I’ve collected some incredible texts. Plus, 700+ photographs captured in both Weymouths. The challenge now is how to structure the content. What form do I give it. I’ve got so many ideas (too many).
There’s one critical question that I’m struggling with, and that is what “shape” to give the project. How imaginary a landscape do I create? Do I splice the texts together and describe something totally new (a new voice, a new place)? Or do I let the voices clearly stand on their own, doing a direct kind of work — referring to “existing conditions” in a more documentary way. Both approaches suggest new landscapes, but in the former I would explicitly build an imaginative work (rather than leave it to the audience, in the latter, who may or may not do the work themselves).
I made three recordings and they’re now completely transcribed — every minute, every yeah, so and umm.
1. Jim (Weymouth, Massachusetts)
Jim is a ninety-two year old WWII veteran from the area and “curator” at the Weymouth Historical Society, which is housed within the 1763 Jason Holbrook Homestead. I recorded his very personalized two-and-a-half hour tour and the transcript is a rambling journey through the rooms of the house (and into American history).
2. Jack (+ Geoffrey) (Weymouth, England)
When I was in Massachusetts, Jim remembered that a married couple from Weymouth, England had visited the Holbrook house last fall. I photographed the page where they signed the guest book and contacted them via Facebook, which led to a meeting at the Old Rooms Inn in England. Jack graciously allowed me to record his impressions of life in Weymouth, which turned into a fascinating, wide-reaching tour of the town. At one point we were joined by Geoffrey, a former astrophysics professor from Oxford, who overheard our conversation. He shared stories too.
3. Jane (Chickerell, England)
While in Dorset I stayed with Jane, a geography teacher, in her historic house a few miles outside of Weymouth. Jane generously shared her home, meals and stories with me, and I immediately made a new friend. One morning, standing over a detailed map of the region in her kitchen, Jane started describing the geology of the area — and more specifically, how the River Wey was formed. I stopped her and made her start again, so I could record it, and the animated transcript is fantastic. It’s a short lesson in local geology but a pivotal point for me, where larger structures are revealed.
The interviews themselves are wonderful and each voice could become its own book. There are various ways I could combine photography with the transcripts and I have no doubt these would be engaging works.
Or, I could take it further.
As an experiment, I used chance operations to combine the three voices into something new. We leave the three characters behind; this voice is more unconscious, referring to internal and external structures in and around both Weymouths. It starts to suggest a more open, imaginary view of the landscape.
As you can see, we took the doors down. You’ll gather from my accent that I’m not a Dorset person, I’m Scottish. So look, you’ve got this huge ridge — most of the dining rooms, you probably remember, they had swinging doors. Oh right, you walked along the front and they had springs here and here, so that the door would open either way. Yeah we’ve lived here 26 years, and we love it.
So this is to the east, we took that door down. But the mechanism we took out, the job, I worked for the ministry of defense — the UDOD — and in this part of the country there was a navy base, in Portland. And so you’ve got this chalk, this chalk ridge coming all the way along here. So going from the kitchen to the pantry to the dining room the door would swing in and out. Yeah it’s all gone, there was a big MOD, Navy, yeah, the underwater workers establishment was down here, research was down here, anything underwater was down here. And it skirts to the north of Weymouth.
This was just a closet, a clothes closet, and it’s all gone now. And it just basically runs in a straight line. We have a safe in there, all our valuables. But that’s what brought me down here — Portesham and Abbotsbury comes out on, to the west of Abbotsbury where you’ve got a real…all the cliffs…a lot of the original. We have the original diaries and things. And I’ve retired down here now. Yeah, this is Chesil itself. This is Chesil Beach but the cliffs actually meet, meet the coast.
Yeah, so she says don’t stop the car, they were so, their crew went to Europe on trips. And then where it hits the clay, it comes out, and there was some iron railings beside the bridge. Another room! This house is bigger than it seems. Can you see the water starting there? And then it all comes down.
One approach is more documentary; the other more Cage’s Alphabet. Both, poetic. Hmm…