Previous AA2A Artist

Richard McCann

Project summary:

My original plan for the residency at Salford Arts Unit was that I would develop a major installation project that I’d been working on for two years; a piece using sound and digital video to explore the things that are lost during urban regeneration, and the way in which, (as Helmholtz suggests), sound continues to echo for eternity, despite being inaudible to human hearing. At first, the project seemed to be taking off; but after a catastrophic attempt to get funding, and a last minute change of schedule by the gallery which was the potential host of the installation, I found myself with a big project, no money and an increasingly vague promise of a venue. (Yeah, I know, it’s a familiar story). But finding inspiration in frustration is a skill I’ve developed over years of practice. Instead of plodding on as if nothing had changed, I decided to use the residency as an opportunity to step outside my habitual working process and develop an awareness of connections in things I’d been doing for years: writing, playing and recording music and maintaining some sort of visual art activity. In particular, I found myself exploring personal archive material: mostly found objects etc, but also literary influences which had motivated my initial move away from visual art.

The piece I produced was inspired by things associated with living in London while I was studying Fine Art. One Saturday afternoon, I bought some old 78s in a junkshop in Walthamstow. It was a real junkshop, full of decrepit furniture, heaps of 78s scattered ankle-deep over dusty floorboards. I had no idea why I wanted them. Perhaps, like the character in Samuel Beckett’s play “Krapp’s Last Tape”, I was collecting memorabilia for an unimaginable future. I’d read the play during my first couple of months in London. Finding the Gracie Fields 78 “When I grow too old to dream” marked the end of that period, as if I’d found the missing bookend. It was a song I’d always hated. In fact, the song is “Krapp’s Last Tape” in a different form: both texts are monologues with recorded accompaniment, which explore a desperation to select memories for a future in which there is no further hope of romance or redemption. When I grow too old to dream? It’s a frightening concept. As the writer Horace McCoy (or maybe it was Nathanael West) said “dreams die last”. The idea of living beyond the end of all possible dreams is both unthinkable and downright undesirable.

'Sonic Snapshots No1: A dream of life'
Image from video (5mins 41secs)