Jane Pitt and Rob Turner
with Katy Beinart, Jack Brown and Jo Thomas
Jack: Is it busy down there in Whitstable?
Jane: This is as far into Whitstable as I’ve got, I walked straight off the high street. It is quite busy, the roads not as busy as I thought it would be, I thought it would be full of daytrippers.
Jack: Its still earlyish…
Jane: Whose is that piece there? It’s got a real feel to it, its like a piece of work I made. I’ve got this shadow house, which is this simple block house on stilts.
Jack: This is our logo. We did a workshop for ourselves and we asked what sort of structure we thought FG was. The stilts seem to work, and the ladder in as a sort of helpful, playful treehouse.
Jane: But there is something about that basic shelter shape, like a shed, there is just something universal about it that I don’t understand completely but I’m very drawn to it.
Jack: And it’s the kind of building that could kind of be anywhere anyway. It could be in a city, or a treehouse or in another country.
Jo: And there is something quite childish in the simplicity and in the way it can be taken away, quite playful and quite fun.
Jane: But you’ve got the dark hole. I got someone to make the one I use, but when I brought it back and I was living in London in a block of flats, and I hadn’t painted it or anything.
Jo: How big is it then?
Jane: Well you stand and look in it, its about 2 metres. I’ve toured it for a few years.
Jo: So its quite substantial.
Jane: Yes its been in my studio for a few years, I was just thinking yesterday whether I should sort of dust it off or put something else in it and suggest it to Horniman’s gardens.
Jo: So we are having playful conversations. We’ve got some plasticine down there, and a bit of wire.
Jane: I brought an object.
Jack: Well lets look at that first, that’s nice.
Jo: I love it, cos its actually the siren people, have you met the siren people?
Jack: Are they in the fringe program? Its bascially people recording the sound of a siren today, and I presume they are going to play it very loud, its two girls.
Jane: Oh everyone is doing voices now.
Jo: So how do you use this?
Jane: Well, its not something I use as such, but when I thought about what object could represented my process I straight away thought, the milk bottle. Because you can cut off the bottom and you can vocalise through it but also it can be a listening device.
Jack: So it’s a receptacle for conversation
Jane: Yeah but also my main strand of my work revolves around translating places, spaces, objects and turning them into vocalised sound. So it’s the amplifying of the everyday.
Rob: Hi, hello there I’m Rob.
Jack: Hello Rob, I’m Jack please sit down and join in.
Rob: Hello, You were at the same do, I met you at the canteen thing. Did we make boats?
Jane: We were in different groups, we disagreed I think.
Rob: Paivi was in my group, she was very keen about boats because of her lightship.
Jane: But this also relates to a piece of work I just made. This part came out of an exponential horn, which is an amplifying horn. I’ve just made a sound sculpture for a very loud street, but I didn’t want to compete with the noise by making something even louder. I wanted to incorporate the sound with something that technically worked as well as being a beautiful object. Its been really interesting because people relate to it in a very human way.
Rob: Where is it?
Jane: It's in Germany. Its in the middle of a dual carriageway.
Rob: Have I just butted in? How does this work? Sorry Jane to interrupt...
Jack: Well, its very informal, more of a fourway conversation. But we have also got these up here so you can make an object while we chat.
Rob: I was going to buy a pint of lager
Jo: You are welcome to.
Jane: I was fantasising about a glass of prosecco but I’ve got to drive now.
Rob: Where are you living now? I thought you were in Whitstable?
Jane: No I live in good old chavvy Chatham.
Rob: God that’s miles away.
Jo: So you know each other
Jane: Yes we meet each other at various events, we were in that show together.
Rob: I’m going to get that pint, it's such a beautiful day.
Jane: Well, it’s the first time I’ve voiced it but I realised I was talking over everybody. But I’ve spent the last few years getting away from objects and working with the body. Well, embodying sounds and vocalising. And I realised I had to get back to the object
because its quite hard to exhibit sound without something. So I made this mad thing in Germany which I really love but I haven’t brought a picture of or anything. And then I went to the Science Museum and I don’t know if you have been but they rebuilt this really big, exponential horn, that used to be used for radio broadcasts and stuff. And it was really interesting watching people and how they approached it. They were doing the same thing as they were doing with mine, they were sticking their heads in it and really experimenting with it. Its that thing between sound and visual, and I like to highlight sound but people need that balance. So it was really interesting to watch the approach. In Germany this guy literally really believed that the sound was coming out of the ground, but its not it was coming out of speakers.
Jo: Does that matter to you?
Jane: Well no, it was more than I could hope for. I did want to create a myth really. Even though I spent a lot of time recording and doing workshops with people and stuff like that. Actually at the end of the day you want to be recording all sorts of reactions like that.
Jack: Because that is what is left behind isn’t it? The myth is what is left.
Jane: Because it means they have taken it on. I keep getting emails from people saying ‘we are keeping an eye on it, we are looking after it' - some of the flowers got nicked and someone has gone on to replace them for me.
Jo: So is it there permanently?
Jane: It’s just until July.
Jo: So how important was the place
in the work? Is it a touring exhibition?
Jane: Well I don’t know, because the core of my work is translating, and that you can do it anywhere.
Jack: Are people your translators in a way?
