In 2009, as part of the ‘All Around You’ season of sonic events co-ordinated by Alastair Cameron at Arnolfini, Matt Davies for The Cube and myself, I was invited to produce a site-specific work for a half-derelict shopping centre called ‘The Mall’ in Bristol. I proposed exploring the space with various microphones and techniques to uncover sounds not normally heard by the shopping public.
Memories of family visits from my childhood portrayed the shopping centre as a crammed and noisy place, every shop a brightly lit shrine, drawing in it’s worshippers, enticing them to empty their pockets of coins and notes…
On returning to The Mall, it was apparent that the current recession had hit hard, with almost half the units with their shutters down, possibly never to open again. The seemingly empty drones of the various processes that keep a structure like this alive could be heard over the scattering of shoppers who had entered, wandering some distance from one active unit to another.
These lifesigns of the building became more apparent behind the scenes, in the corridors that link the units, hidden from view, in the units that were closed, in the storage areas and delivery bays. The drones become more musical and tonal, singing a lament to the financial situation and to better times. The chattering of air conditioning and escalators echoing that of now absent consumers. Coins drop in an empty space, money thrown away….(Simon Whetham)