Hearing Voices Box (Assignment 1, 151MC)

I want to get across to my audience as truthful as I can make it how it is to hear voices. I also want to explore how what people hear either have ownership over them or not. Firstly I thought it best to research into voices, causes of voices and other peoples experiences of voices through secondary research to begin with.


I took a look at the Mind charity website first of all which explains what hearing voices means and how they sound to those who hear them.


This website also has lots of stories from real people who experience voices.

The first I found was a film by a schizophrenic, called, People call me crazy where he explains how his life is with schizophrenia and also talks about hearing voices. I like how informative he is, he isn’t trying to make us feel bad for him, he is simply trying to normalise it and get others to understand it. In the film he mentions the book, The Madman’s Tale, which I ordered online so that I can read it as it seemed to mean a lot to him as he could relate to the main character well.

The second real life story I found was called Hearing Voices by Lucy. She raises some interesting points such as, “Recently I went on a day course about understanding young people and hearing voices. It really did me the world of good and made me realise how common it can be.”
If it can be so common then why is there so much stigma surrounding hearing voices?

Seeing as I am looking to try to show hearing voices in a normal and informative way rather than continuing the stigma, I analysed some books that link to stigma and discuss whether it is being overcome.

Book 1. The End of Stigma? By Gill Green.

Book 2. Health and Illness in a Changing Society by Michael Bury


I spent some time watching a video, Hearing Voices, on Vimeo which is made by the charity, Rethink Mental Illness. It explains hearing voices in simple terms and talks about how people can make a difference and help people who do hear voices.

Felicity Ruggles

Felicity Ruggles’ art series, From Dark Holes to Daffodils, is a solo exhibition that shares images that shows what it is like to be depressed. Depression is another mental health issue that often comes alongside hearing voices and can be a cause of hearing them. She states that, ‘This exhibition will hopefully track my darkness and successes with my fight with depression and how my art has been very cathartic through the years.’

‘I have had a bumpy old ride. I have always, and still am, in the care of “-ists”, “-ologists”‘


Charnley’s Work is based around portraying the effects of schizophrenia. He writes next to the paintings, how he was feeling and what was going on at the time the painting was done. It is a very interesting account and really opens up his world to the viewer. Similar to Charnley;s work I think it is important to be able to allow the viewer to learn something or to experience the world in a new light when viewing artwork. I hope to achieve this result when people experience my artwork.

I decided that to be as truthful as possible then I would need to use people who hear voices using primary research sources.

First, I interviewed a lady who hears voices, (who wants to stay anonymous) about her voices and wrote down her answers to get a clear understanding of how she experiences this.


I then discovered the sound artist, Mary Edwards, who did a sound installation at the Grimshaw Gudewicz Art Gallery at Bristol Community College which brought the sounds of the Quequechan River indoors. The installation is called, per/serverance.

This article about her installation gave me the idea of using a sound installation to get across to my audience what hearing voices sounds like.


I then looked at the work of Melanie Friend’s project, Border Country,  which includes photographs as well as sound recordings to get more of an idea about how this medium can be used.


I met a man who hears voices at the Mind Drop-in centre. I spent some time with him getting to know him and we became good friends. I asked him if he would mind doing a sound recording and he was quite happy to do this for me. I got him to speak into my iPhone using an app called QuickVoice. I got him to imitate his voices for me – How they sound and the content of what they say. The advantages of using my iPhone was that it was discreet, quick and easy to use, however, I was disappointed with the quality I got from it. Next time I would like to learn and use a more advanced type of recording equipment.


I am recording people imitating their voices as this approach is how real life people who hear voices experience it and this creates a truth. Here, I can return to the lecture I had about whether the photograph is a truth. (LECTURE)


I thought it was only fair if I should record my voice if I was making others record theirs. I did find it difficult to do and I did have to be on my own with no one listening in order to create the recording


I used this recording of my voice as well as the first recording using my iPhone to create a sound mix. I also included a clip I found on YouTube of carousel music as well as an Evil Laugh to imitate the loud noises and music that people hear.

