Sit with us for a moment and remember
Dylan: Open your eyes. We are here now. We have always been here. You might not have noticed us. But we noticed you. You might not have seen us. But we have seen you.
Lydia: And we are smiling. We are sitting here next to you. We are sitting here for a moment. And we are remembering you. And we hope you remember us too. Because when we left this city we left you. And this bench is all we left behind.
For the We Share Residency at Lace Market Gallery in Nottingham curated by Julian Hughes and Nicola Smith, I created an audio installation with my children – Dylan and Lydia. A bench with a plaque reading Sit with me for a moment and remember is placed in the gallery and an encounter takes place. It is both a dedication to a loved one and an invitation to a stranger. You are invited to sit on the bench to listen to a recording by Dylan and Lydia that reflects on what it means to sit for a moment and remember. A meditation on parenting and remembering, solitude and loss, the piece enacts an encounter with an absent friend or loved one. The text, spoken by my absent children, becomes a mediated presence and evokes a fleeting memory of someone you may have lost. It invites a moment of reflection in an otherwise busy world and asks the visitor to sit and remember someone or something.
This installation continues research interests into ‘Staging Loss’ and performing absence, which recently surfaced in a symposium I co-convened with Dr. Andrew Westerside at the University of Lincoln, Staging Loss: Performance as Commemoration. It continues a thread of working with my children on previous work. Dylan narrated a scene in The Beginning (2012) when he was 3. He read a text about how it feels to begin something as the performers set the stage. Lydia’s voice appeared in the soundscape for The Middle (2013) when she was 2. She says ‘Daddy’ as my Dad describes singing a song to me as a child that he now sings to Dylan and Lydia. For this project, I asked the children if they would like to be involved and they said yes. They took their time over reading the text and, after a short period of rehearsal, we pressed record. Birds sing in the background. There are moments where they hesitate or misread a word, or change the text to something they would say. It becomes more them than me, more childlike, more real, more innocent. More like two children talking than an artwork.
We decided to leave these moments in and it is now installed in the gallery. I took the children in to see the work after its installation and they spent time listening to their own voices, sitting on the bench, looking out of the window. Dylan enjoyed seeing the bench that usually sits in the garden having been moved across the city. Lydia was excited about hearing her own voice and seeing the work in an exhibition. She said it felt like she was listening to the past. We visited the exhibition on my brother Robert’s 39th birthday and I wrote the text about him, their uncle. They never met him, as he died in 1998, but by voicing this text and making it their own, they gave him a voice too. It occurred to me after visiting the gallery that perhaps the next step would be to record the text with other voices, older voices, younger voices, voices with different accents, voices speaking in different languages. This iteration saw me stage it as an installation without a performance for the first time and record it is a dialogue instead of a monologue. It is a dialogue between two children. A conversation between brother and sister. It feels like a conversation that is happening on the bench, either side of where the visitor is sitting, as if the children are sitting there too. They ask the visitor to close their eyes and imagine them. With this iteration, it feels like a new conversation has started. A conversation about memory, family and loss. A conversation that has informed much of my work to date.