The International Archive of Things Left Unsaid is an evolving collection of anonymous testimonies donated by members of the public responding to the question “think of a time when you wanted to say something to someone, but didn’t”.
It is a treasure trove of real life intimate testimonies, delivered with special care to honour the emotions expressed and preserve the anonymity of the people involved.
“a dichotomy of personal encounter and observational distance […] beautifully achieved” Caroline Darke, Artvehicle
“a simplicity and focus of care that is absolutely astounding” – Griffin Gilligan, blogger
“small moments of defiance that are also celebrations” – Jane Frances Dunlop, Exeunt Magazine
The Archive was established in 2006 in response to a provocation by curator Ali MacGilp to create a performance for an exhibition entitled ‘There’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You’, at Space Station Sixty-Five in London. This one-to-one performance grew and now exists in multiple forms:
- an installation and one-to-one performance that has toured nationally and internationally
- a web-based work at www.unsaidarchive.com (2015-19: this was The Space’s inaugural commission for a web-based performance)
- an interactive textile
This project is regularly remade for different contexts including at HMP Feltham Young Offender’s Institute, East Bergholt High School, for Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol, and at various galleries including W139 in Amsterdam, Barbican Gallery, ALMA Enterprises, Propeller Island, Space Station Sixty-Five, Battersea Arts Centre, Pulse Ipswich, SLAP Yorkshire.
+ more about the one-to-one performance
Everything You Ever Wanted to Say But Didn’t – Part 1 is a one-to-one performance lasting up to 10mins and takes the form of a verbatim delivery of some of the testimonies from The International Archive of Things Left Unsaid.
Audience members are told about the Archive and given an allocated ticket number which determines which testimony they will receive.
This performance is usually presented with a site-responsive installation to enable participants to contribute their own testimony to the archive.
+ more about www.unsaidarchive.com
The online version of the work was commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre and The Space CIC in 2015. It ran from August 2015 until October 2019.
Each testimony was performed verbatim, and includes binaural beat technology to induce calming brainwaves in the listener. Visitors could browse the Public Index, choose a testimony to listen to, and were then invited to contribute their own. A text-only version was available for those who do not use headphones, and anonymity was guaranteed.
Created by Rhiannon Armstrong
Designed by MOTHandRUST
Construct by Halo and Rob Grundel
+ more about the work in non-arts settings
The Archive has been presented in a number of community contexts as a catalyst piece to stimulate communication and discussion, in particular amongst teenagers and at risk young people; at HMP Feltham Young Offenders Institute, in schools including Crossways Sixth form and East Bergholt High School, and for Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol who commissioned a new version Called VIP Room.
In 2016 the online work toured as an interactive textile to shopping centres, cafes and park benches in towns across England.
The Archive has also been presented in workplaces including at SHM Productions in London:
“It created conversations. It created conversations about conversations. It created conversations about things we leave unsaid with our clients. It created conversations about regret.
It created a number of conversations which if we had tried to define them beforehand, we would not have had that result. We got a fantastic result that we couldn’t have predicted.”
Maurice Biriotti, CEO SHM Productions.
+ more about the textile work
In 2016 Rhiannon created a quilt as a physical interface with the web piece, with help from Significant Seams, a Walthamstow-based CIC working with craft as a means of combatting social isolation.
The quilt is made from everyday fabrics such as curtains, jeans, and suit material, and hand embroidered with extracts from the testimonies in the Archive.
In autumn 2016 the quilt toured as part of the Collaborative Touring Network, as a way of bringing unsaidarchive.com to a diverse range of audiences across the UK. Among other places it was installed in a leisure centre in Darlington, an arts centre in Wigan, a cafe in Gillingham, a shopping centre in Gloucester, and a supermarket in Peterborough.