Not on display
In 10-16 adult actors lip-synch the pre-recorded voices of children and adolescents making personal revelations. The young people range from ten to sixteen years in age, each year represented by one of seven sections and a total of eight different actors (age eleven is represented by two women). Wearing located her subjects in schoolyards, playgrounds, on the street, through friends and finally through an advertisement posted in a listings magazine. With their permission, she made audio recordings as they talked about their anxieties and preoccupations. After editing the texts she had chosen, she filmed adult actors lip-synching their words. Finally she collaged the audio texts with the video sequences, to produce the disturbing illusion of mature adults speaking the voices and stories of much younger people.
Wearing has been working with video and photography since the early 1990s, typically approaching strangers on the street, or through classified advertisements in newspapers and magazines, to use their voices and their stories to reveal hidden aspects of their personalities. Inspired by fly-on-the-wall documentaries, which record individuals from inside their homes, and experimental social analyses such as Michael Apted's television series Seven Up (made for BBC and Granada television and begun in 1964), Wearing's works explore the slippage between private identification and public expression, between those aspects of themselves which people try to hide, and those which they are willing or able to reveal. Various forms of masking are fundamental in allowing self-revelation. In an earlier piece, Confess all on video. Don't worry, you will be in disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian 1994 (see Tate T07329 and T07447), each of her subjects wore a mask or disguise as he or she made a confession of an intimate nature ranging from theft and revenge-taking to a variety of traumatic sexual experiences. 10-16 uses adult actors to mask and protect the personal revelations of young people, all recounting varying degrees of trauma.
For Wearing, using children's voices masked by adults heightens the emotional impact. 'We know children have interesting things to say and use language in a rich way, but when you channel this through an older body, then all of a sudden there's a pathos and you're transforming how people look at that' (Wearing quoted in Gillian Wearing, p.18). Here her subjects speak experiences of social alienation, aggression and abuse. Placing a child's voice in an adult's body accentuates the viewer's sense of the vulnerability of children to the adult world which they grow up to inhabit and reproduce, and provides a very literal representation of the psychoanalytic notion of the fragile and damaged 'child within'.
Donna De Salvo, Russell Ferguson, John Slyce, Gillian Wearing, London 1999, pp.16, 18, 74-85 and 136-41, reproduced (colour) pp.16, 75-6, 78-9, 81-2, 85 and 139
Virginia Button, The Turner Prize, London 1997, pp.132-6, reproduced (colour) p.135