Behind Speech is a site-specific video and sound installation, exhibited in the Communication Suites in the Medical Faculty, University of Glasgow. The Communication Suites are designed to support the "problem-based learning" method of teaching used within the faculty to train student doctors in communication skills, ethics, and aspects of doctors' behaviour and attitudes. Within these sessions, actors take on the persona of patients with various ailments and enter into role plays with medical students. In these situations the boundary between reality and simulation can appear blurred at times.

The piece Behind Speech is the result of two day-long workshops orchestrated by myself, in collaboration with choreographer, Colette Sadler and two of the actresses who worked as simulated patients in the Communication Suites, Pene Herman-Smith and Karen Traynor. Together we explored aspects of non-verbal communication using the "breaking bad news" role play used for training student doctors. The role play was enacted without using spoken language, and the actresses' spoken reflection on the experience was incorporated into the final video. This process was developed over the course of the two days using exercises contributed by choreographer, Colette Sadler.

These role play exercises are intended to give the students an "authentic" experience in dealing with patients. Behind Speech explores how we can construct authenticity, drawing attention to the points where reality and simulation merge and diverge.

The resulting video was installed using the preinstalled surveillance technology which is a main feature of the Communication Suites. For the installation, the edited video was displayed on the large monitor in the teaching room alongside a monitor showing a live feed from the adjacent consultation room. In the consultation room the sound from the Behind Speech video could be heard, and traces of the role play sessions was left as two chairs and table. On the table, lay two typed scripts of a conversation between the two actresses and the artist. This was written as a script but was in fact a transcript of a real conversation.

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Behind Speech


video & sound installation

exhibited at Communication Suite, Medical School, University of Glasgow curated by Christine Borland.

Special thanks to Colette Sadler, Pene Herman-Smith & Karen Traynor.