Take a look at my FIRST AUDIO RECORDING – Password is ‘151MC’


I decided to make an installation out of this sound mix. Hearing voices can make people feel alone and isolated, almost like being in a box, and feeling negative space around them. I decided to make a prototype of a box, made out of cardboard.  The idea is to give an idea of how it is to hear voices, the box is meant to represent feeling trapped and somehow separate from the world around you. I glued an mp3 player to the top of the box that had the file I made of the sound mix on. I then made 2 holes on opposite sides of the box, close to the ears but not directly next to or in the ears and put the earphones just in the holes. This creates an echo and makes the noise sound like its around you more than just in the ears which is more realistic to hearing voices.


The image above is of my lecturer, Anthony, trying the hearing voices box. His feedback was that it was very upsetting for him. He also said that it made him feel a bit like a peeping Tom. I think I will make bigger eye holes next time to reduce this feeling of being a peeping Tom. Although, I do like this analogy to an extent, it helps to put across the feeling people have when hearing voices that they don’t truly fit in and don’t properly belong.

I also need to work out what material to make the box out of. I have considered a few different materials and have reasons why for each of them.

  1.  Wood
    Sound will echo well around the box giving a more accurate account of what it’s like to hear voices.
    Having wood will be slightly heavier so it will reflect the feeling voice hearers have of being slightly disconnected to the world.
  2. Cardboard
    Lightweight and easy to cut holes in for the eyes.
  3. Reflective mirrors
    As though looking straight through. Person still there but sometimes feels invisible.
  4. Perspex
    Plastic,  so reasonably lightweight.
  5. Foam Board
    lightweight, can easily be covered with something that reflects the voice hearing experience more.
  6. See-Through
    No big difference but does feel like there’s something separating them from the world around them.
  7. Plastic cup sphere
    too odd looking

First I tried making my box out of Foam Board. I used a craft knife to cut out pieces the right size to make a box to fit over a person’s head. I used the craft knife to cut out eye holes.


I felt that this box made of Foam board needed a little extra and some more links to how hearing voices is. The mirror tiles would reflect back making the wearer sort of invisible yet still there. Voice hearers have reported that they feel disjointed from the world and sometimes invisible with their experiences. That is the reason for the mirror tiles. Also, they show that voices have ownership over them and make them separate from the world in some ways.



I cut up pieces of the right size using a saw. At first I used a hacksaw but it wasn’t big enough to cut all the way across so i then brought a larger saw. Below is an image of me cutting up the wood. I used a light Balsa wood so that it’s not too heavy on the head.



I continued to practice the wood burning technique for my box. Here are all the practices and tries I did, trying to find the correct style and technique.


I decided to learn more about recording Audio. I attended the optional sound recording Session in order to quickly learn about how to record good quality sound so that I could get recording as soon as possible. I then booked out a microphone and a Canon 5D II DSLR to use for my next recording.

I then needed to learn about editing Audio. I found a free editing software online called, WavePad. It has a lot of features and there is a lot of information online to learn how to use the software.

I recorded a second man imitating his voices. He wanted me to leave the room whilst he made the recordings. This was understandable as it is very difficult to speak exactly how your voices speak.

I found it a lot easier to set up the camera for recording audio and there was a lot more scope for changing the settings. However, I did have to record using video which was a bit of a hassle. When I came to editing it, the file type was a lot easier to work with and to manipulate, so I could remove any background noise from the recording which made it a lot clearer.

Take a look at my SECOND AUDIO RECORDING – Password is ‘151MC’


After all my practice, I finally tried writing with the typography tool onto the wooden box sides. I decided on this particular style of writing as I think it gives the quotes more character and personality. It also reflects the mood of what the content of the quotes is.  I have done 2 sides, just 3 more to go!

image9 image10

I decided to start constructing my box. I used tiny nails to hold it together all around the edges of the box. I nailed a long piece of wood in between each of the sides to give it more stability and to make it easier to put the nails in.


I went to see Jade Blackstock’s video work piece, ‘In In In’ at the New Art exhibition in Coventry.


I really liked this piece, where she had foam shot at her for minutes whilst she stood there painted white. She looked very uncomfortable and there was a true claustrophobic feel to what was happening. I think that being able to evoke that feeling in the audience is such a powerful skill to do and I would love to be able to achieve that in my work. I hope to use and consider all my aspects of the wooden box to achieve this, including the fact that it is heavy and feels like a burden which is the emotion that I want the audience to experience.


I read the book, Hearing voices, seeing things, which is a Serpentine Gallery project. It explores the relationship between contemporary art and mental health.