As invited, I approach the record player in the middle of the gallery. Play a record, the artist says. I place a 7 inch single on the turntable and find myself transported to another time and place.
This bit, I should stress, is not quite what the artists behind #UNRAVEL had in mind but suddenly I am standing by my new blue Dansette record player in the lamplight of a long-ago bedroom. On a dark night, wind howling outside, I am drowning the sound with Kinks, Beatles and Sonny Boy Williamson. It is 1965 and this is my 18th birthday present. Or is it Christmas 1964? I am getting dressed for a party. Or am I staying in for the night?
I see the room and hear the music but I’ve probably packaged a teenage of record playing into one lamplit moment. And, returning to an Edinburgh gallery in 2012, that’s the point of this exhibition. We must handle memories with care.
The unreliability of memory is the stuff of #UNRAVEL, another quirky interplay between science, psychology and pop music conjured up by Found the band
I went to the press preview at Inspace Gallery, in Edinburgh University Informatics building, as Tommy, Ziggy and Simon were packing up and preparing to move after a six week residency in the gallery. Centre stage, among other beautifully styled self-playing musical instruments, was the turntable (I wonder whatever happened to my old Dansette). In the corner of the gallery stands Cybraphon, Found’s previous and very successful project with Simon Kirby. The ‘emotional wardrobe’ won a Scottish Bafta and a lot of fans (including Ed Uni’s Principal Tim O’Shea) with its clever manipulation of music, computer science, social media and human emotion.
#UNRAVEL uses similar ingredients: robotic musical instruments which respond to real human movement in the room and virtual activity in cyberspace. But this time there is also the voice of Aidan Moffat, the Glasgow-based writer and musician.
And here’s his voice coming from the record player telling stories triggered by a record on the turntable. Pick any record you like from the selection of 10 singles in a box. You won’t hear the actual record play. Instead a story unfolds from the narrator’s personal memories. Play the record again and again; the chances are that each time you hear it, the story – the music from the robotic instruments around you – and some of the facts – will be subtly different. Sadder, happier, funnier, stranger…
Serious concepts, teased out by the characteristically playful Found. Our memories of any event can change according to our moods and circumstances. Dials on the record player register possible variables (time, weather, company and emotional responses) so the audience can see and hear the changes for themselves.
I am struck by another spontaneous personal reaction. No doubt influenced by echoes of the 60s, I chose to play a single by the Ronettes. I have no memory of owning this single back in the day of the Dansette. But I do remember my very first LP which had pride of place in my bedroom. Sonny Boy Williamson In Memoriam. And today I see the sleeve notes say it was published in 1965. Well at least I can now remember the right date. Maybe.