Video sequence from the installation: translation of Russian spoken narrations of passages from the novel In the First Circle, by A. Solzhenitsyn, read aloud by Natalya Solzhenitsyn and actor Alexei Kolubkov.
Original installation commissioned for Bergen Triennale 2013: wooden corridor installed with standard custodial corridor lighting (in Bergen Assembly, these were supplied by Bergen Prison); two voice sequences on freestanding Genelec 8040 loudspeakers, Russia spoken; four synchronized video sequences transferred to HD video as digital files, all 10”30:
Scanner (scan operator at work, Cybercom, Moscow), colour, mono sound on ceiling-mounted focusing panel speaker; Alexey (actor Alexey Kolubkov reenacting a voiceprint reading for the generals); colour, stereo, Russian spoken, English subtitles; Bread (3D laser-scan navigation through a piece of rye bread, saved by A. Solzhenitsyn from his prison meal in 1974, property of the Solzhenitsyn Archive, Moscow); Translations (text sequence, white on black: translations of the voices on the freestanding speakers: Natalya Solzhenitsyn and Alexey Kolubkov reading from In the First Circle, A. Solzhenitsyn 1968).
Catalogue text from Bergen Triennale 2013: 'Monday Begins on Saturday'.
Imogen Stidworthy’s ongoing research investigates the links between the voice, listening and technologies of control. Voice surveillance and voice encoding are the subject of her most recent work, A Crack in the Light, which delves into Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s work at the Marfino Sharashka (special research prison) in Moscow, where during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s inmates worked in small teams to develop vocoder and other voice-related technologies. Solzhenitsyn describes this experience in his novel In the First Circle (released 1968), in which inmates are busy atomizing speech sounds into tiny particles, as they develop technologies for analysing speech and identifying suspects from wiretap recordings.
Interweaving historical, fictional and actual elements, Stidworthy triangulates a listening position for a reflection on the contemporary. In the installation, actor Alexei Kolubkov acts out a scene from the novel (in the role originally played by him in the Russian TV adaptation of the novel, 2006) in which he analyses speech sounds recorded in a ‘voiceprint’, for a group of Stalin’s generals. A piece of bread from Solzhenitsyn’s last meal in the Soviet Union, before his forced deportation to the West in 1974, turns into the atomised point-cloud of a 3D laser-scan, while the voice of Natalya Solzhenitsyn narrates an extended passage from her husband’s novel.