J a n e t M c E w a n
Installation : The Salt Gallery, Hayle , Cornwall, 2007
Lucy Lippard asks :If a place has no memories does it become a nonplace, or only a landscape?
Following my move from Scotland to Cornwall in 2006, somewhere I had no memories of, and knew very little about, I embarked on a project, drawing on the premise that displaced people often adopt the memories of others in a new location: I invited 15 people, who had lived in Cornwall for varying lengths of time, to tell me about a 'special place' for them in Cornwall. The people who participated were varied : artists, colleagues, neighbours, and relative strangers I happened to have chance conversations with. I then journeyed to each site with their story in my mind, and collected stone with which I made each storyteller a pair of simple sandals, which were then presented collectively in the street facing front room of the Salt Gallery in the style of a shoe shop. The cotton velvet covered stools came from a shoe shop in Truro which was being refurbished.The installation included a sterio audio recording, on 2 sets of headphones, of myself reading a transcription of all 15 stories, word for word, and seamlessly, as if they were my own.
Using water based coloured artists chalks, I covered the walls with a landscape of text; transcriptions of the recorded stories.
Written in longhand, in a sketch book style, these were randomly smudged and sometimes difficult to decipher.
During the exhibition preview, I gave an incidental performance in a pseudo shamanic style, where dressed as a shop assistant with a simple uniform and name badge, I invited audience members to select a pair from the 'stock' on display. When they had made their choice I offered a 'fitting', where I retold the story about the 'special place' ( though the location of the site was never revealed), as I could remember it: inviting the 'customer' to take an imaginary journey to the place the shoes were associated with.
After the show was dismantled, I presented each of the storytellers with their respective shoes, as a gift, with the exception of two people: one who I could not trace,,
possibly as he was a rough sleeper and the other who never responded to my invitation to collect their shoes.