Duncan Whitley

Projects: b-side residency & commission (2014)

A residency and commissioned site-specific work for St George's Church, Portland, exhibiting as part of the b-side multimedia arts festival 2014.

"My current research on Portland centres around the 18th Century St George's Church on Reforne, and the cemetery that surrounds it. Declared formally redundant in the 1970's, the church and its graveyard stand alone on a flat piece of land on "Tophill", a kind of monument to Portland. At the time of its building/consecration it was the only parish church on the island, a centripetal entity drawing in folk from Chiswell, Fortuneswell, Easton, Weston, Southwell, Wakeham and Portland's other villages. Long after the establishment of several other churches on the island - contributing to the decreasing demand for services at St George's - Portlanders continued to hold their burial services there. The municipal cemetery, in use today, sits just to the south of St George's, contiguous to the old cemetery and overlooked by the church.

The majority of the headstones surrounding St George's are, like the church itself, cut from Portland stone: eulogies and remembrances carved into the white limestone, quarried and raised from the land by the islanders remembered here. The graveyard reads like an archive of sorts: to me, a kimberlin (Portland dialect for "outsider"), it is a library of obscured tales; for those on the island, a repository for individual and communal memories. Each time I visit the cemetery I stop at the headstone of Rebekah Stone, an infant of 8 months who was the first to be buried at the newly consecrated ground in 1766. It took me several visits to find her: amongst the maze of gravestones facing east, Rebekah Stone's alone faces the dying sunset in the West."

Duncan Whitley's residency and commission will explore Portland's cemeteries- St George's, the Naval Cemetery and the Strangers' Cemetery- as a site of storytelling; a repository for memories and folklore. His research on Portland will culminate in a new sound work at St George's Church; a site-specific response to the 18th Century church, its graveyard, and their solitary, bleak location.



Projects: Sbarbi's Arrow


Projects: Sbarbi's Arrow

Projects: Documenting the "saetas"

The 194 audio and video recordings recently handed over to the British Library form part of an ongoing study of the soundscapes of Seville's Semana Santa, many recordings from which are already available in collection C1338.

The interviews, field recordings and video rushes from 2013 represent a fraction of the work carried out across several years, much of which has yet to be catalogued. The focus of the work and research has been the study of the performative context of the saetas flamencas of Seville. Historically, the recording of the saeta has taken place in the recording studio, in controlled conditions, and distanced from its original context, producing an abstraction in the relationship of the singer, religious image (to whom the saetero in the street addresses his/her prayer), and the social and architectural space in which the saeta is usually performed. The project embraces the technical, methodological and ethical challenges involved in capturing this often elusive form of song, strictly within the context of the Semana Santa processions.

"The project has become a ground for various meta-levels of investigation, particularly around the processes of recording, memory and playback that have begun to mark my experiences of Seville's annual fiesta. The word saeta comes from the Latin, sagitta, meaning arrow. I have been moving around this metaphorical arrow, examining and contemplating its arc from one perspective and another. One can never quite put one's finger on it. It has come to mirror aspects of my own creative practice..."

Recent outputs from this project include a collection of recordings from 2010 and 2013, available at the British Library (visit sami.bl.uk/ and enter the collection number C1338), and Sbarbi's Arrow, a solo exhibition at Soundfjord in 2013.



Projects: Seville


Image: Still from HD video. Susana Sierra Martínez sings to the "Señor del Silencio", in the early morning of Good Friday.

Publications: Belju Soundbridge Edition

This online edition brings together 15 sound works by artists who took part in the Belju Soundbridge project, along the French-Swiss border in 2009.

Combining installations, sonic interventions and online creation, the 'Belju' project aimed to examine the border regions of the Canton du Jura (CH) and the Territoire de Belfort (FR), through various ways of listening, recording and playing back. Belju Soundbridge was curated in 2009 by Gilles Aubry and Stéphane Montavon, taking place as a series of residencies and interventions featuring international artists. Four years later, some the materials produced during the residencies are collected together as the Belju Edition.

Universinternational Records says of this web-only project: "As we didn't want to just put up a net-release that would be another list of files, we tried to think about what a digital edition should and could be, and we have created a veritable listening environment, a singular space dedicated to that collective project."

http://belju.universinternational.org/



Publications: Belju

Projects: Sbarbi's Arrow (2013)

Sbarbi's Arrow is the first major creative output of Duncan Whitley's study of the saeta flamenca, a form of flamenco prayer, sung to the religious images of the Catholic Easter processions in Andalucia. The exhibition was commissioned by Soundfjord to coincide with the movable feast of Lent and Easter.

The title refers to an 1880 text by José María Sbarbi in which he describes the saeta as "a brief, fervent spiritual maxim, capable of producing in the mind an impression similar to that caused in the body by the wound from an arrow... capable, not of riddling the heart of the most hardened or indifferent sinner with arrows, but of giving a dead man gooseflesh." Whitley searches for traces of Sbarbi's metaphorical arrow within his self-reflexive investigations in contemporary ethnography, extending the metaphor from flamenco song to processes of recording, memory and playback.

Sbarbi's Arrow was first realised at Soundfjord with the generous support of the Arts Council England, with additional support from the British Library, Measure, Unit for Sound Practice Research of Goldsmiths University of London, and Sound and Music.

Click here for an excerpt of the video-sound work, and here for photographic documentation of the installation at Soundfjord.



Projects: Sbarbi's Arrow


Projects: Sbarbi's Arrow

Projects: G. D. Parada (2013)

G. D. Parada is a sound and video work, developed around Grupo Desportivo de Parada, an amateur football club in the village of Parada de Ester, in rural Portugal.

