Failed Utopias

OpenCity is an Arts Council-funded body of work over the past decade comprising a series of soundwalks responding to social, spatial, political and psychogeographical contexts of various locations. Brown’s interest in the medium of the soundwalk lies in its potential to disrupt dominant cultural narratives, generate communitas and produce alternative forms of critical citizenship/subjectivity, encouraging participants to become out of step, interrupting flows and their habitual patterns of behaviour. Each walk is geo-located and involves all senses in the production of embodied knowledge, with crossovers in urban studies and human geography. His innovation lies in his application of the methodology of the soundwalk as a means of critiquing space, from one site to the next. In common with artists such as Graeme Miller he draws from the testimony of local inhabitants but crucially applies participant observation through the involvement of groups in his walks and post-walk discussions. Brown’s walks provide a focal point for a community to collectively undergo an experience collectively, and explore their relationship with place, with a focus upon everyday lives.

Informed by Kwon’s Temporary Invented Communities and Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones, he defamiliarises our surroundings and questions the authenticity and sustainability of contemporary life. Brown captures sound recordings along routes that pass through liminal or contested urban spaces, augmenting these with interview and archival material. He has been selected to compose soundwalks for numerous festivals, conferences and events, including the Mobile Audio Fest curated by the research centre Locus Sonus, at which his work featured alongside that of internationally-renowned artists such as Christina Kubisch. He has reflected on his process and findings through conference papers and in essays such as ‘Reflections on OpenCity Aix’, published online in PAUST (Performance Architecture Urbanism Space Theatre).

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