in a direction of my own choice. However, when I left the questions short and open and dictated solely by the speaker’s experience, I was surprised and delighted by the humour and profundity of their responses. Their responses moved me with how powerful these everyday moments and relationships really are.