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August 27, 2007

EAF : City Tags (27.8.07 Day 2)



Refreshed after a weekend's worth of recuperation and reflection, today's activity involved some general roundtable discussion amongst Calin and the participants regarding our proposed projects for the workshop. We were also treated to a presentation by Calin of some of his observations and works influenced by his experiences. A majority of ideas for projects are circulating around ideas of conflict, voyerism and identity in public spaces.

Discussion of projects:

A couple of examples. Participant Logan proposed a project based around his experience of being the victim of a group assault nearly a year ago just around the corner from the EAF. He explained he would use video capture and map out the site (using chalk lines, postering) of the assault to recreate the experience in an abstract fashion. Amy wanted to use the experience of the bus tour (see previous post) as a basis for exploring atmospheres of places and juxtaposing them against each other - such as the grain silo location juxtaposed with the warehouses of Port Adelaide. Such an idea comes from her motivation to engage with atmospheres which evoke contrasting subjective feelings and present these using video and photo media.

My project (such as it is at present):

As for me as the sole sound-based participant, I've decided to explore the role of auditory culture in public spaces by examining Walkman/iPod culture in a soundwalk for a city block in the CBD (possibly the Hindley St. circuit.) I will make a recording of the walk whilst mapping and timing it out accordingly. This recording will be used as the guide track that the participant will use (with Walkman/iPod) to navigate their way along the walk. Specific points along the walk will be chosen as designated 'observation points' where the Walkman/iPod is either paused or left running as a means to draw the participants perception towards their surroundings. Foreign sounds also will be added to the guide track in pre-production as a means to enhance/contradict/obscure the participants perception towards their surroundings.



This isn't an original idea by any stretch, it has its roots in the work of Canadian sound artist Janet Cardiff who in the 1990's put together these sort of soundwalks for Walkmans to tour the city. What I'm specifically interested in is combining this idea with the phenomena of Walkman/iPod culture in public/urban spaces. In an essay for The Auditory Culture Reader entitled "The Sonic Composition of the City", Jean-Paul Thibaud examines this phenomena by highlighting the dominance of the visual over the auditory in urban spaces and the common tendency to use the Walkman or iPod as a 'sonic bridge' to 'flatten their perception'[1] as the person moves from one location (such as their home) to another (such as work.) Thibaud uses 'the knots of the urban environment'[2] to describe intermittent and loud sounds which interrupt this state of flattened perception, and in turn draw the persons attention back to their surroundings and situation.

From this perspective, the construction of my soundwalk would take advantage of this state of flattened perception and (in a sense) turn it on itself by superimposing a prior recording of the walk onto the same walk in real-time. A temporal shift (or schizophrenia) of sorts, methods of lowering/raising volume, pausing the guide track and introducing foreign sounds could serve as a means of drawing the participants attention to their surroundings.

This is obviously still an idea in a state of rough conception, so I'll stop here before I start repeating myself and summarise Calin's presentation instead.

Calin's presentation:

Calin delivered a great presentation on what he describes as 'Emotional Architecture' using the capital cities of Bucharest (Romania) and Tallinn (Estonia) as examples. By 'Emotional Architecture', Calin approached the architecture of these cities to evaluate the relationship they have with their citizens.

Bucharest - where Calin spent most of the 1970s and 80s under Communist rule - was presented with a peculiar brutality in its decrepit Bauhaus-style high rise apartments juxtaposed with 19th century facades decaying under years of neglect. Calin alluded to Bucharest as a city with a history of ruptures, instability and 'a brutal activity of reshaping'. He identified this motivation towards reshaping as a cultural dissatisfaction with the way things are, which was pushed to proverbial extremes under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceau┼čescu with the construction of the enormous 'People's Palace' at the expense of surrounding neighborhoods and the construction of the said high rise apartments. This architectural activity and its relationship to Romanian society was used by Calin to explore the subject of public ownership of public space - a persistent topic of discussion in this workshop and a concurrent theme of our bus tour on Friday.

The analysis of Tallinn focused on the strange monolithic structure which is known Linnahall, an enormous building built for the 1980 Olympic Games. Essentially a proposed 'representation of the people' under Soviet rule, the structure became a site for events and demonstrations leading up the fall of Communism. Post-Communism, the structure has fallen into neglect and has (unsettlingly) been adopted by the Russian population of Estonia as a monument of the Motherland.

The ideas of identity in public space in Bucharest and Tallinn were then described respectively in the conception of two films by Calin, Sample City and Trip, which will be shown as part of the EAF exhibition of Calin's work opening this Friday.

(Whew...that's almost a couple of wiki entries right there.)

Overall, a good day. Calin is an absolute pleasure to work with as well as the fellow workshop participants.

[1] Thibaud, Jean-Paul. "The Sonic Composition of the City", The Auditory Culture Reader. (Berg: Oxford) pp. 329
[2] pp. 333




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