Carolyn Wright: Conversational miscues

When Winnie Love met Carolyn Wright

When Winnie Love met Carolyn Wright

When Winnie Love met Carolyn Wright

I am told at the meeting place to come back in 10 minutes. At exactly 3pm, I will be given a Walkman with instructions for a walk. I don’t have a watch and I’ve left my mobile at home so I have to keep asking people the time. Having established I don’t need the wheelchair/lift version, I don the headphones. “Hello, how are you?” says a decidedly friendly female voice. Any reply would be pointless. The voice suggests we take a walk.

Out of the building, past the tactile carved stone letters in the entrance and outside. “Oh it’s a bit breezy”, says the voice. “No it isn’t”, I reply (to myself), mildly annoyed. So, off we go, me and the voice, out to the docks to look at … “the ripples, aren’t they lovely … and the boats.” I’m now muttering, and thinking I’ve got stuff to say. This is my patch, these docks. I want to add my take, give my part “… past the sculpture.” Listen Ms Whoever-you-are, that sculpture means something to me! Don’t just pass it and sit down. Oh, we’re off again. Rather too slowly, lamely. I’m huffing in a huffy way now. More jolly conversation, lame comments as we pass through the bar COMPLETELY IGNORING the filming and the artworks going on. I’m thinking, she’s pre-recorded this soundtrack. This so-called ‘conversation’ doesn’t involve me or my experience of this time and space. Okay, well maybe it’s leading me somewhere. Up the stairs we go, falteringly, in order for ‘us’ to look at what Ms Voice wants to point out as interesting. I’m reacting petulantly to this mildly ingratiating primary school teacher persona. I’m nearly at the door. She, Ms Selfish, has been expressing her anticipation: “Soon we’re going to meet. Will we recognise each other?” I’m being directed to the door ahead. I have a sinking feeling, like going to see an unfavourite aunt. Through the door, I’m to take off the headphones and knock 3 times on another door. Now it feels more like an interview with my first headmaster who will not listen to my side of the story.

“Hello, nice to meet you.” “Yes,” I say. It’s dark in the long room. We walk to the far side, to 2 easy chairs. There is a dim, red glow. She’s acting friendly, saying she feels like we already know each other, asking me how I’m feeling. Now’s my chance. My hackles are raised. I tell her, “I know something about you, but you know nothing about me.” I feel there is an imbalance, a slippage (I notice she is mirroring my movements.) “Yes,” she says, “this happens when the rules of conversation are shifted, or broken…One of the work’s aims is to explore what happens when the accepted pattern of conversation is momentarily suspended.” I ask if she is noting the encounters, the outcomes. I say something about analysing the data to help improve her practice; I’m still riled, implying she might need some feedback. I have allowed myself to be provoked, I’m emotional, irritated.

There is the opportunity to record this encounter in a different way, she says, and asks if I would like to? I agree to sit completely still. Wearing cotton gloves, a small black packet is opened in the red darkness and she slips the contents into her mouth, switches on a bright lamp and sits back grinning strangely.

Caroline Wright, Conversations with friends; Arnolfini Meeting Room, Feb 2

Caroline Wright studied Fine Art at Norwich School of Art and Design. Her practice is interdisciplinary, combining performance, sound, video, photography and installation with a focus on human communication.

RealTime issue #72 April-May 2006 pg.

© Winnie Love; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

2 February 2006