University of Dundee University of Dundee
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19 May 2011

Kids say the funniest things - or is it adults?

Five-year-olds talking about hangovers and online dating - thankfully not a discussion between dangerously precocious children but a study of everyday conversation carried out by a Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design student.

Ailidh MacGregor (23) has developed an interest in sound art and, in particular, playing with people’s perceptions of conversations, during her time studying on the Time Based Art & Digital Film programme at DJCAD - part of the University of Dundee - and uses a variety of techniques to experiment with speech and language.

For her honours project, which is one of the near-300 exhibits at this year’s Dundee Degree Show, Ailidh recorded a number of children relaying the words of adults. She recorded largely mundane conversations that she had with other adults over a period of many months before asking the youngsters, who range in age from 5-10 years old and are all children of Ailidh’s friends, to repeat them.

The topics being discussed also include energy efficient lightbulbs and cleaning products. Rather than asking the children to read a script back to her, Ailidh, who is originally from Hamilton, would say a line and ask the children to repeat it so that the conversation was more natural.

When asking children to relay very adult conversations, Ailidh was very conscientious about breaking the conversation up and splicing it back together so that the children didn’t understand what they were speaking about and each of the six children who feature in the project were recorded separately to further distance the conversation from its original context.

'Hearing your own words spoken by children really makes you think about what you say,' said Ailidh. 'Especially when you hear them talking about things like drinking and hangovers you start to think about how inane the conversations that seem perfectly normal at the time really sound.

'I wanted to capture the everyday and mundane and they sound even more so when relayed through the mouths of children. When you hear kids speaking like this then the conversation takes on new meanings and sound completely different.

'When you hear what seems to be very young kids talking about drinking and dating it sounds somewhere between funny and shocking depending on your viewpoint, but I was careful to ensure that the children never fully understood what they were talking about. Also, it shows how recorded words can be put together, taken apart and re-assembled to mean something completely different.

'My idea came from the fact I’m a very chatty person and conversation is something I find very interesting. I love different rhythms of speech and the different language and jargon that people use. From there, I like to play with it and bend it to alter perspective. Hearing a grown up conversation spoken by children definitely makes you think about what you say, to who, and why.

'All the conversations were based on recordings of me and my friends speaking to each other. To start with I always asked people if they would mind me recording the conversation but eventually people were just accustomed to the fact I was have my equipment with me and had come to expect that whatever they said would be recorded.

For her degree show exhibit, Ailidh will have six speakers playing the conversations, with one speaker for each child. Her work looks at how mundane conversations can be seen in new perspectives and the set up of her show emphasises this by having each speaker positioned in a different part of a darkened room.

The visitor will get a different perspective of the conversation depending on where they sit, which speaker they are next to and whether they move around the exhibition to experience another side of the conversation.

Ultimately Ailidh would like visitors to think about the use of sound and the fact that changing one element of sound can create an entirely new conversation that can be interpreted in a different way.

After graduating Ailidh hopes to carry on working on her project and is interested in working in community arts.

Almost 300 students from 11 disciplines are exhibiting at this year’s Dundee Degree Show.

Notes to editors:

Dundee Degree Show
21st - 29th May 2011 (Preview May 20th)

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design
University of Dundee
13 Perth Road
Dundee DD1 4HT
T 01382 385330

Thursday, 19th May
Associates Reception and Preview (ticket-only) with Susan Philipsz and Alvy Ray Smith.

Alvy Ray Smith and Susan Philipsz will be attending the reception in DJCAD canteen from 6.30-7.30pm.

Friday, 20th May
Preview Night for family and friends of the exhibiting students.

Thousands of students, famil, friends and guest will be taking in one of the highlights of Dundee’s cultural calendar from 6-9pm.

Exhibition open:
Saturday, May 21st (10am-4pm)
Sunday, May 22nd (10am-4pm)
Monday, May 23rd (10am-8pm)
Tuesday, May 24th (10am-8pm)
Wednesday, May 25th (10am-8pm)
Thursday, May 26th (10am-8pm)
Friday, May 27th (10am-8pm)
Saturday, May 28th (10am-4pm)
Sunday, May 29th (10am-4pm)

Graduate work on display:
Art, Philosophy, Contemporary Practices
Digital Interaction Design
Fine Art
Graphic Design
Interior Environmental Design
Jewellery & Metal Design
Product Design
Textile Design
Time Based Art & Digital Film

For media enquiries contact:
Grant Hill
Press Officer
University of Dundee
Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN
TEL: 01382 384768
MOBILE: 07854 953277