Tantalum Memorial, Manifesta7, Alumix, Bolzano, Italy.

bnr#20 => Tantalum Memorial, Manifesta7, Alumix, Bolzano, Italy.


The head of Oliver Cromwell is stuck in the phone exchange of a psychiatric hospital.

From an automated telephone system installed at the Royal Edinburgh Psychiatric Hospital, phone calls from Oliver Cromwell encouraged staff to pass around messages, songs, jokes and rude noises. The telephonic robot, in the character of Cromwell, rung up and asked questions and recorded results from the various people it spoke to. After listening to the current script, the callee could decide whether to pass it to another extension. The Head of Oliver Cromwell was spoken by voice actor Neil Conrich.

1. Where am I? Who is this at the end of this phone? I remember descending into darkness. Nothing but the rustling of seeds sprouting in the soil – daisies tickling my nostrils with their roots.

5. Good person, I am in need of urgent release. Centuries of bad air and rotten fumes have built up inside me! I can hold it no longer … ah …
(Loud fart noise)
Ah … that is exceedingly refreshing. Perhaps you can direct me to another line so I may release more vapours? Pray enter an extension number most speedily – I feel another emission building inside me …

10. Kiss (pre-recorded kissing noises, or previous listeners recordings)
Who teases me with this canoodling? Such displays of coquetry are a foreign habit. I ask you not to press ‘one’ to pass on these flirtations. Nor do I encourage you to add your own bawdy love play by pressing ‘two’.

Eighteen different scripts were used. Cromwell’s messages ranged from trying to expel a fart, asking for help deciphering a joke he had read on the toilet walls or ejecting a bird that had been caught in the telephone exchange with him. He played love songs to listeners and offered to pass them on to their sweetheart at the hospital, extolled staff to put down their phones and take the rest of the day off or to join him in singing a rousing (and deafening) hymn of praise.

More than one out of ten of all calls (including those calls not even answered) resulted the listener choosing to take part and converse with Cromwell. Members of staff actively passed the head between their colleagues. Some found it “funny”, “weird”, a “shock”, “jaw dropping” or wondered whether a bizarre virus had infected the telephone exchange…

This project was chosen by the Artlink and Functionsuite teams from five proposed projects submitted. "ARoundhead" was realized in consultation with and facilitated by, Tom Arnott, Louise Birrell and Gill Watson all Facilities Managers, and Teresa Quinn the switchboard manager at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Commissioned by ARTLINK for Functionsuite.