Simon Whetham


Simon Whetham – Trace Evidence

The production or twine ceased at Dawe’s Twineworks in 1968, however, much of the equipment and materials that used twine production through that period still stand
at the site, silent witnesses retaining memories of the activities involved.

At the works:
It is easy to trace the path of twine along the site and through the stages of production, as the constant contact of refined flax on materials such as wood, glass and steel have left their mark. Friction has worn furrows and grooves in these solid materials, which to this day clearly bear the scars.

When exploring the site it was clear that the open structure already allowed the everyday sound of nature and human activity to enter and pass through. However, what of the sounds of the past, held dormant in the fabric of the building? To reanimate these sounds of twine production twine was run along the grooves and marks left behind and these actions were recorded using contact microphones, capturing only the sound of vibration through the object.

Each witness mark left on a nail, a glass rod, a wooden rake, a cast iron idler, all sang with their own voice, differing in timbre and tone from the others. These individual voices were gathered and subsequently combined through composition to create a sense of movement along the site.

The journey begins with further sounds that can be heard on occasion, such as the engine running, the drive belt changing, the chimney puffing, but also those of the internal vibrations of materials, unheard, such as the drive belts in their guides, spindles spinning, long wires rocking. Then along the ropewalk you follow the journey of the twine as it runs through rakes and guides, over drums and idlers.

To hear the sounds, you require a set of headphones, and with these you plug into various points on the site, hearing echoes of activities that have passed, the sound travelling through the entire structure of the building.

At OSR Projects space:
An observation during the exploration of sounds at the Twine Works was that often the sounds of belts rubbing on guides and twine running along grooves were reminiscent of the sound the stylus makes when placed into the groove of an old record.

The idea then developed, as the sounds of grooves in materials at the site being played back from grooves cut into a vinyl disc held a pleasant harmony. The sounds have been transferred to vinyl disc using a method of cutting, rather than the more resilient method of pressing, which means that each time the disc is played, the tracks within will deteriorate. With repeated playing, over time the sounds will in effect disappear, once more lost to the past.

The sounds are presented in the gallery through speakers to fill the space, internal sounds being externalised, as a contradiction to the way the work has been presented at Dawe’s Twine Works.

Trace Evidence – Simon Whethams blog