Making a piano in Spain
Venue: Wellcome collection, Euston Road, London Year: 2008 Commissioner: Wellcome collection, on behalf of the Wellcome Trust Project Manager: Joff and Ollie Mode: Installation and live event Commissioner: Wellcome collection, on behalf of the Wellcome Trust
From the 6th to the 10th of May 2008, Nicola Martin, Kerry Howarth and John Newling met 500 people between Euston and St Pancras stations. From each of them they collected a written response to the question, 'What do you do to make yourself feel better?' Their testimony was overwhelming, giving the project a narrative that was both revealing and moving. 'Make a piano in Spain' is a project by artist John Newling that investigates and transforms these responses. The project comprises a list of 50 situations constructed from the material (presented in the large wall-based work), a public reading 'Out loud' of all 500 accounts, and a book that demonstrates the investigations and transformations that Newling pursued. Treating the text as material subject to changes in meaning and form, Newling trawled through the 500 responses, isolating all the references to actions, places and objects. As blocks of text the collected stream of events, sites and materials seemed akin to a chant of what we do, where we go, and which objects we prefer to use to restore our sense of self. Common references were gathered from the texts as a numeric order of frequency and, subsequently, calculated as percentages of occurrence. This data provided the lists from which Newling compiled the top 50 actions, places and objects. The lists in turn became the material from which he constructed the 50 imagined 'situations'. They emerge from a diagnostic process that distilled the responses, while simultaneously forming a text that possesses its own autonomy. Newling explains: "Each situation becomes a potential event that makes for a very human kind of medicine; both a cartography of us and a conceivable territory to experience. They represent a programme of possibilities and a series of dramas made possible through the generous engagement of 500 people..."