As part of the Festival of Live Art, kicking off this week, we are delighted to present Kate Hunter’s latest work EARSHOT. Created from conversations overheard in cafes and public spaces, Earshot provides a fly-on-the-wall insight into the lives of others: personal, epic, comic and sometimes devastating. Read on to hear more from Kate Hunter as she gears up for the first public showing of Earshot this Thursday.
Where did the concept for this work come from?
I’ve long been an eavesdropper, and my experiments over the last few years in constructing my own verbatim soundscapes have prompted a greater curiosity about the things we are prepared to say in public, and the ways in which we listen and hear in different environments. We live in an increasingly digital world in which we are subjected to very private stories being aired in very public ways – think about mobile phone conversations that you overhear on trains, for example, or reality TV, or cooking shows, or The Biggest Loser, or the Kardashians, or selfies. These public airings have subtly but radically shifted our relationship to each other, and ourselves, because our experiences and understandings of privacy, of discretion, and of confidentiality have changed.
I think the tools we use: predictive text and voice-recognition, for example, are rich source material for accidental moments of poetry, and Earshot brings a very particular focus to the intersections between what we read and what we hear. Over the course of the development, I’ve been crafting eavesdropped stories together into a performance, experimenting with modes of delivery using live, pre-recorded and amplified voice. In particular, looking at programming data projection with voice-activated text as a tool to experiment with projecting words into the performance space – to create an event in which words appear, are made manifest, as they are spoken in real time. The errors that occur when using predictive text are sometimes insightful, often comic. I’m interested in ways I can disrupt the experience for the audience, or generate a sort of cognitive dissonance – what happens if what they see does not necessarily correlate to what they hear? These technological experiments foreground my interest in the complex interplay between hearing, listening, reading and speaking that is implicit in the ways humans communicate through language.
I always write into the source material, too, so the content is layered with both truthful and invented narrative. The line between what we know to be true and that which is imagined is forever moving.
Has anyone ever caught you out on your eavesdropping? What lengths do you go to in order to remain inconspicuous?
Public eavesdropping is a very insidious thing. There is no way that anyone can catch me at it. I’m just in the background, listening in, typing or writing away. I’m a pretty fast touch-typist so it’s just a matter of tuning in to salient conversations and typing frantically, capturing as much as I can. I never quite capture everything, though, so what emerges is a curious, fragmented but strangely coherent narrative of the world. Sometimes I use a notebook if I don’t have a laptop. No one can tell. I just look like a member of the general public, which I am. I am anonymous.
Earshot Season: Thursday 3 March, 2016 // 6.30pm *One show only!
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