Janet Cardiff


There are eight million stories in the naked city, or so the famous voice-over would have us believe. Maybe this is a huge underestimate; or maybe it’s a wild exaggeration. Maybe, as film theorist Christian Metz once proposed of classic Hollywood cinema, there is only one, endlessly retold: the story of narcissistic identification with an idealized other. Commissioned by Artangel, Janet Cardiff’s audio piece The Missing Voice (Case Study B), 1999, uses a novel medium to revisit that psychoanalytic terrain.

Cardiff’s piece involves a visit to London’s Whitechapel Library and the exchange of one’s ID for a discreet, museum guide–style Discman and headphones. From there, an uncertain number of fragmentary, overlapping oral narratives unfold, propelling one first around the library, then out into the winding streets of Whitechapel and Bishopsgate. The city and its population become the

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