Off The Wall
You've heard of graffiti artists but how about artists that use graffiti to create a sonic landscape? Stephen Skrynka has done just that. He went underground into the Clyde cycle tunnel in search of graffiti.
Words: Susanna Beaumont
At first he was petrified. Out and about on his bashed- up racer. back in the early 90s. Stephen Skrynka found himself cycling along Glasgow‘s Clyde cycle and pedestrian tunnel. Long. dank and shadowy. Skrynka who had recently moved to the city. felt this was not a place to hang around in. Yet along with a sense of urgency to get out quick. Skrynka was excited: the walls of the tunnel were covered with graffiti.
Graffiti. The bane of transport companies who constantly try and rid bus shelters of scrawls of aerosol-written obscenities and declarations of love and lust. Graffiti. A written demonstration of political opinion. And here in the Clyde cycle tunnel. an untended. underground chamber, graffiti ruled. Layer upon layer of words.
Two years ago Skrynka, who has long had an interest in neglected places. embarked upon Tunnel. ‘1 think we all have a morbid fascination with underground spaces,‘ says Skrynka who set about researching the tunnels history. ‘There is a frisson of fear and delight.‘ This lead him to transcribe every word of graffiti and ‘translate' the words into a sound piece to be broadcast in the tunnel.
84 THE “ST 25 May—8 Jun 2000
'I think we all have a morbid fascination with underground spaces. There is a frisson of fear and delight.’ Stephen Skrynka
' ' " "89? "35.3 Tunnel vision: Stephen Skrynka standing in the whitewashed Clyde Cycle Tunnel
‘When it was opened by the Queen in 1963. the tunnel was part of a utopian dream connecting up the south and north sides of Glasgow.’ says Skrynka who. archaeologist-like. excavated the layers of graffiti. 'It
was about civic pride and was a real feat of
engineering. Now kids have turned it in to their den. Some of the graffiti reveals private thoughts and some is really brutal. Some is about arranging a rendezvous but all of it is about going public with the private.‘ The task of transcribing complete. Skrynka white— washed the tunnel. But Skrynka is not on a clean-up crusade. ‘The project is not about urban renewal and
the white-washing could be seen as a form of vandalism in itself.‘ says Skrynka. adding that if
anything he is freeing up the tunnel for fresh graffiti. And Skrynka plans to publish every word of graffiti. In an exact replica of the handbook that accompanied the tunnel’s opening which includes a portrait of the Queen. pictures of councillors with puffed-our chests and a text which talks about the tunnel‘s building. Skrynka has added pages filled with the graffiti. ()ne re-occurring line is ‘Fuck the Queen‘.
To turn this graffiti into sound. Skrynka worked with a composer. a soprano and local schools. ‘The graffiti is sung. whispered and recited. We have also added recordings of overheard conversations and sounds collected from along the Clyde.‘ he says. ‘This library of sound is to be put on the website and tip to sixteen people at any one time will be able to mix the sounds to make a sonic landscape.’
This collage of sound will be broadcast through 64 speakers in the tunnel. ‘It will be a constantly moving landscape of sound. Graffiti turned into sound.’ Could this foretell the future: the day when every bus shelter comes with a soundtrack?
Tunnel, the soundwork is at the Clyde Cycle and Pedestrian Tunnel Sun 28 May—Sun 18 Jun. The website is www.clydetunnel.org
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