Listening Walks Conceptualised

 

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A morning walk along the coastline of island of Giudecca transforms to an exercise in listening. The overall soundscape consists of dripping of a fountain, rumbling of vaporettos passing by and chiming of church bells over the canal from the shore of Dorsoduro. The layered frontal sounds are easily detected from near, mid and far fields.

Moving away from a reflecting wall to the nearby bridge reveals another sonic experience. The sonic environment opens up to the total of  360 degrees. The frontal sounds are still there, but now they are accompanied by the flapping of the waves of the canal and igniting motorboats right behind the listener.

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These two encounters resonate with the theories and methodologies applied in sound studies. In a recent anthology edited by Christina Guillebaud it is discussed, how the notion of soundscape has been conceptualised and how it relates to the one of ambiance. The former has been understood to relate to visual analogy, two-dimensionality, maps and frontal perception. The concept of ambiance is characterised by such terms as multimodality, three-dimensionality and  immersion. The list here is by no means an exhaustive but a suggestive one. More profound analysis would require further questioning and contextualisation to history of the two disciplines mentioned.

Characterising the concepts of soundscape and ambiance leads us to think of hearing as a special sense compared to other senses. It helps us to further ponder not only the sensory environment, but also how we are relating to the world by listening to it aesthetically, politically and scientifically.

However, in underlining these specific skills and approaches we should avoid the pitfalls what Jonathan Sterne calls audiovisual litany, referring to generalisations on differences between audible and visual worlds. Perhaps even more important is that we should be more aware of not replacing audiovisual litany with multimodal litany. In doing so we would be sweeping the special requirements of act of listening and documenting the soundscapes under the rug.

 

Heikki Uimonen

 

Sources:

Guillebaud, Christina (ed.) 2017. Toward an Anthropology of Ambient Sound.

Sterne, Jonathan. 2003. The Audible Past. Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction.

 

Photos:

Heikki Uimonen

Venetian Sonic Environments

SanMarcoAmbiance is defined as sensory space-time. This sensing and feeling of a place involves a specific mood expressed in the material presence of things and how the mood is embodied. The lived experience as well as the built environment of the place is making the approach both subjective and objective. Ambiance is articulated when social, spatial and physical meet.

Venetian sonic ambiances are constructed in diverse ways in how people relate to places – or how they think particular places are relating to their sound-making. Tourists are entering churches with certain solemnity avoiding extraneous sounds. The Venetian busker is adjusting the outdoor acoustics by moving himself closer to the wall in order to project the sound of his bowed instrument to echoing campo. Open-door rehearsal of Vivaldi in Chiesa San Vidal is attracting passersby for the night’s Vivaldi concert. On Piazza San Marco simultaneous live performances of Mozart’s and Strauss’ music are competing with easy-to-digest jazz in front of the restaurants thus adding up to the image of the city as easy-listening-mid-brow music haven with a past.

12 million tourists are walking yearly the thoroughfares the ”Bermuda-Shorts Triangle” formed by Piazza San Marco, Rialto Bridge and Galleria dell’ Accademia. According to random participatory observation, field notes and field recordings the narrow roads were sonically quite diverse with sounds sources recognisable from each other. Keynote sounds – defined as sounds heard frequently enough to form a background against which other sounds are perceived – are composed of chattering of people and their footsteps reflected by the stony surfaces on the narrow streets and campos. Contrary to common practice in shopping and tourist areas there are no outdoor loudspeakers to centripetally attract possible customers. Somewhat scarce background music from the bars, souvenir shops and mobile phone retail stores of Rio Terra Lista de Spagna are leaking to ears of the pedestrians mainly from radio and commercial music television programmes.

Part of Venice’s charm is the lack of motorised traffic in the streets, which might not after all paint the whole picture of city’s soundscape. Marine internal combustion engines and outdoor motors make the distinctive drone signifying the daily maintenance of the city: the sounds of the public and private transportation and the crunching gearboxes shaking and resonating the vaporettos’ hulls are accompanied by the banging and clinking of the green-coloured iron barges collecting waste. Some of them are labelled as ”Veritas” thus bringing yet another layer to city’s multifaceted ambiance.

