Hearing The Voices In Their Heads

Anthropologist Andrew Irving recorded people’s inner thoughts spoken out loud as they walked through New York, mapping “part of the city’s thoughtscape, layered beneath its audible soundscape.” In the first clip, seen above, Ferris Jabr hears echoes of Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway:

As she walks the streets of London, Clarissa entertains an ephemeral memory of throwing a shilling into the Serpentine, before transitioning to a more somber meditation on death: “Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her.” Moments later she is commenting to herself on books in a shop window, then deriding her “pea-stick figure,” then admiring a fishmonger. She converses with herself about war, immortality, past romances and what kind of flowers she should buy for her party.

[Virginia] Woolf would likely have adored Irving’s videos. She wanted to write about “an ordinary mind on an ordinary day.” As opposed to many of her contemporaries, she was far more interested in what was happening inside people’s heads—in thought, memory and consciousness—than in detailed descriptions of buildings, countenances and clothes. She wanted the reader to perceive almost everything through her characters’ minds, rather than dictating a traditional plot with third-person narration. Like a telepathic moth, the narrator in Mrs. Dalloway flits from one person’s consciousness to another as they go about their business in London. … “There’s always this assemblage of voices simultaneously going on in public all the time—but you can’t hear it,” Irving says.