Virtual Voices is an 8 channel sound work made in collaboration with Lisa Hall, first exhibited at Sound Reasons Festival VI, New Delhi, in October 2018, and then at London College of Communications in January 2019, as part of the Here, There and In-Between concert series curated by Cathy Lane. It was also installed at FILE – Electronic Language International Festival in Brazil in 2020.
Virtual Voices reviews the current use of automated voices in our cities - considering how human presence is represented through recorded and digitally manipulated sound, and how this is used to direct our behaviour. The work questions how automation has been implemented, re-visioning the positive changes that voice technology could bring to working lives if social good were considered over profit motive.
“It seems as if an invisible, disembodied workforce has moved into the cities. A workforce who have replaced certain roles such as train operators, ticket inspectors, check-out sellers and lift operators. They are becoming more and more present, sounding out from new devices, serving new roles, talking more, and more, and more. Yet who are they?”
Virtual Voices articulates this workforce: hearing it’s many mouths and many heads that speak simultaneously across great distances, hearing it’s limited representation of the population, it’s gender bias, and it’s embodiment in the machinery it speaks from - the lumps of technology now clothed in a sonic human identity. Looking to the future, the work proposes how we could shape a positive automated future - one that doesn’t result in mass unemployment or misrepresentation, but supports the anti-work movement’s call for ‘The Right To Be Lazy’. In support of this the artists commit their own voices into a hybrid synthetic persona, creating their own virtual workforce to speak on their behalf.
Virtual Voices is part of the project Listening for Instruction - a sonic survey reviewing the current position of automated sounds in our cities.