Acoustic Bogota

Artist Ross Dalziel's weblog for his Artists Residency at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


"Transmission" was the final exhibition for Ross Dalziel's Artist Residency at Universidad de los Andes supported by British Council, Arts Council England and El Ministerio de Cultura de Distrital Bogota. It was a temporary sound and video installation and performance at Parque Virgilio Barco following 2 other interventions in the City Centre.

It led to a solo show at Preston Art Gallery in Preston , UK in June - August 2006 which took the form of video documentation, a multi channel sound installation and intervention at Preston Market.

Transmission Video
Folklorico Sound System Event Video
The Conversation Intervention Video

The exhibition consisted of a PureData patch making random selections from the archive of recordings I've made over the 3 month residency and then making equally random decisions over which of the 4 channels to distribute the audio to.

In addition there were 2 monitors displaying video documents of my interventions in the city. Folklorico Sound System, where a truck drove a sound system down the Septima of Bogota.

The space at Virgilio Barco has the acoustic effect of a whispering gallery, audio from one end of the half circle of the amphitheatre travels exactly to the opposite side. With some positioning of the 4 mid to high frequency speakers meant the sound travelled over the entire space. The bass frequencies travelled equally well.

One of the nicest effects of the installation was that from time to time the patch decided to play nothing, which meant you tuned in to the sounds that were already happening in the space. This was usually the time when the public would be compelled to clap or shout to hear the acoustic effect.

I turned the installation on at about 1pm and then the band Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto performed their versions of Love Will Tear Us Apart

Inti said something interesting about the sound system intervention, "Folklorico Sound System" . As it took place just after the Carnival/theatre festival it was like its status as a cultural event was almost negated. It provoked some responses but people seemed unsure of this status which I think was really interesting.

The idea was to somehow use sound through existing structures like the structure of the "folk " tradition of sound systems. This tradition is also one that takes place extensively in the countryside, so to bring this into play in an urban space caused another level of cultural play.

Of course the sound system tradition exists here in the city and has its links to structures of urban protest. To mix this with the apolitical nature of abstracted audio field recordings and the apolitical nature of the residency itself was also a nice irony.

Of course there is some political process at work in this project. The way one can use a city rather than make statements on it informed by your foreign outsider position is something I tried to explore. The success or failure of this is open to debate.

Love Will Tear Us Apart could be said to be making some kind of statement considering the performance at Virgilio Barco was on the anniversary of Gaitans death. It was also interesting in that the Biblioteca Virgilio Barco project is a utopic Parque "for the people".

The choice of song had this kind of reference maybe to past "troubles" of Colombia. More than that it was meant to be a song that was important to me personally when an adolescent in England and something I perceive as a folk and to offer it to interpretation and use the band as some kind of artwork was meant as a gesture of generosity somehow.

For me Folk is a creative process that exists outside of high culture or institutional processes. It has a DIY attitude and one that does not require formal or conventional education.

I wanted to make the installation (with its use of expensive USA laptop and PureData patch, classic high art/music materials) clash against this folk creativity and interpretation and make it become part of my study of the topology of the city though sound.

The generosity I mention is to do with this clash, allowing the installation to be infected and taken over by the band. When they finally finished to be left with the sound travelling around the space and the natural acoustics was really powerful.

Somehow the experience of the installation worked better after the band had finished. As if the band somehow framed it and embedded it into the city. This could well be only my experience, but after the party atmosphere generated by the band the installation settled in.

It was as if the PureData high aesthetics had been invited into a living room where it could relax and the audience with it and just listen without trying to decipher the "artwork".

The band and their interpretation of the material I gave them and my interpretation of the city was a nice relationship and helped me feel I had engaged somehow. It had become impossible to think I "knew" bogota but I had explored some parts of it and I hope the works reflected this in some way.

For me this residency was a fantastic opportunity to explore ways of using sound and a city. Playfulness is something I love and think is important in this kind of work with the city.

"No language just sound, That's all we need know"

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tango in the night

Performing cover version of Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division by Grupo Los Currarros.

Many thanks to Eloy, Wilhelm et al! Fantastic musicians who will be playing live at the exhibition.

