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Tyneside’s First World War stories re-voiced in new digital artwork ‘Tributaries’

Posted  5 August 2015 in News  
By Kate Clements
A composite graphic by Halsey Burgund representing Tributaries artwork

A collaboration between a museum in the North-East of England and a renowned American sound artist will be realised with the launch of a new digital artwork on 10 August 2015.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) has been working with Boston-based artist Halsey Burgund to develop Tributaries, an immersive audio experience inspired by life on Tyneside during the First World War.

The artwork takes the form of a location-sensitive mobile app in which users hear a soundscape of original music by Burgund blended with readings contributed by local volunteers.

The readings – typically in the first-person – include contemporary narratives from the museum and city library collections, many of which have remained unspoken for the best part of a century.

The free Tributaries app also allows users to respond to the experience by making their own recordings, adding to the work’s continually evolving map of collective memory and highlighting differences between life today and 100 years ago.

The recordings are geo-located so that the physical paths taken when using the app help to shape the experience of the piece for other users.

Halsey Burgund explains:

“I want people to wander around Tyneside and see familiar places in a new light. I hope to bring them to a different era and allow their imaginations to conjure how things might have been 100 years ago, and how their lives might have been.”

John Coburn, Digital Programmes Manager for TWAM, added:

“I hope that listeners will reflect on their relationship with a geography they see as familiar. It’s about disrupting a sense of the past and sparking empathy for people who lived in that turbulent time. But we also want the public to connect with the sense of normality that simply continued through the war.”

To create the recordings, members of the local community were invited to donate their voices and make readings from various historical sources.

These ranged from letters and diaries – like those of activist Ruth Dodds and conscientious objector Frederick Tait – to poems, school logbooks and newspaper articles.

The project team also worked with BBC Look North’s Jennifer Bartram to record a series of bespoke First World War weather reports.

Halsey Burgund will visit Tyneside to talk about Tributaries and answer questions on his wider artistic practice. The free talk will be held at the Laing Art Gallery on Thursday 13 August.

Tributaries has been developed as part of TWAM’s Wor Life programme and will be available to download for free on iOS and Android from Monday 10 August.

Visit the Tributaries website for further information.

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