 

Heikki Uimonen

Souces:
Davis, Robert C & Marvin, Garry R. 2004. Venice, the Tourist Maze. A Cultural Critique of the World’s Most Touristed City.
Thibaud, Jean-Paul 2001. A Sonic Paradigm of Urban Ambiances. Journal of Sonic Studies, vol 1, nr. 1.

Photo:
Meri Kytö

The atmosphere of Venice, sonic weather and virtual urban sonic acupuncture

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“Walk slowly, drift, listen”

Our cities are decaying. We either circulate as fast as possible through public spaces or we inhabit them in a consumerist way. The urban dweller feels little engagement with its environment. Besides, the normalization of what we could call “the headphone city” in which people is creating their own soundtrack for the urban space is contributing to new forms of urban detachment and isolation. The Virtual Urban Sonic Acupuncture App (vusaa) is an artistic invitation to listen to the city with different ears and to feel how a subtle sonic intervention can drive our attention to urban areas and hidden corners fostering a more conscious urban dwelling and social dialogue.

What is Urban Sonic Acupuncture?
We can define acupuncture as a local action by means of a pressure point on a key spot with the power to change the situation globally, beyond the local area in which the pressure point is applied. Sonic acupuncture relies in applying sonic pressure points on key spots affecting the global sonic situation. Urban Sonic Acupuncture parallels the practice of Urban and Public Space Acupuncture in the Aural architecture field. Aural architecture deals with spatial and cultural acoustics, it also assigns four basic functions of sound in space: social, navigational, aesthetic and musical spatiality. Artistic sonic acupuncture interventions are placed along this axis by starting a negotiation between artistic intentions and the local knowledge and practices.

vusaa creates a virtual urban sonic acupuncture intervention in the public space by sensing elements existing in the place the user is in. A generative system is set in motion generating a sonic acupuncture specific to the given conditions the user is at every moment by using the microphone to listen to the environment, the camera for luminance sensing, the clock, and the GPS data.

Besides the inspiration from the practice of Urban Acupuncture, vusaa refers to psychographic techniques that Guy Debord defined as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” and to the soundwalk practice that Hildegard Westerkamp called to “… any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are.”

 

Urban Sonic Acupuncture: Aural strategies for the city space

Blog author Josue Moreno’s event (16.6. at 11 am) will consist of a presentation in which the artist will introduce and illustrate the theoretical and artistic background of his current artistic research on Urban Sonic Acupuncture and an enhanced sound walk by means of virtual sonic acupuncture in the surroundings of the Research Pavilion in Venice using mobile devices.

If you are interested in participating in the event or in testing the app, please contact the author at this email address: josue.moreno.prieto [at] uniarts.fi
Please bring your own headphones to the event.

VT (Re-blogged): EINSTEIN, EISENSTEIN… THE WIND, THE BEACH, AND THE THIRD MEANING

Text published at the website www.virtualpresenttour.com, as part of the project ‘Virtual Tour’ by Mireia c. Saladrigues.

Lots, lots, lots, looooots of wind…
Such a wind flow that makes Vincent’s work gorgeous, today!
If the Backdrop would had been again in Piazza San Marco, would the plastic made a whole round, like when a swing has been pushed too hard?
I decided to record exclusively this situation, at least for once.

But again… other (parallel) events happen. One man came and made a funny interpretation of the ‘Backdrop‘. He associated it with and The Walls Have Tongues (or Peace the Old-Fashioned Way) by Stacey Sacks… and thought of them as a single work, recalling him on the beach. He also thought of Albert Einstein when looking at Stacey’s big tongue crowned by wood chips.

… The mention to Einstein -along with the whole situation- made me think of Sergei Eiseinstein, his hieroglyphs and his theories of ‘Intellectual Montage’

VT (Re-blogged): VIRTUAL (PRESENT) REALITY

Text published at the website www.virtualpresenttour.com, as part of the project ‘Virtual Tour’ by Mireia c. Saladrigues.
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‘Virtual Tour’ by Mireia c. Saladrigues (Doctoral Department – Academy of Fine Arts – Uniarts Helsinki) is in show at the exhibition ‘You Gotta Say Yes to Another Access’ in the Research Pavilion from 10th of May to 2nd of July.

