Testing Times

Testing Times

A site responsive audio tour exploring life in lockdown in a South London flat

This year all across the world we have shared an unprecedented experience, living through a global pandemic and lockdown. Over the last six months, I have recorded over 30 hours of phone calls and voicemails, with friends, family , doctors, consultants and therapists. This audio archive captures the fear, the frustrations and camaraderie shared by myself and my 16 year old son Jim, as we live with and beyond this pandemic.

Over the years, Jim and I have survived some pretty epic challenges. When Jim was only 14 , he had to deal with my breast cancer diagnosis, followed by a year of grueling treatment. During my chemotherapy, he also met his Dad for the first time, who had been absent from his life for over a decade. Just as we were coming out of a personal health crisis, Jim and I were hit with the biggest global health crisis the world has ever known. These experiences have left their mark and yet Jim has an energy and sense of humour that is completely life affirming.

During lockdown I dreamt that our small flat was like a space ship, I woke up to find Jim trying to escape through our attic window. I frantically pulled him back, believing that the world beyond our flat , had no oxygen. A dream that perfectly captured my ever growing contagion anxieties and my conflicted emotions as Jim grows up and we grow apart …

I’m collaborating with award winning sound designers John Wakefield and Henrik Opperman. We will create a spatial sound piece which captures both the micro and macro of lockdown simultaneously. Our audio archive of conversations, news reportage, phone calls and voicemails capture the fear, the arguments, the food shortages, the school closures, the doctor’s calls, the rolling news and the return to a ‘new normal’ that feels anything but. With the introduction of spatial sound we can make sense of these multiple voices. We will create a relationship compass (as we did in the Waiting Room VR) in which voices will be placed around the listener to reflect the connections and disconnections felt during quarantine .

The Audio Tour …

You’re alone as you enter the flat. Your only guide is the voice coming through a pair of headphones, inviting you to look around, to make yourself comfortable . The first room you enter is a teenage bedroom. It’s messy, the bed is unmade, the surfaces are cluttered with deodorant , aftershave and cables. The games console is on, you’re invited to play. As you begin to play, you hear the highs and lows of life in lockdown from the point of view of a sixteen year old boy. He inhabits two worlds, one of childhood , one of adulthood. A world of snapchat wars with friends , six hour stints on Grand Theft Auto, rows with his mum, facetime with his girlfriend and solitary bike rides into a deserted city .

As the audio tour progresses , you‘re invited to explore the living room , to sit down at the desk by the window. The computer begins to read out email after email , notifications of daily zoom meetings and reminders of deadlines missed . You begin to hear the highs and lows of a middle aged single mother during lockdown, a world of health anxieties, work pressures and worries about what her son gets up to on the long days that he escapes the flat ….

This immersive and binaural audio tour will create a challenging and provocative piece of social theatre exploring the highs and lows of family life during lockdown . This audio experience will also be reworked as a 360 /VR piece which will tour international art galleries and festivals in 2021.