Wednesday, 24 November 2010


After going to a conceptual literary exhibition I was very keen to make conceptual books as part of my practice. However, I would not label myself as an artist book maker. It would be more accurate to categorise my books as one of the many form of documentation for my information and props for other aspects of my practice. I encountered several of Kenneth Goldsmith’s books at the exhibition, among many other artist books. The layout for my books was heavily inspired by Kenneth Goldsmith’s Soliloquy; the minimalistic style, the cleanness of the design. Soliloquy is an unedited transcription of every word that Goldsmith spoke for a week, from the moment he got up to the moment he went to bed at night. I wouldn’t say that my books were direct copies of the book in terms of visual layout, but there are several aspects that I have imitated for various reasons. I wanted my books to be a set, using a uniform design, so they would have a visual as well as conceptual link.  

The first books that I produced were ‘24 Hours of News’ (a book of my 24 hour news filler word transcription), ’The Tarantino Collection’ ( a book containing the transcriptions of the filler words from Tarantino’s six main existent movies that he wrote and directed; Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill (part I &II), Death Proof and Inglorious Basterds). After these books were complete, I then decided to produce a work more directly linked with the work of Kenneth Goldsmith. I transcribed all of the filler words from his book Soliloquy, and kept them laid in their different sections in a similar way to the book itself. As I said before, this was not an imitation of goldsmith’s work but rather the use of my own systematic method of dealing with literary information applied to the work of another artist. This act of using my own processes on the work of others was inspired by a particular text piece that I came across at the Perverse Library exhibition; Parse (2008) by Craig Dworkin. For this work, Dworkin took a copy of Edward Abbott’s ‘How to Parse: An attempt to apply the principles of scholarship to English grammar; with appendixes on analysis, spelling, and punctuation’ (1883) and used the text as a guide to parse the book itself. Although I didn’t look into the act of parsing in any great detail, I appreciated act of Dworkin taking this text and creating something new, while using the book as it was intended to be used. Seeing this work made me want to branch out and produce broader range of works. I didn’t want to imitate the acts of others artists, but I wanted to follow their example. 

I then went on to produce other transcription books, which are all part of a collection as a whole. I began to think about particular elements of certain texts and films that have affected me. One example that came to mind was the movie Pulp Fiction, which is heavily dialogue based. In Pulp Fiction, dialogue is important and to me the questions are the most interesting and amusing part. When I looked at the questions away from the rest of the films dialogue, I was pleasantly surprised to see elements of narrative still present; It still seemed to tell a story through questions alone. It led onto to other works, created in a similar way. Through these works I wanted to identify traits within films and publication that are very much part of modern culture, and provide some sort of running commentary. Instead of creating something totally new, I wanted to work with that what is already in existence. 

I then produced a work titled ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, which is a transcription of a Spider-Man comic book. Banner used contemporary war films as her source material, as they rely heavily on action and visuals. I chose to transcribe a comic book, because of its obvious reliance on images, to provide narrative. There is no descriptive text, only images and dialogue. I wanted to produce a book from the comic’s narrative, without including images. After seeing my completed comic book, I wanted to produce more books that focused on the physical layout of text. At the same time, I had been looking at the phonetic alphabet because of its visual qualities. I liked using the filler words because they are a way of not saying much but at the same time saying a lot and once they were used in this way they formed quite interesting patterns. By converting some of my books into phonetics I wanted to different patterns using the same words. This led me onto the translation of words into symbols and I converted the same books into Morse code, which also gave a very different pattern using the same starting material.

My Transcritpions and More...

