Stories

Temporary chroma key memorials

In this imaginary podcast, artist A R Hopwood depicts himself interviewing his friend and former collaborator on Zoom. Hopwood takes on three roles: presenter, himself and ‘Paul’, who died in 2019 by suicide. The images recall some of the work he and ‘Paul’ did together on the WITH project.

  • Photo story
Colour landscape photograph showing a beach scene. The scene is split in half horizontally, with a blue sky and cloud covered upper and a sandy beach lower, with a strip of sea and breaking waves across the middle. In the centre of the image, in the middle distance is a large rectangular photographic background frame standing up vertically. Stretched across the frame is a vibrant green chroma key fabric. In the foreground is a path leading out to the beach from the sand dunes. The dunes rising up and covered in long green grass can be seen to the left and right of the scene. There are several wooden posts stuck in the ground with rope tied between them, protecting the dunes from access.
Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 1. © A R Hopwood for Wellcome Collection.

The artist A R Hopwood is sitting alone in his studio writing a script for an imaginary podcast. In his head he is a presenter who is interviewing himself. Later in the script he will also pretend to be the podcast’s other guest – A R Hopwood’s friend and former collaborator ‘Paul’.

Music intro: ‘On the Nature of Daylight’, performed by Max Richter and Louisa Fuller

A R Hopwood (00:00)

(softly spoken as music fades)

Welcome to our latest edition of PodLast – a podcast where a different guest each week can have a conversation with someone who’s died. It’s a chance to reconnect, to resolve any outstanding issues, reveal a secret or just to express love and affection.

(pause)

This week our guest is me, artist A R Hopwood, creator of the WITH project and False Memory Archive and co-curator of ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ at Wellcome Collection in 2019.

(he turns to himself)

Hi – great to have you here today. What would you like me to call you? A R, ARRR or just A?

Al Hopwood (00:33)

Hi Al – thanks for inviting me along. Just Al is fine.

A R Hopwood (00:38)

Okay, great.

(pause)

A month before ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ opened in April 2019, Al’s long-term collaborator and silent partner on the WITH project tragically took his own life at the age of 46.

(pause)

The aftermath has had devastating consequences, and to protect those affected, we have decided to refer to Al’s guest as ‘Paul’ for the purposes of the following interview, which will be conducted live via Zoom – apologies in advance for the audio quality.

Colour landscape photograph showing a hilltop landscape. The photograph has been taken at dawn and the landscape has a frosty feel to it. In the centre of the image is a large rectangular photographic background frame. Stretched across the frame is a vibrant blue chroma key fabric. The frame is standing on a grass mound on the top of a hill. Behind the screen is the view to the far distance containing fields, tiny buildings and then the horizon. The sky above the horizon is an attractive blend of hues, from warm golden tones at the horizon line blending to a vibrant blue tone as the sky extends upwards. In the foreground to the right is an untidy twiggy shrub, nestled in a hollow.
Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 2. © A R Hopwood for Wellcome Collection.

Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 2.

Brief musical interlude: A few bars from Steve Reich’s ‘Electric Counterpoint’. A R Hopwood is still sitting alone in his studio typing this script, imagining the following exchange. He can picture a computer screen next to his real screen that somehow manages to connect to Paul through Zoom.

A R Hopwood (01:03)

Hi, Paul, are you there?

(pause)

Paul – I think you’re on mute.

Paul (01:15)

Okay, yup, sorry. I should be better at this now!

A R Hopwood (01:21)

(rueful laugh)

So, Paul, thanks for joining us today – it’s great to imagine that I’m seeing you.

(deep breath)

I’ll just run through how this is going to work today if that’s okay?

Paul (01:32)

(poor internet connection)

Yep, that’s fine.

Al Hopwood (01:35)

(whispers to A R)

It doesn’t really sound like him.

A R Hopwood (01:37)

(carrying on)

So, Al will be asking a few questions and I’ll continue to reply on your behalf by pretending to be you when it’s your turn to speak. I’ll try to hold the memory of your voice and mannerisms in my head during the conversation and I’ll try to answer ‘as you’, as authentically and honestly as I can.

Colour landscape photograph showing a beach scene. The scene is split in half horizontally, with a blue sky and cloud covered upper and a sandy beach lower, with a thin strip of sea and breaking waves across the middle. In the centre of the image, some way off is a large rectangular photographic background frame standing up vertically. Stretched across the frame is a vibrant green chroma key fabric. In the foreground running across the sand from left to right is a thin ribbon of water in the sand.
Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 3. © A R Hopwood for Wellcome Collection.

Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 3.

Paul (01:55)

(delay as voice doesn’t sync with mouth movements)

Okay, that’s fine. Can I just make one request?

A R Hopwood (01:59)

Go on.

Paul (02:01)

That we don’t talk about ‘why’.

A R Hopwood (02:04)

(quietly)

Yes, okay.

Paul (02:06)

Otherwise, it all sounds like an awesome idea – you doing it ‘on my behalf’ is pretty funny…

Al Hopwood (02:09)

Yeh, I thought you’d like that.

(pause as the imagined link with Paul falters)

Paul, are you still there? I think we’ve got a bit of a delay on the line…

(screen freezes)

Hang on, you’ve frozen. I can’t hear you.

(waits)

Are you there?

(pause)

Can you hear me?

Paul (02:19)

(muffled/breaking up)

I think it’s your connection?

