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coming together nicely (Aidan Moffat and FOUND on an unusual collaboration)

By • Apr 24th, 2012 • Category: Feature

#UNRAVEL is a collaboration between the FOUND Art Collective and Aidan Moffat which opens at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art on Friday (20th April).

Tommy Perman, Ziggy Campbell and Simon Kirby from the FOUND Collective along with Aidan himself tell itm? about how #UNRAVEL was created.

Tommy – “I think the ideas that we have tend to evolve from previous work that we’ve done. So #UNRAVEL follows on from Cybraphon, our emotional robot band. And certainly you can see the mechanical musical instruments being used again.”

Simon – “#UNRAVEL’s about the unreliable nature of memory. Visitors to the gallery will walk up to a record player and look through a collection of 7” records, mostly from the 80s. Each of those records has a memory associated with it. So our narrator will relate stories from his life, each associated with these records.

Aidan – “”It was my job to come up with the records and how they’d connect with the memories I have of them.
“It was quite difficult because there were a few songs that I wanted to choose that were never released on 7”. So I had to be quite hardcore and if it wasn’t a 7″ then I didn’t want to use it.
“So some of them I had to pick different songs by the same bands but that was only 1 or 2 of them, I think. But most of them are all very genuine memories connected with the records that I chose.”

Simon – “If you’re in the gallery you’ll pick out one of these records and put it on the record player but instead of hearing the song that’s on the record that you’d expect you’ll hear a story of this memory soundtracked by a collection of robotic instruments that will play along with the story.”

Tommy explains that #UNRAVEL was initially shaped by some very practical considerations.
“We were invited to apply for the Creative Scotland Vital Spark award and part of that was that you had to collaborate with someone you’ve never worked with before and introduce a new element to your work.

Ziggy – “We needed someone to do the writing job essentially, to provide the narrative. I kind of knew straight away that I wanted to work with Aidan.”

Tommy – “We thought, well we’re both on the same label, so that’s a good route to at least get to meet him to see if he’s into working with us.”

Ziggy – “I phoned Aidan and asked him if he wanted to get involved. Which must have been quite a bizarre phone call for him to get. Because I’d said ‘hi’ to him a couple of times but I didn’t know him.
“He was pretty enthusiastic and then we went through and met him. We got pissed with him and Malcolm and just bashed out the idea some more. And he started having these ideas like one could be a phone message, one could be a song, one could be a story. And we were ‘great -that’s the kind of thinking we need for the writing job’.”

Aidan – “I’ve been wanting to do something with stories and they way they’d be presented for a while so it came at exactly the right point. This was exactly the sort of thing I’d been thinking about.”

Tommy – “Aidan went away and started to write these stories and all of a sudden sent over 10 stories with 4 versions of each. We were all blown away with the quality and ingenuity of them. There were some very fun, playful elements. He’d really got the idea and the way he might be able to warp a memory depending on the weather or depending if it was an early telling of the story or a late night telling of the story.

“So the content changes sometimes quite dramatically but sometimes very subtly, just a few words. And that really inspired us to carry on with the rest of the project.”

In addition to Aidan’s storytelling, the memories have been soundtracked and Ziggy explained that FOUND wrote most, but not all, of the music for the installation.
“It’s mostly me and Tommy but Aidan came up with a song and sent it over, and we transposed it onto the installation.
“The first thing was that we had to build it before we could write it!”

Tommy – ” The other aspect of it was the musical instruments that we’ve got to work with. It’s an unusual sound palate and that was an extra dimension to the task of sitting down and writing for this.”

Ziggy – “We had only 5 weeks to write essentially 160 pieces of music, all two minutes long. Even to write a two minute piece and have it finish on the nose is harder than you might think.

Tommy – “We were responding to these stories and trying to write music, like a really stormy version of the track and then doing a sunny day version, doing more intimate versions, then lively versions, always working with the text and trying to highlight the text. It was a great challenge.”

Ziggy- “Most of it is spoken word and writing for that you’ve got to be careful not to mask important bits of the story. Yet you still want it to be quite dynamic, you don’t want it to be quiet and droney in the background just so that you can hear everything.”

Similar considerations applied to Aidan’s delivery of the stories.
Aidan – “There was a certain element (of performance). We did talk about that because I didn’t want it to sound too much like a performance because it’s not something I do very well. We did laugh about it sounding too much like a radio play.

“So we made sure it all sounded as natural as possible. Hopefully we managed that. But it’s like anything, if you read a short story there’s a certain amount of amateur dramatics to put it across. It’s as natural as we could make it without it sounding too flat because you have to make it sound as exciting to listen to as you can. We have to make it palatable (laughs).”

There are plans for the future of #UNRAVEL beyond the GIFVA.
Tommy – “We’ve talked about touring it around the UK. The nice thing about it is that it sits between a lot of different things, it’s a gallery installation but it doesn’t have to be in a gallery. It’s also like a musical piece that you could sit down and listen to almost like a concert and it’s got that kind of literary element to it.”
“We’re hoping that we can find unusual spaces to show it in. It doesn’t have to be a traditional arts space. Maybe we could show it in libraries or music venues, who knows. ”

Aidan – “After it goes on show in Glasgow in April, then finishes in May, we’re going to try and tour it, I think.
“We’re going to do some form of music format, we might do an LP, we haven’t quite decided yet. We’re talking about a card game with the stories where you have to shuffle it yourself and pick random versions. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

#UNRAVEL can be seen at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art between 20th April and 7th May at SWG3, 100 Eastvale Place, Finnieston, Glasgow, G3 8QG.
Opening hours are MON – FRI 10am-6pm and SAT – SUN 12 noon-5pm.

More on #UNRAVEL at Manic Pop Thrills, the blog created by article author Mike Melville.

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