A Hundred Seas Rising

So today I did something a bit different...

I received an email yesterday asking me if I wanted to take part in a slightly different kind of Dickens tribute for the bicentenary, based around an artist's exploration of the idea, featured in Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities', that literature might be 'implicated in the imagination or trajectories of revolutions'. Of course I said yes (how interesting does that sound?!), and went along this afternoon.

Suki and Richard
What I found was two lovely people: Suki Chan, the artist in question, and Richard Coomber, her glamorous tech assistant, with a microphone and some recording equipment and a inexplicable desire to hear me speak (uh...).

Suki's project is called A Hundred Seas Rising, and it aims to record 100 voices talking about the revolution they'd like to see in the world, as follows (from her website):

'The public will be invited to participate in the imagination of modern day revolutions. These might be personal, social, cultural, philosophical, technological, as well as political revolutions. They will be encouraged to describe the cause or structure they would like to transform, the motivating ideology for this change - including books that might have inspired their ideas, how they would mobilise others, the objectives of the revolution and how this would be achieved, i.e. through peaceful or violent means. The voice of each individual will be recorded individually and each recording will be assigned to one of the school desks, arranged in rows like a classroom environment. It is intended that the voices represent a cross-section of views from different cultural and social backgrounds. The topics for discussion might range from small personal revolutions that perhaps improves the daily life of one person, to ambitious ideas attempting to solve recurrent social ills, such as housing, distribution of money, debt, social welfare, education, the prison system, etc.'

These 100 voices will then chatter together from their school desks to 're-imagine Dicken’s revolutionary mob sonically by creating surges of ideological thought that reverberate across the gallery space'. I think that sounds amazing, and I'm really, really chuffed to be involved.

The recording booth
So, I arrived, having thought about my own ideas of revolution all day, and had a quick chat with Suki about how everything was going to work. I then sat down in the makeshift sound booth in front of a microphone that looked delightfully like one of the ones out of 'The King's Speech' and began to talk about the revolution I'd like to see in the world in suitably lofty tones.

Without going too far into it (and I feel I could, after speaking about it for 20 minutes non-stop this afternoon), the change I'd like to see would be the exchanging of regular consumerism, that overwhelming desire for stuff and things, for another type of consumerism that craves ideas, education and knowledge.

I'd love it if 'knowing things' was the thing that people boasted about to their friends and flashed around themselves as a status symbol. I'd love it if people used an evening class rather than a shopping binge to pick themselves up at the end of a long day. And I'd love it if learning were celebrated and fetished in the public media like beauty is, or like fame is, in a way that made people aspire to a life of learning rather than 15 minutes of fame or the quick fix buzz of a new pair of shoes. This new 'learning' wouldn't necessarily be the result of academia or a fancy-pants education, but rather a popular attitude that encouraged everyone to engage in the type of  'picked-up learning' that I've heard Stephen Fry talk about: learning which is the result of an article properly read, a debate properly had in a place where those disengaged with education might hear it, the explanation to kids that learning is not like school, learning is like life.

A utopia of thought, if you like. Suki prompted me with questions throughout my meandering monologue, connecting the dots of what I was saying, so naturally we touched upon the London riots and on top-up fees, as well as how the state might involve itself in nurturing this change and the prevalence of this attitude of meritocracy and learning in places like Ancient Greece.

The inspiration
Basically, I talked. And I talked. And I talked some more, so naturally, I had an absolute ball. It was an odd sensation though to expose your thoughts so unreservedly in front of two unknown people, and later, an entire art-viewing public.

It was delicious though: like walking along a high-wire between the realms of sublime and ridiculous - there was a tiny voice that kept piping up with 'do you know how ridiculous/high concept you sound?'. I guess that's the point though - revolutions are based upon high concepts, and WE ALL HAVE OPINIONS :). The woman before me said doing it was a lot 'like therapy'. All I know is, I really enjoyed it. I've perhaps made it sound a little intimidating, but it was a bit like having a chat with keenly interested version of your self.

I'm very excited to hear the final exhibit (which will show nationally) and maybe go around and pick out my voice from the crowd (actually, I've told you the gist of mine, so you probably could too!)

Suki's still looking for more voices to make up her 100, so I urge you unreservedly to get involved! Recordings are being done at various places in the UK, so follow this link for more details.

Finally, as this has a link to the Dickens bicentenary, I thought I'd tell you that I have craftily procured the following 'Donate' for the Charles Dickens Statue fund, which is fundraising for a statue of Charles Dickens to be erected in Portsmouth, not two miles from his birthplace, which I mentioned in an earlier post. I think it's delightfully fitting tribute to the great man on his bicentenary, and as Suki has shown, it's a really wonderful cause.

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