LINDA DUVALL Visual and Media Artist

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Eavesdropping Hamilton

In an era of worldwide communications and an ever-expanding tide of globalization, cities need a means to recognize individual difference, uniqueness of location and population, and a sense of shared conversation. When all cities have McDonalds, the Gap, and Home Depot, it becomes more urgent to enable the citizens of such cities to recognize their own collective individuality. Eavesdropping and the subsequent public presentation of this material is a tangible way to counteract the effects of this inevitable creeping globalization and alienation. What ordinary conversation reveals is the specificity of a place and the people and the issues that make up a particular location.


By reproducing the exact language that one hears in the restaurants and bars, and on the street and at public events, one creates a profile of the city. This mundane language is specific to a certain population.
The second step in this project is to return the bits of conversation to the public from which it was obtained.


Eavesdropping is related to surveillance, but with a more subjective and personal slant. For example, it reflects the nature of my movement through the city on a given day. Unlike surveillance, eavesdropping necessitates direct human presence and intimacy. The resulting material comes from a variety of ages, crosses economic lines, and gives almost no visual information about the speaker. It is a different way of knowing.


This is a way to build a sense of community, for individuals within a defined geographical location to hear each other, and to recognize themselves as part of this conversation. It is often easier for someone from ‘away’ to make visible these intangible links. I am interested in the degree to which each city has its own issues, tone and approach to conversation. Having lived in Hamilton in the early 80’s, I know that certain approaches to life are unique to Hamilton, due to historical framework, location, economic developments, and climate, among other factors.


Part of the strength of the often-incomplete fragments that are overheard is the necessity for filling in the gaps. This allows for the potential for further conversation.

Some of the actual overheard comments are on the next page.