SPECULATORS IN SHUSH, Claire Tolan

SPECULATORS IN SHUSH, the closing exhibition of my residency at BLITZ, is presented this Saturday, 5 March, from 19h. The exhibition has two components. First, there is a role-playing game (RPG), which I’ve been developing throughout my time here: Die SPEKULANTEN vor den SIEDLERN von SHUSH (dSvdSvS). The role-playing game is loosely based on EVERWAY, a visionary – but commercially unsuccessful – tabletop RPG created in 1995.

Four or five attendees will “play” dSvdSvS as a performance during the exhibition. I will preside over the game as the facilitating Game Master, or, in the lingo of dSvdSvS, the SHUSH MASTER. I have created a thematic soundscape which underlies the game, and I’ll be triggering different sonic cues throughout the performance.

Role-playing games require each player to create a character, whose identity the player assumes, and through whom the player experiences the game’s events. The other half of SPECULATORS IN SHUSH comprises an audio tour, which guides attendees through the quite complex process of character creation. In dSvdSvS, characters are known as SPECULATORS. All attendees will receive a beautiful SPECULATOR’S MANUAL when they arrive, which contains instructions for SPECULATOR creation that work in tandem with the audio tour.

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When making the audio tour, I was inspired by my friend and frequent collaborator INGER WOLD LUND‘s work. INGER WOLD LUND is a Norwegian artist and writer living in Berlin, who often creates site-specific audio tours for one-night-only events – gallery openings, parties. Her tours feature her stories, but as experienced in the setting of the tour. A story will pause to ask the listener to open a window, or drink a glass of water, or look through a book on the shelf. Last summer, I created the soundscape for Riding so slowly it hurts, Inger’s erotic audio tour of the Berlin Ringbahn (the train that circles Berlin). This coming May, Inger and I will begin working on an audio tour in Bergen, Norway, which will be set on a university campus. It is likely that we will make one tour for the rainy season, and one tour for the dry season.

So, audio tours are very much on my mind, and I’m happy to have the chance to make another one. When Inger and I began collaborating on tours, we paid a lot of attention to Sophie Calle’s 1994 La Visite Guidée, for which Laurie Anderson created the sounds. It’s interesting to see how the sounds interact with the words in this piece – setting tone, but never overwhelming. It’s a great experiment, for me, to see how much sonic padding I can add to an often lengthy and complex narrative of a tour without weighing it down or making it too confusing. A lot of my work involves soft voices and whispers. For the SPECULATORS IN SHUSH tour, I found that repetitive whispered verses at nearly inaudible levels add a very nice substrate to the tour’s contents. Feedback from attendees and their SPECULATORS is very much appreciated!