Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Review: Audio Tourist

We all too often strive to eradicate the noise of our daily lives and wish for a more peaceful and tranquil existence. Whether it be our minds plaguing us with the thoughts of what is happening from day to day, the hustle and bustle of the city as we try and go about our business or the incessant bleeping of a mobile phone, reminding us of yet more duties we have to attend to. We do not pause to contemplate or appreciate the sounds around us, we either try to ignore them or block them out with sounds of our own choosing, allowing us to feel more in control and become masters of our own urban environments.

But what if we did listen to the noise presented to us by modern society? What if we used the technology that causes more audible chaos in our lives, to put an acoustic encounter with the city into words?

Artist Lucy Gibson has allowed us to make this experience a possibility. In her work Audio Tourist the audience is encouraged to walk a specific route designated by the artist and listen carefully to the sounds they encounter.

The walks, which vary throughout the day, all begin at Sideshow Information point in the West End Arcade, Nottingham. Each, of the three, is an entirely different trail that range from taking you into the heart of the city centre, to little places that you perhaps wouldn’t associate with being part of the same place.

Those taking part on the walks, remain silent and just observe the sounds of the city. Every 10 minutes or so the artist signals for the group to take out their mobile phones, compile a text message inspired by what they can hear and send it to a designated number. After this task is completed, the walk continues.

The labyrinth of trams, car parks, canals and lifts you are led through, allows not only for an exciting physical journey but offers sensory satisfaction. It becomes very easy to become captivated on an entirely new level, with the surroundings that are often taken for granted. When creating the necessary text message, you almost wonder how to capture the essence of the audio, as words become a difficult medium to express a sense you may have inhibited for some time.

The noticeable reaction of the uninvolved public was also very intriguing and, at times, amusing. Some were just dumbfounded as to why a group of people were walking around the city looking like tourists. The rest just seemed perplexed by so many people stood together, all sending text messages at once. Some even took out their mobile phones and tried to participate, without any knowledge of what the event was about.

When the walk is completed, you hit the realization that you walked through an urban maze to return to the beginning. There is no response or reply to the words you have electronically written, you are not even sure of where they exist now, or who they were received by. But this allows you to see the preconception of how we view the things we undertake. We assume that we walk to get somewhere, or achieve something and that when we speak or voice something in some way, we will obtain a response.

So you could be assuming that the whole experience sounds like a pointless exercise, if so, you would be extremely mistaken. For an hour or so you have seen beyond the intention of doing something to get a result, leaving you satisfied that you have had an experience beyond that of any other ordinary Saturday. As an Audio Tourist you have realised; it is not the destination that is important, it is the things you experience a long the way.

Review by Gayle Pollard for Sideshow publication number 2 May 2006


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