21/05 – from Laura Burns
Turning the Page by Stand + Stare is an installation in the foyer of Bristol Central Library. A desk. Hair ties. Sweets strewn about, their wrappers on the floor. Watercolours. Receipts. Just sitting down at this space felt intimate, everyday objects holding memories, speaking their own fragmented stories. I put on a set of headphones and listened to music as I thumbed through the guidebook in front of me, found a page and heard a woman’s voice begin speaking. She was in China, walking through a market place selling animals. I could hear the rattles, the birds, people’s voices coming in and out of focus. With the guidebook in front of me, and the sounds as well as this diaryesque extract, I felt immediately transported. I followed the disembodied voice around various places in China, each one showing me a different side of place and person. The accounts were honest, real. I could relate immediately, perhaps even more so because I’d just been trekking in Morocco and had remembered that strange space of encountering others when you are effectively a tourist, close and distant at the same time. What it means to belong, is a strange sensation in these spaces. The piece seemed to tune into this, and ironically, the feelings expressed by the female traveller created a space in which I came to without resistance, immediately feeling at home in her reflections, rather than the place itself.
And yet, the distance between the guidebook and the voice was vast. What do we know about other places when we read about them, or are given hand-picked information about them? How different is this information from the bodily, the experienced, felt sensations and unpredictable encounters? On the other hand, how much are these encounters across the globe in turn distanced from any understanding beyond fleeting tourist meetings? A few of the extracts sounded the poignancy of what it means to be in contact, to connect with another human being. Whatever the answers to these questions, I was encountering the moment of another encounter; in the intimate performance space I was having my own fleeting moment of connecting to a stranger, and it served as a microcosm for the world of the traveller. Being alone I felt closer to this ‘other’ on the end of my recording, as though we were sharing something personal and real, whilst those bigger questions lingered in my mind, happy to be there, not needing definitive answers.