Earlier this spring, I was challenged to create a sound work to animate a space that I had never visited. Anne Koval was curating an exhibition for the Banff Park Museum, in which she invited three female artists from New Brunswick to create work that would animate this space. The museum is filled with taxidermy and geological specimens. It is a natural history museum that was founded and set up over a hundred years ago. The office of the curator has not been touched in more than half a century, and sits as it did when the original curator, Sanson, worked there.
Anne asked me if I could make a sound work that would play in his office and animate the space with the memory of his presence. She sent me many photos of his office and of the museum and reading materials about him and about the history of the region.
My original plan was to source out the sounds of all of the animals in the space and to create a composition of the sounds that the animals once made before they became specimens.
In the end however, I decided to source out the sounds that Sanson himself once made. I created a fiction without a narrative arc. A recreated moment or snippet of time that he may or may not have enacted during his lifetime there in the museum. I approached Jean-Philippe Raiche, and recorded the session in his home in one take in real time. His home is filled with antique furniture and books and fountain pens and ink wells. I had a list of all of the animals in the museum in latin, and Jean-Philippe sat at his desk, and using the fountain pen and inkwell, spoke and wrote out the names of the animals in latin. He lit some candles, took books off the shelf, flipped through their pages, wrote some more, read some more, and puttered in his home office. The recording was a simple reinactment of the sounds of research and writing that may once have been carried out a hundred years ago on the other side of the country.