George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address was described by many American pundits as “Churchillian.” Somehow, this man, whose speaking gaffes are widely known, was given credit for delivering one of the greatest speeches in modern history.
CHURCHILLIAN II (CHADDER) is an interactive sound installation that breaks this speech into its component parts and reconstructs it physically, portraying the machine behind the speech. Sean Dockray explores discarded technologies in this work to focus on the use and abuse of language in contemporary politics. His installation fills the space - visually, by a giant homemade wooden frame and, aurally, by a robotic voice run through a loud guitar amplifier.
Realizing that the President’s role in the speech was little more than practicing the performance of words, learning when to pause, what to emphasize, and how to pronounce, CHURCHILLIAN II reduces the Address to its phonetic structure. Each phoneme of an excerpt from the State of the Union has been punched into paper tape. A visitor can manually hand-crank these phonemes back into sound with the aid of a digital speech synthesizer - replicating the speech, slowing it down, introducing new pauses, and even performing it in reverse.
George Orwell’s “newspeak” anticipated Bush’s style of simple speech, draining concepts of their complexity and portraying the world in high contrast. But whose words are they? Karl Rove’s? Richard Perle’s? ExxonMobil’s? Who is turning the crank? Or, in terms of last week’s rumors, who is speaking into the President’s ear?
CHURCHILLIAN is a derivative of Tom Jennings’ “Story Teller”