Displaced Sound Walks

Work /

Binaural microphones, sound recordings, sound playback device, headphones.

The recording of sounds of a walk along a specific route are played back to individuals on headphones who are instructed to make the same walk but at a different time. The shift in relationship between the location seen and the sounds heard provokes a perceptual awareness of our reliance on sound and its influence on the visual and on our sense of place.

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Museum for Contemporary Art, Leipzig, Germany July 2012

Orpheus Institute for Advanced Research in Music, Ghent, Belgium, January 2010

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Excerpt from ‘Techno-Intuition: Notes of Using Sound to Relate to our Environment’, ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness

“Field recordings often aim to merely audibly ‘represent’ environments that may be otherwise inaccessible to the listener, and in doing so neglect complex layerings of spaces and times inherent in recording and replaying sounds. My Displaced Sound Walks (Leipzig Contemporary Art Museum, 2012) furthers the process of hyper-aware listening while walking, described above. Using a collaborative, workshop-like creative process, I play with prerecording the ambient sounds of predetermined routes. A visitor to the exhibition listens to these recordings on headphones while physically retracing the same path.

The meaning generated by a sound or ‘field’ recording differs dramatically depending on its placement in both place and time. If I walk down the street I listen primarily to sounds that facilitate my movement and navigation of space, working in combination with the other senses. If I play a sound recording of that same walk back to myself in a quiet space I listen in a different way, without the need to process and interpret sounds immediately for action, motion and understanding of my environment. However, if I play that same recording back to myself while making the same walk at a later time, I am confronted by a disjunction between my listening and my environment; my intuitions based on sonic cues conflict with the visual evidence I see before me. For example, I may recognize the road, but not see the car that I hear pass by me. I see someone walking towards me, but the footsteps are out of sync with the sound I am hearing. Through this experience I became consciously aware of my listening process and the function of hearing in orientation, movement, time, and being in that place. In her analysis of the work media theorist Marta Colpani describes perceptual shifts that generate an enhanced bodily awareness, “…mak[ing] the participant extremely aware of the functioning of his body when feeling and perceiving reality” (Colpani, 2010). The first Displaced Sound Walks (Orpheus Institute, Ghent, 2010) provoked diverse reactions in the five participants, ranging from paranoia, to indifference, to a heightened awareness of environment and sensory perception.”