the sound wall

last weekend was the culminating event for the residency i’ve been doing at the collingwood housing estate. i have much to write about – a lot to reflect on and update, but have been quite busy showing people around and attending to other paperwork i neglected in the lead-up.

but i just wanted to post this pic of the sound wall. i think it’s my favourite image of all the projects so far.

from two months of daily listening projects, the sound wall is an artifact to all the sounds on the estate.
it has had the most amazing responses from locals and visitors alike.
i have specific stories to tell about people’s reactions to it, and more to explain but for now here’s just a little pic.

Sound Wall corner

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dancing in the streets again.

dancing in the streets_0010

today i spent the afternoon pretty much back at the start of my masters research: in a silent gig in public, dancing to music with a bunch of people in headphones. public/private/public.

the first time i did it was at ars electronica 2007 and it kickstarted my investigation into sound in public, the role/symbol/place of headphones in public and the ensuing 2 years’ masters degree on all things related.

today was a silent parade for climate change, organised by 350 org and it was mad-fun.

what better a place to dance on the streets as part of political action but in berlin! berliners LOVE their electronic music and LOVE dancing (i should know, my club-induced sleeping patterns are getting ridiculous). it was awesome.

dancing in the streets_0026_web

the vibe itself was fantastic – i dipped in and out of different shared experiences with it, giving it a diversity of engagement that really floated my boat, and made for an even more enjoyable and thought-provoking afternoon.

of course, each of these points of together/alone with the parade had slightly different aspects of public/private/public politics:

through the media
i had to join the parade halfway through. so with twitter and their hashtag, i connected with the parade halfway through. connecting as an outsider to the crowd using social media + political engagement, easy – media studies 101.

full engagement
then, i joined the party. i danced my arse of for a while in a group of others all dancing and enjoying themselves with a cracking soundtrack and lots of clapping, w00ts and smiles. we were all in this together, for a common cause and enjoyment. and we were surrounded by a bunch of people who weren’t sharing, but engaged with curiosity – watching and wondering and maybe feeling a bit like outsiders. [more on the ‘outsider’ aspect of such a situation in a minute].

separated engagement
as the parade moved, i grabbed my bike, headphones still in range and rode on ahead, physically separate from the crowd, but still sonically and technologically engaged [wirelessly]. it was pretty special – i was riding in my own space, listening to music on my own, unable to see/hear others, but just knowing that they were there. i think this experience is exactly why the internet works.

and i had the fuckin’ coolest extra little public/private/public moment –  i’m riding away from the crowd, passed the polizei van escorting us and one of the officers has the headphones on (so he can keep track of what’s happening, i guess). and HE’S DANCING TOO!! i gave him a mega smile + bodacious wave and kept riding.
private citizen + public representative togetherness moment. swoon.

dancing in the streets_0038_web

separated, but with one other
another lone bike-rider with headphones caught up with me and together we were riding, dancing, w00ting and throwing our hands up in the air, having our own little private/public/private dance party. in fact, i think that confused people outside the ‘gig’ even more – just two crazy girls dressed in black, on bikes, wearing headphones, dancing like maniacs with each other. but it was another one of those moments of sharing an experience with another person, as part of a wider crew, that was just priceless.

observer
i decided to do a part of my listening to the city project as part of the parade, so once the crowd stopped at the park on spandauer straße, i turned the radio headphones off and became an observer. my observation was largely based on what i could hear (which is hilarious when you’re hearing what everyone else cannot), but it was still as an outside observer. there were lots of people also observing what was going on – some knowing a little bit about it, some not knowing and quiet alienated, others unknowing, but fascinated, or nonplussed. interesting levels of understanding and public engagement.

one thing i noticed is that having ‘outsiders’ is an important dynamic to an event like this. it generates curiosity, a point to engage, thought and ‘difference’. the alienation is not didactic, or perhaps even intended, but i did notice that because people couldn’t (or didn’t have to) engage, they stood around and watched, thought and perhaps envied the process. i know that the advertising peeps crave that juicy experience a lot, but as an artist and activist, it was the first time i understood how it could be used for good.

full engagement again.
and, right at the end, i put the headphones back on and danced with the crowd for another little while. the level of dancing reduced by the time we got to the park, some just opting to lay back in the glorious autumn sunshine and listen, but the sense of common and einheit was still very strong, without a harsh word, or forced action in earshot. brilliant.

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the sound of the public on sound

yesterday was the amazing SLAM (Save LIve Australian Music) rally in Melbourne.

there has been quite a bit of press and lots of pics about it already, but of course i need to put my 2c worth in. [which, with rounding is fuck-all really]. it has thrown up a wealth of things for me to think/write about, so bear with me.

background whinge


photography: sarah barber

if you’re new to the scene, or slow on the uptake, there’s a bit of a background whinge here. basically, the state govt have been trying to curb violence in the CBD clubs through the liquor licensing system after a death outside a club one night by a guy who had drunk a whole bottle of wild turkey. which he had bought as a takeaway from the club. a shit event, but hardly the right brush to tar everyone with.

most venues that serve liquor, that have amplified music (ie clubs, pubs. and maybe shopping centres and airport lounges) are deemed ‘high risk’ and now require a higher licence fee, two security guards for any ‘event’ and the stigma of ‘high risk’.

and, as mentioned yesterday, this is all fine and dandy for a decent number of venues in melbourne, it is crippling for those in the country towns, which only have one venue. and, as also mentioned yesterday, these are the places that employ a music industry: musicians, sound engineers, music technicians, events managers. these laws are crippling the distribution networks for these businesses.

now, when the supply chain for the banking industry went pear-shaped last year, the bankers used the media outlets to have their whinge. yesterday, musicians and music-lovers took to the streets and made it a very public affair, reflecting the very public nature of the issue.

the rally

SLAM Rally

thousands of us made our way from the state library, the site of knowledge, cultural heritage and civic research, to the steps of parliament: the site of democracy, public governance and civic responsibility. it was a fitting track and the way was packed with people and some shit-hot placards.

dell has some great pics, including my favourite one: psychedelic freaks vote too.

i wanted to make a placard saying ‘how am i supposed to procreate if all the music venues close?’ but i never got around to it.
and of course the best one was ‘it’s a long way from the top if you bury rock’n’roll’. naturally it’s not just about rock’n’roll – one of the speakers told a great yarn about the fabulous reclamation night out with her greek friends, where they went to a greek taverna, then went on to dance to gypsy, australian folk and latin music – all on the one night. ace.

i also got thinking about the actual sounds of the protest. as we walked, you would hear the faint rumble of a cheer and you would cheer – it was the sonic version of a mexican wave at the cricket. a beautiful thing.

and then the crowd clapped. in time, to a harps player. what group of people can clap in time without live music? ever been to the football? heh.

and of course the way the air in melbourne changed with the different music styles. the crowd became equally gooey and restless when wilbur wilde and his jazz crew soothed us into the late afternoon.

it was amazing to hear sound in the city on such a grand scale with an experience usually reserved for a small scale. and to have music quieten a crowd that is usually loud and boisterous and chaotic. it was a special moment and i do wish that i had documented it in a more profound way.

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at our most public

Cone of Silence on a Bike

“Indeed, when we dress up, when we’re on display and at our most public, these are the times when our costumes get the most pretendy – we get married dressed as princesses and officers – then go back to our everyday lives dressed as squaddies, rockstars or resting athletes.”

a beautiful quote by russell davies in his fabulous post about pretend, costume, fashion and a whole range of ideas around playing roles.

i’ve been cycling around ideas of fashion, headphone culture and their roles in public, so this is perfectly timed, as usual

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