###Stretching the Truth: A performance lecture by Susan Schuppli
“Next to a man’s wife, his secretary is the most important person in his career. She has to understand every detail of his job; to have unquestioning loyalty and absolute discretion. On every count Rose measures up. I’m a lucky man”.—Richard Nixon, 1957
At some point during the evening of June 20 1972 a conversation between two men was secretly taped using cheap lavalier microphones and a tape recorder set to run at an irregular speed. The result was a tape of degraded sound quality produced under deficient recording conditions. Of the more than 3,700 hours of audio confiscated from the Oval Office, Tape 342 remains by far the most infamous. Not because of the shocking information it contains, but because of its absence: 18-1/2 minutes of missing audio. The tape-gap occurs during a rambling conversation between Nixon and White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman just three days after the break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel.
When news of the tape’s potential tampering was made public, Nixon’s personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods took responsibility for this breach in the historical record. Under cross-examination in a federal courtroom, she told a rather confused story of how she might have made “a terrible mistake” and been partially responsible for the glitch. Woods claimed that while she had been transcribing and typing the conversations of 20 June 1972, the telephone suddenly rang causing her to press the wrong pedal on her foot-controlled UHER tape recorder, which she was using for purposes of playback, resulting in the erasure. Forensic acoustic analysis would ultimately overturn her testimony.
SUSAN SCHUPPLI is a Canadian artist, researcher and audio-investigator currently associated with the London-based research agency Forensic Architecture. Over the last twenty years, Schuppli has returned again and again to the theme of eavesdropping, with a particular concern for the material history and politics of audio-tape and the telephone.