The work I’m creating for this project is a ghost story. Even while I type this piece, the boundaries of the story are shifting and changing as the design and development teams and I negotiate our way forward toward the finished product which, to me, is proving as elusive and mysterious as a ghost itself might be.
The dead are all around us — those we never met, those we’ve lost, those we mourn. Earlier this week I attended a family funeral. We saw her off in a willow casket at the plain municipal crematorium and, later, we gathered together in her church, a 17th century stone chapel and bell tower on a hill in Sussex. In that building, the dead are all around — their names carved into stone plaques and memorials, their portraits on the walls, their bodies buried in the tombs and grassy graves outside.
The church is a repository of texts, old and new, from the hymns that are sung, to the prayers that are chanted, to the documents — the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, the order of service — in the pocket of the pew. The rituals associated with these texts can be baffling to outsiders — when to stand? when to sit? — but the vicar gave subtle guidance to all of us unbelievers, including when to sing, when to chant, when to be quiet. He made it seem easy and he made us feel comfortable, or as comfortable as you can be when you are attempting to acknowledge and honour a long life, to tell that story, with those people, in that way — the service itself a collective work of storytelling, the church its platform, its technology.
The funeral took place the same day that Hurricane Ophelia passed nearby: we came out of the cold church in mid-afternoon and the sky was dark and orange, the air a humid swirl of whirling leaves and almost-rain.
When we embarked on the Ambient Literature research project, we knew the two years for which we were funded would pass quickly: now that there are less than six months left, time is doing the inevitable: speeding up.
The ghosts are gathering; the technology is enabling them. I’d better get on with the story.
— Kate Pullinger
Image copyright John Sutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.