A R Hopwood (02:23)

Maybe – you’re not coming through as clearly as I’d like, I must admit. I’m struggling to remember your voice.

(sighs)

Al – I think he can hear us... don’t know for how long.

(pause)

Paul, can you hear us?

(silence)

I think he can still hear us. Is there anything you want to tell him?

Al Hopwood (02:33)

(loudly and slowly)

Yeh. Paul, I’m making this new work for you.

(pause)

It’s frozen again.

A R Hopwood (02:37)

Shit. Try now.

(deep breath as he closes his eyes)

I think he’s still there.

(screen flickers)

He’s back! Quickly!

Al Hopwood (02:49)

(hurrying)

Remember when we used to do the photos of a WITH agent exercising “on behalf” of someone in front of a chroma key screen?

Paul (02:56)

Yes, I loved th—

(screen freezes)

Colour landscape photograph showing an ancient woodland scene. In the lower centre of the image, in a clearing, is a large rectangular photographic background frame. Stretched across the frame is a vibrant blue chroma key fabric. The floor of the wood is covered in rust coloured leaves and fallen branches. To the left and right of the image tall strong tree trunks rise up through the frame to a canopy of green leaves. As the scene recedes into the distance the ground rises and tree trunks continue to rise up around the screen. The leaves of the trees obscure all the sky from view, save for a few bright glimpses here and there.
Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 4. © A R Hopwood for Wellcome Collection.

Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 4.

Al Hopwood (3:02)

Can he hear me?

(A R shrugs)

Well, I’m remaking them now, but with just an empty screen.

(breath)

You used to model for them – do you remember doing it at the V&A on the exercise bike that time?

(urgent)

Paul – can you hear me?

A R Hopwood (03:17)

I’m struggling to get a proper connection, Al – I’m really sorry.

Paul’s moving image flickers on the imaginary screen again and he appears to be trying to say something. He’s talking and making sounds but none of it seems to make any sense.

Al Hopwood (03:30)

Paul, slow down a bit.

(pause)

I can’t understand what he’s saying…

(loudly)

I’m calling the work ‘Temporary Chroma Key Memorials’…

(Paul seems to smile as the screen freezes and then goes black)

He’s gone.

Colour landscape photograph showing an estuary scene. In the centre of the image is a large brick and stone building with a terracotta tiled roof. The building has no windows, just a large wooden door. Behind the building is a slither of water and then land beyond. To the right a number of small boats can be seen moored to the bank. In front of the building is a sealed road with large puddles. Up against the wall of the building is a large rectangular photographic background frame. Stretched across the frame is a vibrant green chroma key fabric. The green is reflected in one of the puddles in the foreground. The sky behind the building is blue, scattered with white clouds. The sun is breaking through one of the clouds and shining directly into the camera lens causing slight flaring around the building's roof.
Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 5. © A R Hopwood for Wellcome Collection.

Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 5.

A R Hopwood (03:46)

Okay. One last try…

(he closes his eyes)

I can’t get him back.

(pause)

I think we’re going to have to call it off.

Al Hopwood (04:00)

No, wait. I need to ask him something else. Why did I tell him about work first? I’m such an idiot.

(pause)

Can you hear me?

(pause)

Why didn’t you talk to me about what was going on?

(the screen flickers)

Paul – can you hear me?

(pause)

I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.

Silence.

A R Hopwood (04:26)

I’ve lost him.

(pause)

I’m sorry, Al. I know you had a lot to say.

Al Hopwood (04:31)

So frustrating.

(pause)

Paul – are you there?

(sigh)

Colour landscape photograph showing an ancient woodland scene. In the lower centre of the image, in a clearing, is a large rectangular photographic background frame. Stretched across the frame is a vibrant blue chroma key fabric. The floor of the wood is covered in rust coloured leaves and fallen branches. To the left and right of the image tall strong tree trunks rise up through the frame to a canopy of green leaves. As the scene recedes into the distance the tree trunks continue to rise up around the screen. The green leaves of the trees obscure all the sky from view, save for a few bright glimpses here and there.
Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 6. © A R Hopwood for Wellcome Collection.

Temporary Chroma Key Memorial 6.

A R Hopwood (04:40)

I can’t get him back, Al. He’s gone.

Al Hopwood (04:43)

(pause)

I just wanted to say…

(voice cracks) 

A R Hopwood (04:48)

(quietly)

I know. I know.

(pause)

This sometimes happens. We can try again another time, perhaps?

(silence)

Al? What do you think?

After 20 seconds of pretend silence, A R Hopwood decides that the script for the imaginary podcast has finished. He turns off the fictional recording and closes the fictional screen. He puts on Ghosteen by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and looks out of his studio window.

Made in memory of J.P, 1973–2019.

Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can email jo@samaritans.org or visit samaritans.org .

Image of an Apple Mac computer desktop. Laid out on the desktop are several application windows, overlapping and obscuring each other slightly. Within these windows are colour photographs showing a green and blue chroma key screen set in landscape locations and photographs of a man facing away from the camera sitting on an exercise bike which is placed on a chroma key backdrop.
Temporary Chroma Key Memorials. © A R Hopwood for Wellcome Collection.

With thanks to The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire, Sir Simon Bowes Lyons Estate and Norfolk Wildlife Trust for access to their beautiful locations.

About the contributors