"Ryouiki no Yukiki"; Waverly Gallery; Nottingham, England. 2006
The clock tower in Nottingham’s Old Town Square houses a bell called "Little John" (due to the city’s proximity to Sherwood Forest), which reputedly has the deepest tone of any bell in the country. And while it is not louder than the Big Ben in decibels, it can be heard farther than any other bell because of the way the surrounding land is shaped. It is said that on a clear day, Little John can be heard seven miles around.
Visualizing this area within the seven-mile radius of Little John’s deep voice made me consider the land in a more bodily, organic way. It reminded me of how the indigenous people of Australia come to have intimate knowledge of their land via the oral tradition of "Songlines" handed down to them by their ancestors. The aboriginals learn by heart certain songs which tell them about the land in which they live, including regions they may never see in their lives. One finds in the words of the songs intimate and vital knowledge of the land, such as the exact location where water is to be found.
Thinking about the original function of clock tower and church bells and their (ir)relevance today, I decided to try to map the area within Little John’s "voice-range" by walking the edges of the seven-mile radius, and asking the locals I meet for walking directions to the bell. Covert audio recordings were made of people explaining the way to me, often genuinely (and touchingly) concerned about my being “lost”.
The piece was presented as a sound installation in the Waverly Gallery, with several CD players each connected to a pair of speakers. In the center of the space, Little John can be heard chiming the hour, while locals giving me verbal directions to the bell can be heard murmuring all around the periphery of the room.
photos by: The Exchange Centre, Nottingham Trent University, Lynn Lu