Over the last two months, I have been transcribing filler words from recordings of dialogue, TV and films. I started by recording people talking with a Dictaphone, instructing them to talk with no topic or guidance given. This was a way of getting recordings of natural dialogue, from which I could later extract filler words. I also recorded presentations and meetings etc. to capture individuals talking in front of an audience and also group discussions. I then started to transcribe footage of celebrities in interviews and documentaries. Some of the most interesting pieces of footage I transcribed were interviews with Quentin Tarantino. I chose to transcribe footage of him, firstly because of my respect for him as a writer and director and secondly because of his mannerisms. I have always noticed that he is a very fast and expressive talker, using lots of physical gestures and filler words. After transcribing footage of him, I decided to transcribe one of his movies. At this point I drew up a list of filler words that I would transcribe from all of my found footage (oh, ah, uh, um, erm, er, mm and hmm). I set myself certain words, to keep things simple and to allow patterns to form in my transcriptions. I transcribed the listed filler words from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (results below).

Pulp Fiction
Oh mm hmm oh oh uh mm hmm uh uh uh uh oh oh oh hmm uh uh uh uh uh oh oh oh oh er  oh uh oh mm hmm um ah mm uh uh uh mm mm uh uh uh oh oh oh oh uh uh oh oh uh oh oh  mm hmm uh uh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh mm oh oh oh mm hmm mm hmm mm hmm uh uh uh uh uh oh uh um mm uh uh uh uh er uh uh oh oh oh oh uh um ah um mm hmm.

Although I was happy with my results, I wanted to capture more natural dialogue. As movies are generally script based, I decided to look for something with more improvisation. This is when I decided to transcribe news programmes. News programmes do not follow scripts in the typical sense and are mainly made up of live footage, interviews and updates. I transcribed a one hour news programme to see what results I would get (results below). 

One hour of news (Channel 4 news)
Er, erm, er, er, er, um, um, um, erm, er, er, erm, er, er, er, er, er, erm, erm, er, erm, erm, er, uh, uh.
After this I decided to take it up a notch, and following Kenneth Goldsmith’s example, I transcribed 24 hours of news from the digital BBC news channel. Until this point I was using my information to produce short readings and was unsure of what I would do with the information, but after I got my results from the 24 hour news project I decided to start producing books.

After this I decided to take it up a notch, and I transcribed all of the spoken filler words from twenty four hours of news from the digital BBC news channel. As well as wanting the information; I wanted to use this as an experience. I was curious about what it would be like to undertake the task of transcribing twenty four hours of news. This was a way to gather data and also a create act and a kind of endurance test. Until this point I was using my information to produce short readings, resemblant of abstract poems. After I got my results from the 24 hour news project I decided to start producing books, as I wanted to undertake longer projects and produce bigger, more complex works. I would consider the medium of the handmade book to the most efficient and appropriate way of containing and presenting my text works, because books can be used in various different ways and are accessible to most audiences. I aimed to produce simple, cheaply made paperback books, that are fairly uniform in style to encourage the spectator to handle them and not treat them as artefacts.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Short Intro to My Work

I have a keen interest in language, or rather the particularities of what gives language its meaning and how it affects the intended audience. My practice involves the dissecting of audio-visual material, or their transcripts, and exploring the breaks and the fillers within rehearsed and live dialogue. I concatenate and repackage these aspects in various forms such as hand-made books, performances and sound works. I have been strongly influenced by a number of conceptual artists, writers, and poets; in particular those who follow the notion of ‘Information as Material’.

People generally write very differently to the way they speak. We cut out all the ums and ahs and repeated words to create smooth, flowing texts. Contemporary writers and artists are now going against this and creating works that question language and present words and dialogue in new ways. The identity of the writer is forever changing and too is the role of the reader. We are all aware of how speech is padded out or even aided by filler words and noises and physical gestures. As a fairly socially awkward individual I have always been consciously aware of these traits in myself. I became more critically aware of these traits in others when attempting to transcribe speech. I found it hard to transcribe live TV and interview footage because I wanted to keep people's words intact, while creating a text that would flow and read well. This is what first sparked the initial ideas and concepts behind my work. Once it was in the forefront of my mind I found it hard to have conversations, or attend lectures or watch others speak without picking out their use of filler words. As an artist I want to take this concept further and create a critical and thoughtful responses which will make those who engage with the work more consciously aware of these traits in language and question their perception of language as a whole.