I Don't Know

‘I Don’t know’ was my first performative vocal experiment. It was inspired by ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, a novella written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892 which is about a woman entrapped by her husband under the auspicious belief that ‘rest’ would cure her depression. It is rather a painful witness to a woman’s mental breakdown, due to her being controlled, in a room with horrendous yellow wallpaper that becomes the object of her psychological paranoia and confusion. She goes completely mad. It expressed perfectly the attitudes to hysteria in the past. I represented this in the piece by painting a wallpaper pattern onto green velvet with the sound emitting from the gaping hole of a massive mouth in a perverse detached head would communicate the pain of female subordination, loss of autonomy and anxiety expressed in the book.

The inspiration for the sounds came from the fact women often say ‘I don’t know’, this honest uncertainty underpins many behaviours and doubts that women have about themselves, physically and psychologically. It is about perceived and received female gender expectations and language.

I performed with the R26 and enjoyed the playfulness that involved recording strange sounds like stroking my sofa, the inside of my handbag and the kettle boiling. I realised that I could paint with sound, that sounds could be that immaterial medium through which I could still be able to transmit meaning. I stretched, pitched, layered enveloped, amplified, faded, echoed, reversed and reverbed my way into a multi channel track which I then positioned into surround sound.