Giorgio Sadotti, Went To America Didn’t Say A Word (1999)

A 24-hour recording of ambient city noise is, on the face of it, boring. Few people will ever sit through all of the 1999 Giorgio Sadotti piece currently on show at Milton Keynes Gallery.

Behind the soundtrack, however, is an amazing story. Sadotti flew from London to New York, stayed overnight, and came home the next day without speaking to anyone. And that has the makings of an urban legend.

Now simply by hearing about the artwork, you can experience it. It can be easily shared, at no cost, between friends, over a drink. Never mind the lengthy audio documentation. The anecdote, surely, is just as much the artwork, as the tapes from across the Atlantic.

You may wonder how it was possible, logistically, to do such a thing. In its invisible way, the piece is as remarkable as a tromp l’oeil ceiling or an ornate manuscript. It must have been solitary, dogged work to produce.

The next question is what he might have said. The title implies withheld judgement or perhaps a kept secret. It draws attention to what Sadotti was thinking and the recording offers no clue. This gives the piece an essential and age old mystique.

In an attempt to demystify Went To America Didn’t Say A Word, I went to my local shop for a pint of milk and maintained a strict silence. Here is the documentation. You won’t find it in a gallery: Went To The Cornershop Didn’t Say A Word.wma

The The Things Is (For 3) is at Milton Keynes Gallery until 12 September

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