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AIR Simon Whetham - Week Two

Week two (23-30 May 2021)
Location: Marseille, France

This week started with a trip out to the Piscine de Luminy to see a performance by Ed Williams, a composer I met here a few years ago.

On arrival I was not sure I was in the right location as I passed tennis courts and tourists heading to the calanques… but on passing through an abandoned office I found myself in an old swimming pool complex with many empty pools and graffiti everywhere.

I recorded the concert, as well as the metro and bus rides to get out there and very much enjoyed being able to attend a performance in such a great location.

For the rest of the week I stayed very central, wandering around the Joliette area and the ferry port, then around St. Mauront and back into the centre, recording sounds within my studio and Le Panier, although I did head out to the Parc de la Maison Blanche (White House Park) to visit artist friend Delphine Mogarra and the open air exhibition where she is showing two works, one solo and one community collaboration.

This was a completely new area to me, even though I have passed the nearby Orange Vélodrome on numerous occasions, however I did not discover any particularly interesting sounds there. One piece in particular in the exhibition piqued my interest, which was credited to Hélène Bellenger but seems to be the collaborative work of many people! The flowers make suggestive groans and moans when you are near them.

Sounding sculpture by Hélène Bellenger, Arts Éphémères, Parc de la Maison Blanche

During the final recording session of the week I attempted to record the physical low rumbling that you feel through the ground in some locations where trams run. You don’t feel it everywhere and the surprising thing I discovered when recording is you also don’t hear the sound slowly getting louder through the ground, as you do through the air. It is quite sudden, and very powerful! I made many adjustments to the volume levels of the recorder before I managed to record the sounds of the trams passing without them peaking (causing the sound to clip and distort).

I have put together a chronological ‘mix’ of recordings from the last week and uploaded them to Soundcloud for your listening pleasure.

As well as making new work, the other aim of the residency is for me to connect with other artists in the Netherlands, meeting online during this remote period, with a view meeting in person when I am in Breda in July. This is also to find out more about the creative community there and possibly find further opportunities to present my project.

This week I met Bart van Dongen who runs POM in Eindhoven. We chatted for around an hour about many different topics and he informed me of some sound art opportunities in Netherlands, as well as some relevant events. I have transcribed the conversation once again and will share below.

I also met with Ruth de Vos, who as well as being one of the team of Witte Rook is also artist-in-residence there for three weeks. We arranged a meeting as we would be no doubt bumping into each other and sharing ideas and thoughts if I was there onsite. We talked about the residency experience so far and what has already changed or altered since we began.

It was also great to get an insight into her working process and the various influences she channels through her paintings.

Something that came up when Bart and I were talking was the thought that (in general!) artists with a musical or performative background tend to collaborate more to create work, whereas visual artists tend to work alone or if they work with a group it is usually as a kind of project manager. This is a very broad generalisation of course!

However when I brought this up with Ruth, she disagreed strongly and told me how she is including Lise and Jorieke of the team in her process while in the residency.

While writing this I realise I am doing the opposite. I am recording, editing and making work in complete solitude currently! Once I begin working with the devices, this collaboration will begin, but these early stages need to be carried out alone.

Below I will also share some of the notes from our meeting.

Simon Whetham

Marseille, France

Simon Whetham is our Artist in Residency from May until July 2021. He will use his residency to further develop the activation of discarded mechanical devices using sound impulses to be presented as a live performance. The first stage of this project was carried out during the residency at Ferme-Asile, Switzerland.
This period of research involves collecting sounds from Marseille and Breda and utilising them in the activation of objects found or donated in both locations. The first six weeks will be carried out remotely with me recording sounds in Marseille and testing their properties in the studio. I am meeting with the team of Witte Rook on a regular basis to discuss the progress of the project, but will also be connecting with artists and organisations in The Netherlands to discuss all aspects of the project and find further opportunities to present the results.
During the final three weeks I will be in residence at Witte Rook, physically meeting everyone I have connected with and presenting the results in Breda and hopefully other places.

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