Visual Intelligences Research Project

Symposia : The Documentation of Fine Art Processes and Practices : William Furlong

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The Artists Interview um the Spoken Word um The Written Word
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WILLIAM FURLONG, Artist and Director, Audio Art

The Artists Interview um the Spoken Word um The Written Word

I established Audio Arts in 1973, and since then have been recording Artists voices.   This has involved the use of the interview as a strategy yet I prefer to regard my approach as  that of a conversation. We learn about people and are informed about their activities, personality, character, capabilities, intelligence, humour and so on, by engaging in conversation.  This activity is complex and multi layered. Not only do we hear words with prescribed meanings but we ‘read between the lines’ we interpret we assist in the construction of meanings.

Human spoken language is a sequence of constructions aimed at conveying personalized versions of truth and reality. With the spoken word it is often hard to pin down actual meaning because in the next sentence an idea, proposition or assertion might be contradicted or modified. Meaning can be illusive. We are a ‘put it in writing culture’, yet written language is just as prone to the act of construction, and words can be used to conceal truths. In other words written text  is an artifact just as the spoken word is. The only difference now, is that we can, through recording, retain the spoken word and distribute it for permanent reference and analysis. This has only really been possible since the early 1960’s through the introduction of the Phillips audio cassette – hence Audio Arts.

With examples of recordings of Duchamp, Beuys, Hamilton, Cage, Emin, Gillick, Gilbert and George etc., my presentation will argue for an acceptance of the artists voice as the primary source of knowing what they do and how they think.

William Furlong is an artist who established Audio Arts magazine on cassette in 1973, which now represents the most substantial archive of original recordings of contemporary art.  The archive has recently been transferred to the Tate for reasons of research, conservation and future access.  Working primarily with voice and sound, his recent exhibitions include; An Imagery of Absence, Imperial War Museum, London (1998), Sound Garden, Serpentine Gallery, London, and Tholsel, ‘Intelligence, New British Art 2000’, Tate Gallery, London & To Hear Yourself as Others Hear You, solo exhibition at the South London Art Gallery 2002./2003 and Acts of Inscribing, a BBC commission for the prow of Broadcasting House.  Furlong is currently working on a new extensive book on Audio Arts for Phaidon Press, provisionally titled, Talking Art.