VT (Re-blogged): STARTING

Text published at the website www.virtualpresenttour.com, as part of the project ‘Virtual Tour’ by Mireia c. Saladrigues.  

Everything is more a less ready for the opening after the tremendously hectic and busy week. But Niran had quite a surprise this morning when she came back to the Pavilion. One part of her delicate installation, made of about 150 photographs and strings, had been moved. Cleaners may constantly face difficulties while doing their job. We all know of cases of cleaners that have swept artworks away. For example, in the Museion Museum in Bolzano, the installation ‘Where shall we go dancing tonight?’ by Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari ended up in the garbage. Here no one thought that the cleaning woman might need to plug the vacuum cleaner, so she used Niran’s socket…

  

‘Virtual Tour’ by Mireia c. Saladrigues (Doctoral Department – Academy of Fine Arts – Uniarts Helsinki) is in show at the exhibition ‘You Gotta Say Yes to Another Access’ in the Research Pavilion from 10th of May to 2nd of July.

Word from Commissioner Anita Seppä

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Uniarts Helsinki’s Research Pavilion for artistic research opens its doors in Venice on 10 May, the same day as when the Venice Biennale opens. The Pavilion’s venue Sala del Camino, a beautiful ex-monastery located in the Island of Giudecca, is an ideal place for art exhibitions, as well as workshops, concerts, performances and artistic interventions. Just on the other side of the Canal lies Giardini, the heart of the Biennale, with its energetic art tourists and souvenir shoppers. The island of Giudecca that’s surrounding the Research Pavilion, on the other hand, has a very different atmosphere: it is characteristically domestic and quiet.

Two years ago, in this uniquely rich cultural environment we hosted the first Research Pavilion under the theme Experimentality. The Pavilion for 2017 builds off of that, but also presents a radically new concept. First of all, the Research Pavilion will be a distinctly shared project, a joint effort set up by the talented people from all the academies of Uniarts Helsinki: the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and Theatre Academy. As such, the Pavilion will extend its scope to cover not only fine arts, but also music, performing arts, dance and theatre.

Second, this year’s Research Pavilion has a strong Nordic presence. We have invited the central networks of artistic research in Sweden and Norway (altogether 22 arts institutions of higher education), and their representatives Ingrid Elam, Cecilie Broch Knudsen and Geir Strøm are members in our Scandinavian steering group. This group of experts serves as an advisory body in the project and will also contribute to future strategic planning. In this political climate, as new walls are built up on a daily basis to hinder free mobility and international cooperation around the globe, it feels especially important to intensify the cultural partnerships between our closest neighbours and other transnational networks.

During the summer of 2017, the Research Pavilion will host three art exhibitions, which also present new international forms of collaboration with the famed Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Zurich University of the Arts. In addition, the tremendously interesting series of artistic research activities called Camino Events will bring over a hundred professionals and students from around the world to Venice as guests of Uniarts Helsinki.

The first exhibition in the Research Pavilion is You Gotta Say Yes to Another Access, which will give thirteen Nordic doctoral students the chance to work on this year’s theme of the Pavilion, the Utopia of Access. In July-August, Florian Dombois from Zurich University of the Arts will go to the lagoons of Venice on a boat with golden sails to collect material that he’ll use to build a wind tunnel in the Pavilion for his exhibition, Galleria del Vento. The final exhibition Hauntopia/what if features works by doctoral students from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. They will study traces of “ghosts” of the past and their effects on both the present time and our utopias of the future.

The Research Pavilion will articulate to an international audience how contemporary artistic researchers and researchers in the arts process topical questions and utilize fresh methodologies with respect to the theme Utopia of Access.  During the summer of 2017 we’ll see how experts of fine arts, music, dance, theatre, performing arts and curating produce art, research and pop-up events in the Pavilion and the surrounding urban space. Without a doubt the outcome will surprise us, in one way or another, as is to be expected when it comes to utopias.