Rendered in exquisite multi-channel sound, the piece is centred in a series of sound recordings, designed to capture the choreographies of training drills and exercises on team's training ground, Campo da Nossa Senhora de Fátima.

Moving beyond the themes of space and movement, the work begins to form a complex portrait of this club as a social as well as a sporting unit. As a club 'da aldeia' (from the villages) taking part in the competitive, regional league ‘Divisão de Honra’, Grupo Desportivo de Parada embodies a unique set of identities, the reflection and produce of the geographies of the village of Parada de Ester.

G.D.Parada was conceived and produced initially through residencies at Nodar Artist Residency Centre (Nodar, S. Pedro do Sul) in 2008 and 2009. Co-produced by Binaural / Nodar with the support of Grupo Desportivo de Parada, and funded by the Portuguese General Office for the Arts, with additional post-production support from PVA Medialab.

See across for the trailer for G. D. Parada and "Joga, Isso!" (2011), a composed sound work originally produced specifically for 'Three years in Nodar: Context-specifc art practices in rural Portugal' (published Edições Nodar 2012).






Projects: Four Shepherds (2011)

Synopsis: Four shepherds; four journeys; four loudspeakers. The focus for this project was based on a series of proposed recordings with different shepherds of the village of Covas do Monte; each shepherd carrying a lavalier microphone and portable digital recorder to document their particular journey to the mountain accompanying their flock. The resulting material would form the basis for a four-channel documentary sound work.

Diary Excerpt: A call to herd the flock; a shriek to frighten the wolves. Today I made a series of recordings, sketches, along the semi-dry river bed leading from Covas do Monte to the foot of the mountain. The same route I had followed with Luís and 'Auntie' Maria Martins two days ago; where María had performed an almost unbroken twenty-minute series of calls and shrieks from the incline, and I had stood right next to her, listening to her voice answering back from the slope on the opposite side.

This morning it is Fátima and Rosa who take the goats to the slope. I wait on a raised platform in the middle of the river bed, where the goats will pass by on both sides of me; hundreds and thousands of stones 'tinkling' under the steps of their hooves, creating a dense weave of sound punctuated by the hissing of the accompanying shepherds. Reaching the slope, Fátima and Rosa banter: 'Olha, viste esta merda de gado?', 'É para ali, Rosa. Acho que é do Manuel João...' ('Look, did you see that shit of a goat?', 'I think it went this way, it belongs to Manuel João...'). In between words, Rosa exhales series of whooping cries, rising and then falling in pitch; her voice emanating out across the stones and shrubland before retreating back into the valley, returning three times as an echo.

Rosa is the new heroine of my project. I hope she may accept my proposal tomorrow to carry a small lavalier microphone and digital recorder with her, as she accompanies the goats from the paddocks up to the base of the mountain. Tomorrow morning I'll ask, and we'll see.

Residency: This project based in Covas do Monte, was one of a series of residencies with international artists hosted by Binaural/Nodar [link - http://binauralmedia.org/news/] as part of 'Vozes de Magaio' ('Magaio Voicescapes'). The three week residencies culminated in a two-day festival, taking place in the villages of Sequeiros, Covas do Monte and Nodar.



Projects: Four Shepherds



Maps: The people of Covas do Monte use a communal shepherding system, in which a number of shepherds are employed on a rota. Each shepherd may decide to take the village's goats, numbering approximately 1,500 at the time of writing, via one of a number of routes to graze on the mountain.
Download a simple map displaying the principle routes used by the shepherds of Covas do Monte, viewable in Google Earth - [kmz file!] Maps of Covas do Monte.

If you do not have Google Earth installed on your computer,
you can download it here - Google Earth

Credits: Fieldwork carried out at the Nodar Artist Residency Centre (Nodar, Pt).
Photographs by Carina Martins for Binaural/Nodar. All rights reserved.
Special thanks to Luis Costa, Ana Fernandes, Carina Martins and Manuela Barile for their support

Publications: 58 Processions:
Listening Through Holy Week

58 Processions: Listening Through Holy Week is
an electronic publication documenting the research
and practice in the field and studio of Duncan Whitley
and James Wyness, from 2007-2008.

It is the first significant release of edited field recordings from their work within the Holy Week processions of Seville during this period, and documents their installation '58 Processions' in the crypt of St Pancras Parish Church (London) in 2008. Available for download as a PDF, the publication features twelve sound recordings, and writing by Duncan Whitley, James Wyness and Katherine Hunt.

This revised edition features new writing by James Wyness , and two previously unreleased recordings from the artists' fieldwork. The introduction is written by Simon Day, co-director of London-based arts organisation Measure, who co-produced 58 Processions.

Published by Labculture Ltd. 2012 ISBN: 978-0-9560187-3-1 in association with Measure.

NB. For full multimedia functionality including emdedded sound recordings please view in Adobe Reader or Acrobat.

1. Download the PDF from here
2. Open the file in Adobe Reader.
3. The document will open in full-screen mode.
4. Connect the computer to your speakers or headphones.





Publications: 58 Processions

About: Duncan Whitley

Duncan Whitley practices as a visual artist and sound recordist. His creative output ranges encompasses video and sound installation, field recording and archive, and multi-channel sound work.

Duncan’s work explores themes of sound, place, and individual and collective memory. Practicing in the visual arts but also known for his work with sound recording and archive, he is interested deconstructing the narratives around documentary truth, in which the document is re-appropriated as a tool for storytelling. His approach to working with sound is at once forensic and poetic, marked by both rigorous methodology and a delicate, subtle aesthetic language.