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OpenCity Norrköping

16 June 2015

A soundwalk as part of “In the Flow: People, Media, Materialities” conference, Norrköping, Sweden.

I designed the soundwalk to create an embodied experience for delegates to accompany my paper for the Multisensoral Place Making session. This focused upon the production of space by protest movements, soundscape and slogans, and papers investigated visual as well as sonic aspects of place making, and explored practices both from ‘above’ and from ‘below’.

My paper explored the potential for alternatives to the typical (and authoritative) narratives offered by cultural mediators, and presented a case for the mis- or un-guided walk, whereby the sonic and human environment can be re-imagined. My research questions relate to the means and level of control one can usefully exert over participant, and the malleability of the relationship between audience and artist.
As case study I referred to the soundwalks that I compose under the name OpenCity. Binaural on-site recordings from cities such as Stoke-on Trent, Berlin & Belgrade are interwoven with material from local archives experienced by groups of local residents and/or visitors through ipod and ‘in-ear’ headphones, as they follow a pre-determined route. As ambient sound merges with the recording, ambiguity is generated as to whether sounds and events are pre-recorded or contemporaneous. Within the augmented reality of a soundwalk, landscapes, far from being neutral or passive, are activated through personal associations and proto-narratives formed by individual participants. As a group moves through the city, occupying space and interrupting flow, it too impacts upon the city. Such sonically-guided walks can influence participants’ thoughts about the past, present and future of our cities.