hearsay

Hearsay is an aural and written account of the ICA's history, a tell of many tales contributed by different people, some who simply attended events, drank a beer, or others who worked here for many years. It is a mosaic of memories, a non-linear account that portrays the institution as never before: it exposes the (in)significance such an institution holds in various people's lives; it outlines an understanding of the ICA from a series of personal viewpoints.

There is a voyeuristic quality to this project: how have other people experienced the space, how have they used it? Have they witnessed an event that has since become part of the institutional mythology? Over fifty years have passed since the ICA first opened, and over thirty since it moved to its current location. In a way, Hearsay is a live archive of the institution, as (un)reliable as any form of documenting. In that sense, it questions History, posing this collection of histories as a possible alternative.

Patiently gathering anecdotes, bits and pieces that form that informal - unofficial - history, Julie Myers has mapped out a new space that redefines the public space, re-mapping some sort of collective unconscious of the space. Here, some time ago, a visitor remembers a first encounter with his wife in the bar, while a curator recounts staging an exhibition for dogs. The institutional walls and corridors, rooms and offices, contain that history although it remains invisible; a virtual show that erases the usual boundaries that exist between public space and work space.

From celebrities to casual visitors, from the handyman to the director, all the contributors offer a specific understanding and relationship to the institutional space, contributing to the elaboration of a perceptual dimension that exists at the conflation of space and time. Space and time collapsed in one experience: in 1999, one can walk through the ICA's concourse and be told about what happened in earlier times. It is not a nostalgic exercize: rather, the meticulous assemblage of fragments that form a different whole.

The show exists both online and in the space, thus also confronting the usual cultural construct that has been established since the advent of "cyberspace". These two realms co-exist, inform each other, function in symbiosis, not separated, as it is often assumed. The web site has enabled Julie Myers to gather memories from other people, some of which live far away, others who just would not relinquish anonymity. Another map appears gradually, consisting of the mosaic of live memories the artist has recorded, adjoined to the written ones contributed by "cyber-visitors".

In the ICA premises, there is nothing to see. What the artist proposes is just an itinerary to be experienced with a typical institutional fixture, the Acoustiguide¨ wand. Here, again, the artist offers a redefinition of the institutional space and its usual structure: these wands usually compliment an exhibition, provide a context for the work on display, map out a specific experience of the show. In this instance, the wand IS the show, and functions as a link between the visitor and the space, providing access to a different time frame.

The map is the only physical evidence of Julie Myers' "installation", the card is the only tangible evidence of her work. There lies her questioning of what is virtual and what is not. Akin to the radio waves that surround us, invisibly and silently carrying data (voice, bits, etc.), the work does not need to materialize, and uses a device that proposes a different approach to a given environment.

Hearsay is part of the SUN/ICA New Media Centre's artist in residence program. The SUN/ICA New Media Centre would like to thank the University of Middlesex and Acoustiguide¨, whose support and commitment has been invaluable in the development of this project.

The online component of this installation is at:

http://www.juliemyers.org.uk/hearsay/

Benjamin Weil

director of new media
ICA New Media Center