Museum Of The Moment

Harrow Road, London

October 2007

Photos Kuba Novak (info@kubanowak.com)

 

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The 'Museum Of the Moment' manifest as 6 interlocking sound peices to be heard whilst walking down Harrow Road, wearing wireless headphones. The viewer was invited to pick up a pair of headphones at one end of the street, tune them into the broadcast frequency and then walk the length of Harrow Road tuning into snapshots of conversations, narratives, historical records and conversations, all recorded during a 3 week period earlier in the year. The project broadcast live for 2 weeks in October 2007.

I came up with the title The Museum of the Moment a couple of years ago and kept coming back to it. When you start to think about it, it becomes a kind of riddle. You can’t make a museum out of a moment because once you try to fix a moment it disappears. That is why it is so hard to document the everyday, because as soon as you begin to try and represent it, it just disappears. Also the everyday take its time to emerge, to become ordinary and lastly it is fragile and quickly become something else, the slowness of the moment replaced by event or spectacle. The everyday is not really remembered, it is felt, it is the background scenery of the events that we do remember.

Although I find it hard to conceptualise what a Museum Of The Moment might be in actual fact real museums are made up from objects which signify moments, their collections are built on fragments of time, knitted together to build a story or what we know as history.

I was invited to make the Museum Of The Moment by an organisation called Freqout who are supposedly something to do with the ICA. They asked me to make a project for wireless headphones in response to Harrow Road and this propsition fitted with the Museum Of The Moment project I had been developing independently with a Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council of Wales. This project really focused on the idea of the gaze, the act of looking, in relation to listening to pre- recorded audio from or of a place. How audio can frame ones real time experience on the street.

Museum Of The Moment sought to simulate processes adopted by museums and began collecting sound clips from Harrow road, edited them together to create 6 sound pieces which speak of the ordinary things that people in the area are effected by or interested in, the resurfacing of the road, the fact that whilst the road was being resurfaced the bus took much longer to get home, family, food, local community, the insular worlds that we all inhabit within a locality. Some of these sound clips were collected by young people from the area during workshop sessions where we went out on the street and interviewed people these moments were really great, and you can hear from the audio that these exchanges often led to frank discussions about how young people in the area are perceived. We also construct narratives from or about the area and I had the opportunity to just go out on walks with individuals and record conversations and discussions.

In a sense the audio recorded is a kind of document, recording an audio snapshot of Harrow Road.

The audio that has been recorded is therefore a combination of the projects we worked on in the workshops and material I collected on the street from people who live and work in the area. I would therefore like to think that the audio is a social space, a place where people who live in close proximity to each other but may never meet exchange their views and opinions of Harrow Road.

The final manifestation of the project was an audio walk up Harrow Road for people wearing wireless headphones. They could tune into bits of the broadcast as they walked up the street.

Project © Jennie Savage 2006 (title, concept and audio, note to VR)

Background

The role of museum institutions is to hold in store collections, archives and information for the public and to make those collections available to the public through exhibitions. In many ways, therefore, museums are guardians of our culture, our history and our collective understanding of who we are as a society.

What museums actually represent is the colonial impulse to map, collect and order the world. To create micro versions of the world in which we, the viewer, presides god–like, reigning over time and place. This god–like reign speaks in the voice of a scientific paradigm, representing a class, a history and a gender. It frames a collective meta- narrative born out of 18c explorers, imperialism and colonisation.

Objects in museum collections play 2 parts, firstly they exist as ‘things’ to be regarded for their materiality or their aesthetic value and secondly they exist as signifiers for stories and cultures, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle of how the world and history fit together. These stories are however told by the voice of science, of reason and history. The truths that the museum tells us are, therefore, the truths of a paradigm, according to a particular westernised world view.

Central themes common in museum experience are; walking or travelling, navigating space in relation to taxonomies. The mapping of temporal and geographical systems onto space. The organisation and signification of objects in relations to stories. Museum architecture as a legacy from the birth of capitalism. The importance of the gaze.

The Museum Of The Moment replaces museum architecture with the street and wireless headphones. This situation shifts the dynamic in the relationship between the viewer and the ‘subject’. The subject is no longer static, dead, it is ever changing, temporal, alive, impossible to predict or pin down. The headphones mark the viewer out as ‘tourist’, ‘voyeur’ and just as they regard the street and listen in on its culture, the street will be watching them.

The gaze and the way in which the viewer looks at the place will be the same gaze we use to regard a collection at the museum. However at the Museum of the Moment the viewer is looking at real life, a constant rolling, changing and unpredictable scene. The audio voice over creates a framework for the viewer to experience the street. The museum is never narrating a definitive scene. The identity politic of the viewer is as variable as the narration by the young people and the events happening on the street. These 3 factors are shifting and changing creating a unique experience in the moment for each viewer.

Similarly there are no objects or dioramas in our Museum collection. Objects are replaced by the ‘meta tagging’ of sites. In our day to day life we tag places with transient associations and memories of fleeting events, the outlandish, the banal, the sublime, the uncanny (these terms come from real emotions & feelings for example. The last time I walked down this road it was a clear day and the sun set over the park, this is where I was knocked of my bike by a man in a blue car, the other day it was really weird, there was a man and woman shouting at each other they were locked out of their house and wearing their pyjamas etc) . This meta tagging could be seen as the everyday, our individual and personal experience of the world. We use these moments to construct our routes and journeys across a place. However as new things happen these old tags get over written but not forgotten. Maybe this is a sense of place.