Jane: Well it can be, it depends because sometimes people invite me to work with them. But this piece is commissioned by a bunch of galleries and they make public art in a really traditional way, but I don’t do that really. So this time, they do have live stuff there, it’s a biennial thing that gets funded by their casino.
Jack: By a casino, that’s interesting, what a strange thing for a casino to be bothered to do.
Jane: Its owned by the town, its just like being funded by the lottery.
Rob: So how long did you have to go out there?
Jane: Well every artist got given the same budget and it was fairly free, but I didn’t realise as we didn’t meet that often, but we were from nine different countries. But I just proposed what I did and they just said yes, but there was another artist who proposed things and they said no. So it wasn’t that free.
Jo: Do you work with people much Rob?
Jane: Can I have some mesh, are you stealing all the plasticine.
Jo: Well we have just been speaking to someone who works in a barbershop so I’m wondering how you work with people.
Rob: Well I just get told to go work with people. Its not always the case but very often it is. Community
involvement is part of the brief so you work with local groups. It might be local schools or the general public.
Jack: This is Chrissy and Dorothy.
Jo: So do you find when you work with people in places do you adhere to the brief quite carefully?
Jane: I’m doing two different things really at the moment. That one in Germany I went and found people myself, and usually I do initiate it so I tend to find people. But I do this art transmission radio experiment and the group was found by the people who initiated the project so they did the advocacy with the groups before I went and met them. So I supposed its not really so cut and dried.
Rob: I suppose mine is a little bit more cut and dried then yours. But I tend to work with people who are initiated already. Sometimes you do have to find people cold calling to find people to work with but yours is a slightly different process from mine I think.
Jane: Tell me why…
Rob: I do have to stick to the brief
, unless I can persuade people to leave it. Does that make sense? And sometimes it isn’t a good idea to leave the brief and other times it might be. If the brief you feel doesn’t quite work, you are in a position to be able to steer it away from its original course, and sometimes they are happy to let it go and sometimes they are not.
Jane: ...and sometimes you discover that the people you are working with don’t really know what the brief you are working on was about in the first place.
Rob: Yeah and if it was something that you are prepared to run with new ideas
Jane: You can start off thinking you were both meant to be doing something in a particular way, and then you discover that noone actually knows what that was so you start to go a bit free range.
Jo: So what stage are you brought in on a project then? Are you responding to a call out?
Rob: I am, normally, quite often. Well, but you probably invent things and then find a source to fund it.
Jane: Sometimes, but I have also been quite lucky.There are some producers in Glasgow who put different artists that they are associated with up for commissions
if they fancy your type of work they come up to you and say - well we’ve got this project could you propose something. So that the people you are going to work with and the location are already there, and you’ve got to take it from there. Its been really lucky. It’s a negotiation, its like any relationship
, you propose something and then you shape it. But then other things come out of that. For an example coming out of Scotland, because at this place its nearly all people with learning disabilities so they’ve got artists with different disciplines, so that’s another relationship you develop as well. 2 years ago I met a musician doing one of these projects and now we are going to do a bursary and hopefully that will go a bit further.
Rob: So a serendipidous bumping into, places and situations and people and scenarios.
Jane: Or you realise something and you find a way of pursuing it. Recognise something more than realise.
Jo: What are the main ways that people interact with your work?
Rob: Well I sort of leave them there and people engage with them
Jo: It's mosaics isn’t it?
Jo: So what was the last project you were involved in?
Rob: The one I’m doing at the moment is a mosaic, the one before that is a mosaic that I haven’t installed for certain reasons, and the one before that was for the theatre and a sculpture trail for some posh middle class gardens.
Jane: How did that go? how much control
did you have over it?
Rob: Well, I had control over everything except for who I worked with. That was the deal. These are the ten primary schools, so you are working with them you can do anything you like.
Jack: Because if you work with a school you know what you are going to get. You will just get 30 kids and they will be brought to you and taken at the right time. Cos sometimes that is the hardest part about doing something that is publicly engaged
is finding a public that wants to engage with it.
Jane: I’ve sort of tried to do less of that lately because its exhausting.
Jack: It is.
Jane: But it does mean you have a relationship
with them right from the start.
Jack: it’s the hardest bit often it can be the most rewarding bit.
Jane: It can be but it depends on how you work it. Cos I did a boat thing, and I spent hours and hours and months putting it together, and because it was only going to be 2 hours once they got on the boat it meant that everyone felt they were part of the event. And they already knew what they had to do as I had sent them little bits of sound and little phonetic descriptions of sounds we were going to make when they got there.
Rob: Is that sound in letter form?
Jane: Its an approximation of a sound, because that’s what I work with. Essentially. I was watching a weird little Youtube clip about a beatboxer this week where the guy who was making the video described him as a biomedical synthesiser. I just thought ‘that’s a great term’ so that’s what people become when I make these projects, they become kind of synthesisers by making approximations of things they’ve heard or relate to in a space which is relevant. Rather than recording the sound of a place
and playing it back to the place itself you are actually saying so, what have you heard.
Jack: Do you find it easier to share your work because its sound based as opposed to sharing a visual sculpture which has to be transported?
Jane: Share, with who?
Jack: Well, possibly with the primary audience
of the project itself, or even a secondary audience.
Jane: The secondary audience is the thing, the primary audience is not, cos they are part of it really. And actually you spend a lot time talking about what it is but the people you are working with they get it because its really evident.