John Berger/Simon McBurney - The Vertical Line CD with 40pp booklet. £16.95 Janet Cardiff - The Missing Voice (Case Study B) 72pp pbk with CD. £21.95. Both available from Artangel 0207 336 6801
Artangel's commissions during the 1990s have been continually enterprising in the way they have engaged with London's architecture. Selection of a suitable site is an important part of any project that the organisation undertakes with its invited artists: as a site is identified, so the project begins to crystallise. The locations that Artangel has temporarily interpreted or transformed are very diverse: among them, Inigo Jones' Queen's House in Greenwich, a gentlemen's club in St James's, Southwark's Clink Street vaults, Camden's Roundhouse, and the long-deserted Aldwych tube station. What it might do next cannot be predicted.
Given the short life of the completed works, and the fact that audience numbers are sometimes limited and tickets sell out swiftly, it makes sense for Artangel to try to perpetuate its projects in another form: hence its series, 'Artangel Afterlives'. But earlier videos in this series - of the Queen's House and Clink Street installations, for instance - have tended to diminish the works, a reminder that the audience's original experience of space and site is not just visual and can only be approximated on screen. These two new cds, however, are more successful.
John Berger and Simon McBurney's time-travelling descent into one of the abandoned tube tunnels at Aldwych, where they recreated the discovery of the Chauvet cave in the Ardeche with its prehstoric paintings, was one of the most evocative of all Artangel's projects. The cd contains the script, spoken mostly by Berger, whose delivery is compelling.
Janet Cardiff's The Missing Voice (Case Study B) gave a similar prominence to speech, as well as snatches of music and sounds of the street. Participants picked up a Discman at Whitechapel library and, following Cardiff's fractured narrative, traced an itinerary around the neighbourhood. As you kept pace with her footsteps (a constant presence on the soundtrack), Cardiff spoke confidingly: what she said was partly rooted in mundane detail - 'see the peeling paint on the library ceiling' - but conjured up the world of the crime novel or film noir. This mysterious and rather moving audio- work is still powerful when the streets must be imagined not traversed.