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.
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.
(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)
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.
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.
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?
Paul – I think you’re on mute.
Okay, yup, sorry. I should be better at this now!
A R Hopwood (01:21)
So, Paul, thanks for joining us today – it’s great to imagine that I’m seeing you.
I’ll just run through how this is going to work today if that’s okay?
(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)
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.
(delay as voice doesn’t sync with mouth movements)
Okay, that’s fine. Can I just make one request?
A R Hopwood (01:59)
That we don’t talk about ‘why’.
A R Hopwood (02:04)
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…
Hang on, you’ve frozen. I can’t hear you.
Are you there?
Can you hear me?
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.
Al – I think he can hear us... don’t know for how long.
Paul, can you hear us?
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.
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.
He’s back! Quickly!
Al Hopwood (02:49)
Remember when we used to do the photos of a WITH agent exercising “on behalf” of someone in front of a chroma key screen?
Yes, I loved th—
Al Hopwood (3:02)
Can he hear me?
(A R shrugs)
Well, I’m remaking them now, but with just an empty screen.
You used to model for them – do you remember doing it at the V&A on the exercise bike that time?
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.
I can’t understand what he’s saying…
I’m calling the work ‘Temporary Chroma Key Memorials’…
(Paul seems to smile as the screen freezes and then goes black)
A R Hopwood (03:46)
Okay. One last try…
(he closes his eyes)
I can’t get him back.
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.
Can you hear me?
Why didn’t you talk to me about what was going on?
(the screen flickers)
Paul – can you hear me?
I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.
A R Hopwood (04:26)
I’ve lost him.
I’m sorry, Al. I know you had a lot to say.
Al Hopwood (04:31)
Paul – are you there?
A R Hopwood (04:40)
I can’t get him back, Al. He’s gone.
Al Hopwood (04:43)
I just wanted to say…
A R Hopwood (04:48)
I know. I know.
This sometimes happens. We can try again another time, perhaps?
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.
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 artist
A R Hopwood
A R Hopwood is an artist and Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow. He has collaborated extensively with psychologists to create art projects about memory, belief and misdirection, including WITH (withyou.co.uk) and the False Memory Archive. He was co-curator of ‘Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic’ at Wellcome Collection in 2019.