David Byrne and the Talking Toilet

Via The Guardian

By Pascal Wyse

I have just met David Byrne in the toilet at the V&A museum in London. He made me listen to him doing his business, which seemed a bit forward, and he kept playing with the taps. And that's not all: the museum's China Room is employing a very young girl as the guide to the exhibits. She should be at nursery school. Someone is riding a moped over in the Ceramics area, and the management should be told Room 58 has a ghost in it reminiscing, dewy-eyed, about his experiences at prep school. "Change is bad," he says. "The future is a dirty word."

These hidden extras form Shhh...Sounds in Spaces — music/soundscapes from 10 artists asked to respond to areas in the museum. From tomorrow, visitors get headphones and an MP3 player that selects a track as they walk into the appropriate area. There are sounds from Roots Manuva, Elisabeth Fraser, Simon Fisher Turner and Gillian Wearing.

It's funny how our eyes and ears are connected. Things look different when you have music in your head - or, rather, the sight of things communicates a different feeling. But feeding two senses also makes demands on our processing power. Music or spoken word can practically shut your eyes to the world around you, leave you looking without seeing. As in good film music, sound should complete the picture, not be the picture.

Some sounds in Shhh open doors, others close them. Elizabeth Fraser's music for the Raphael Cartoons has an echoing, haunted beauty that leads you to a particular feeling when you look at the paintings. But in the Cast Court, Jane and Louise Wilson's recordings of kids larking split your focus, stop you losing yourself among the plaster-casts and their stories. Byrne plays the game best: his toilets start to flush a little tune, taps dripping along in time. He hides round corners and whispers "Hey! Over here!" then sings a song. In the end, it's all about how the contents of your head colour the world around you.

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