Listening to the archive (2)

I’m listening to interviews that have already started to feel like a record of an entirely different moment in time, even though they only took place last year.

Part of the process of transcribing the project’s interviews with practitioners involves fact-checking to catch the names of artists and projects that were unclear, or whose names have changed over time. This is slow, careful work – slower than I had first anticipated because of the necessary acts of care involved.

Before that moment, though, is the work of close listening, and an attentiveness to the quality of sound transmitted by laptops, wireless networks and satellites. Nearly all of the interview conversations took place by zoom and I’m keen to preserve the imperfect and sometimes scratchy quality of audio as part of what we experienced in the original event. These recordings are the marker of a particular moment in time, a particular set of conditions, as much as any attempt to engage with artist’s memories and practices. 

A laptop and microphone set up as a temporary recording studio
My home recording studio (with pillows to muffle the echo)

During this process, draft transcripts and recordings are shared with the interviewees for their review. This is an important – if not vital – step of the project’s approach to informed consent. Small additions or corrections added at this stage are marked with [square] brackets, most often clarifying a personal reference by adding a surname but also occasionally introducing a missing detail like the name of a venue or performance work or, more rarely again, to add important nuance that was lost in the flow of conversation.

The expectation of something like perfect recall ghosts the project, though I try hard to (gently) reassure that this is not the goal of the research. Memory is naturally imperfect, and the act of recall reinforces some details while allowing others to fade from view: this project works with rather than against that dynamic.

The first set of interviews and transcripts will be launched later in summer 2022.