Skip to main content

Siân Robinson Davies - Conversations

Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop
16 July – 31 August 2016


It's good to talk. Just ask Sian Robinson Davies, whose new sound work, Conversations, which has just opened at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop as part of Edinburgh Art Festival, features thirteen bite-size dialogues between inanimate objects, intimate body parts and intangible universal constructs. Over almost half an hour's worth of speed-dating size exchanges, assorted odd couples flirt, rub up against each other or else just try to explain themselves through snippets of philosophical enquiry.

Characters include a Credit Card attempting to explain to a Penis the notion of contactless transactions, an on-heat Lipstick coming on strong with some sexless Breezeblock and last words from a Pillow in conversation with Revenge.

“I started writing the conversations because I was asked to write textual responses to a couple of artists' work, both of whom work with objects,” Robinson Davies explains about the roots of Conversations, “and then I just developed them from here. I guess they came about from a general interest I have in the way people interact.”

A stint on the committee of Edinburgh artspace, Rhubaba, was also an influence on Robinson Davies' installation, which forms the final part of On an otherwise ordinary evening, a series of ESW exhibitions based around story-telling.

“I have become interested in how groups make decisions, reading stuff such as Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats,” Robinson Davies says, referring to the lateral thinking guru's system for group discussion. “Reading about all these ways that people can communicate effectively has just drawn my attention to the way we often communicate really ineffectively, or with differing perspectives or priorities that are never made explicit. So the whole thing is really about how we manage to get along even though we have these weird disjointed conversations all the time.”

While some of the pieces come from a clearly defined physical basis, introducing less tangible abstractions such as Flying, Ocean and Revenge takes the playlets to another level.

“By having Flying in there, I could ask about whether concepts can take responsibility for actions,” Robinson Davies says. “That relates to whether businesses can take responsibilities for damages. They do financially, but it's complicated when it comes to apologies. Flying is an opportunist who takes credit for the good things and shirks responsibility for the bad. We see that in politics and business all the time.

Adding Revenge as a concept allows it to be more slippery than objects can be. Revenge slips in and out of being freedom, and it can do that in our imagination because it doesn’t have a physical form. It’s more difficult to do with objects, because as soon as you name an object, a Walking Stick, for example, it’s really difficult for it become kindling or something else, because the name defines its function so clearly.”

For the recording of Conversations, Robinson Davies brought in a variety of performers who bring nuance and personality to each character.

“In choosing the voices I tried to find the people around me whose idiosyncrasies could bring something out in the characters I have written,” she says. “Take the Feather, for example. The hesitation in the voice is really special, it makes the feather so believable. I didn’t know it until I heard Timothea read the part that that is how the feather should sound, but when I heard it, it couldn’t be any other.”

While Conversations gives voice to non-human entities in a way that David Shrigley did in his opera, Pass The Spoon, and Glasgow-based performance artist Merlin Nova has explored with a series of monologues by kitchen implements performed on Subcity Radio, Robinson Davies' work in part recalls the It-Narrative, an eighteenth century literary vogue that personified animals and objects.

“I was actually reading stuff like David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” she says, “which is so dark, but absolutely incredible in terms of complex character development through interview/monologue/conversation form.”

In what is effectively a suite of radio plays, one can imagine Conversations fitting in well on online art station, Resonance FM. As a some-time stand-up comedian as well, Robinson Davies recognises the work's potential for performance, and doesn't rule out further Conversations.

“I’d like to,” she says, “especially because I feel like I have gained a much greater understanding of how they are being interpreted now they are installed. If I wrote more there are many things I would improve. But now I need a break from them. I’m training full-time to become a computer programmer and I’m working on some prose fiction. The conversations are so short. I love that about them and it’s definitely what enabled me to develop them, even through busy periods, but I’m ready for a bit of long form, where I can really knit together complex ideas over a long duration.”

The List, August 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…

Rob Drummond – The Mack

Rob Drummond was at home in England when he looked at the news feed on his phone, and saw a post about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. It was June 2018, and the writer and performer behind such hits as Grain in the Blood, Bullet Catch and Our Fathers initially presumed the post was to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 blaze in GSA’s Mackintosh Building, which was undergoing a major restoration after much of it was destroyed.
As it turned out, the news was far worse, as reports of a second fire were beamed across the world. As someone who had taken Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic construction for granted while living in Glasgow, Drummond was as stunned as anyone else with even a passing relationship with the Mack.
While emotions continue to run high in response to the disaster, Drummond channelled his thoughts on all this into what he does best. The result is The Mack, a new play that forms part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre season in Glasgow prior …