It’s been a busy time since the residency finished. Time to reflect, evaluate, (set up an Instagram page), take space and try to connect with a sense of stillness. The internal sound still permeates every waking moment. My understanding of Tinnitus shifts and morphs as does the experience of living with the condition on a daily basis … and Tinnitus has a friend – Hyperacusis – the relationship between the two is an interesting one … equilibrium and equanimity are challenged, I continue to learn the stuff that makes up the experience of me ….
Images of the exhibition taken by Photographer and Free Space Project Director Daniel Regan.
“I’d just returned from a wild camping trip on Dartmoor, walked into the flat in Bethnal Green, bent down to put the bags on the floor, then stood up into a barrage of internal sound”
Artist Victoria Coster is one of an estimated 5 million people in the UK to be living with the condition known as Tinnitus. Like many others to be diagnosed, there is no identifiable cause associated with her experience.
Coster’s three month residency with Free Space Project sees the culmination of a body of work developed as a result of her time at Kentish Town Medical Centre. Arising from the need to find a common language to relate her sudden shift in sound sense perception, Victoria devised a questionnaire for other tinnitus sufferers to respond to. Asking questions such as ‘If your Tinnitus were to be associated with an object, colour or form what would it be?, What does your tinnitus look like? and What sounds would you associate it with?’. Together with her own answers and along with the perceived ambience of sound within the building itself, the questionnaire became the basis of and has informed the outcome of the work produced.
Arrived at through an explorative and experimental process, rooted in the framework of a sculpture practice, Coster presents us with moving image, sound, objects, etching, screen prints and drawing. The physical work presented in Free Space Project gallery is accompanied by work made available on Vimeo and Soundcloud. Digital platforms specifically used to highlight aspects of collection in the work, specifically PHANTOM and Sounds Like, where both of these pieces use footage and sound collected from, and then so returned to the internet.
The works viewed in part could be considered as an extended enquiry into the nature of Self in relation to the constant shifting of sense perception. Where in the case of tinnitus it is the heightened sense of perceived sound within the auditory system. The constant and uninterrupted addition of daily noise as an internal veil, has forced Coster to not only look beyond sound to find an internal place of quiet but has also prompted the question ‘What is silence, where does it reside?’
Realisation … In-Tension …
Many thanks to Daniel Regan (Free Space Project Director) for making it possible to go in over the weekend to temporarily install and photograph work. Images, video and sound will be exhibited in situ and on-line next month.
Coming to close … with more In-Tension
To arrive at the beginning of something at the end of the residency is an exciting place to be. A personal challenge I’ve faced during the time spent in residency has been in the translation of ideas. How to combine the various two dimensional and three dimensional elements of my practice and then present them as a coherent body of work at the end.
The Freespace Project is situated within Kentish Town Health Centre, a building designed by architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and one that was nominated for The Sterling Prize in 2009. The project itself was set up in 2010 and is an arts and well-being charity that provides arts activities, therapies, exhibitions and residencies across two NHS sites. The AIR scheme is open to artists from all backgrounds and provides the opportunity for artists to explore ideas around health and wellness in a clinical setting. The opportunity for me has enabled me to immerse both into Tinnitus as a theme and into a deeper understanding of Tinnitus as a personal daily experience. I’ve worked both on and off site to develop and make work but even when off site and responding to answers form the questionnaire, the space of the building, the light, its sound, its ambience in general has influenced and informed decisions I’ve made.
So … as the residency is coming to a close I’m starting to pull the strands together, I’m looking forward to seeing how things work within the project gallery space … and beyond that the experience will no doubt continue to influence the direction of my work …
Drawing sound / Pulsating
On week one I took a roll of paper into the residency, I don’t know how long it is because I’ve had the roll for some time ! But I’m into week ten and I’m still drawing, a continuous sound drawing, responding both to the internal and the external, keeping in mind words I use to describe Tinnitus and words others use to describe it … Drawing was the first step into the project before the residency began … the question ‘What does this sound look like’?
Thinking ‘inside’ the box !
A week of bringing elements together, of translating aesthetics from the parameters of one space to another, taking aspects of the questionnaire answers to create a dialogue between form and colour … time is running … in my head I’m already planning what the show will look like … I’ve measured the space, internalised the floor plan, now I have to complete work to a point … breathe … connect with that point of stillness … silence ! … what is that again ?
Sink, basin, bed of nails
For the last four weeks i’ve been working on two residencies concurrently, the one at Free Space Gallery for which this blog specifically relates to and another at Trinity Buoy Wharf organised as part of UEL’s MA Fine Art program. The project space at Trinity Buoy Wharf was perfect for realising a larger sculpture piece, relevant to the work at Free Space Gallery in the sense that ‘Self’ in relation to sound sense perception is not a fixed concept. The challenge, how to translate this idea to include it in the exhibition at Free Space Gallery from May to June …
Silver & Yellow
I remember not so long ago reading a story about a turtle trying to explain to a fish the concept of dry land … it reminded me of how difficult it is trying to explain to somebody what it’s like to live with the experience of tinnitus … information I’ve read (and there’s been plenty with tinnitus awareness week behind us) takes a very objective stance focusing on the aims, intentions and outcomes of a particular, product, service or organisation. Which is great considering that it’s estimated that 300 million people worldwide experience tinnitus. But this is no modern phenomena, there are texts citing tinnitus back to ancient civilisations. Clay tablets dating back to Babylonian times describe the ‘singing’, ‘talking’ or ‘haunting’ of the ears, none of which mention a remedy or cure … given the fact that we can’t really cure something that we don’t know the absolute cause of it would seem that we still have a considerable way to go … for me self management and maintaining internal balance is the key … It is constant, it can be disruptive, it is very loud, and however many of the ‘self-help’ sections I read, it doesn’t change the fact that I am currently micro-managing Tinnitus every moment of every day, which in itself can be exhausting …
Catching up with myself … organising … reflecting … planning … week 7 has already begun, week 6 was demanding, the days wanted more from me than I had, more than there was … the hiss gets louder … don’t listen … tune out … it plays in the background …
‘Where you are – the place we occupy, however briefly – has everything to do with what and who we are (and finally, that we are).’ – E. S Casey
I can’t believe I’m in week five of the residency, time is running so fast … where am I ! I’m dividing myself between several places at once, or rather immersing myself in several locations at once, immediately, now, this is not brief, but fully felt, fully experienced, though in a greater context it is but a moment, fleeting and fast … today I struggle to hear my recording, T is loud, even with the headphones on … I keep perspective, it is an experience but it isn’t who I am.