Listen to their remix here Love Will Tear Us Apart

Sound System was a success! Many strange looks, and some thumbs up and some thumbs down, an interesting experiment I think! Think we needed more people to join me on the truck and maybe more of a party atmosphere. But I did like the low key intervention style... Was it part of the festival or just some people...

Will post in more detail sooon need to prepare for exhibition:


Thanks to everyone for their help!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Evento de Sonido
El sonido de la ciudad de Bogotá; folk arquitectura
Desde la septima con Plaza de Bolivar hasta El Planetario
Punto de encuentro Plaza Bolivar 2pm - 4pm
Domingo 2 Abril 2006

Well I could call out when the going gets tough.
The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough.
No language, just sound, that's all we need know
to synchronize love to the beat of the show

Monday, March 27, 2006

Evento Sonido
El Septima
Salir Plaza Bolivar a 1pm ir a El Planetario a 3pm
4pm FIN

El evento Sonido is looming.
Preperations in progress... Unfortunately we cant use the band on the street too many permits required at this stage. Although not ideal we can record the band playing a traditional arrangement of Joy Divisions Love Will Tear Us Apart and still play through the truck sound system.

Experimented with Laura's factory recordings to make a Reich style drone using gateing.

The Machine Sings

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Exiled On Main Street

Made an experiment in recreating the first scene of "The Conversation"

The Conversation Experiment

Well it worked very well with thanks to Vivian's camera work. But thanks to all for being patient with my idea!

There was some confusion as to the route to walk but that was to do with me not making a specific route, or being clear enough, but wanted some casuallness to the direction of the 2 actors...

Next time we need walkie talkies to communicate and a more specific route that the actors walk to We also had technical problems with the radio mics... Also I will mic up the 2 actors, even the original film didnt use just the "secret" mics.

Of course the "secret" recording mics could not really pick up the conversation, and I knew that would happen, but I wanted it to make us think about the public and private sonic spaces even in the busiest crowd in a city.

I think even looking at a rush edit there is further potential in the idea; it may be nice to use the video to 'frame' the sound in some way, along with the video documentary of the Sound Event and walk on El Septima SABADO 1 ABRIL 2006 so I am going to consider spending more time on what I originally wanted to use as short study or exercise...

So perhaps a friend, video artist Carlos will help with this using a canon camera and tripod....

In terms of the final installation I have changed location from some underground spaces in the films location at Avenue Jimenez y el Septima, to the Biblioteca Virgilio Barco. Its an easy place to get to and the site is a circular amphitheatre that is effectively a whispering gallery. Its also protected from the weather and a nice publicly accessible space.

The strange acoustics may do something interesting to the PD run 4 channel installation....

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Entropy, culturally superelevated"
"Entropie, kulturell überhöht"

Irma M. Hinghofer-Szalskay, PHd

Acrylic / mixed media on canvas. Approx. 35" x 35"
Acryl-Mischtechnik auf Leinwand, 90 x 90 cm
Musik: Wind riders / Native American Flute Composition; Schubert / Piano Sonatas in A minor,D.784 in D major

Gestural Entropy, Hampstead Heath to Brazil to Military Bands

Inti Guerrero referred to an idea of "gestures of entropy" video link (copyright Inti Guerrero) within the city. In his video work he follows a group of people struggling down a hill side to get to a modernistic architetural structure that is the Brasilian congress...

I think this is a great way to respond to a city. The idea of a city's architecture being in constant flux beyond the planning of larger civic structures. Re use or misuse of spaces particularly interest me... from skateboarders to homeless people to cutting simple steps into a grass embankment because public initiated flow has made it happen, beyond the architects plans.

This all leads me back to an unfinished work, Blowing Up a reedit of Antonioni's "Blow Up" where a photographer is drawn to the entropy of London through witnessing a murder, early garage punk ending in a kind of absurd gestural pantomine...

These gestures of entropy (a perfect term Inti! mucho credit to you) point to another emergent architecture that takes place in the city. Its like an additional topography of the city that is emergent and more DIY orientated, and less to do with the authority of architecture proper.

Architects like Will Alsop seem to anticipate and revel in this entropic process, and tend to allow it to happen or even set frameworks for it and that is fascinating. (The cloud being a big loss for Liverpool I think...ah well).

Please forgive me if my project seems to be down on architecture. Its authority is of course grounded in importance and of course I like great innovative brutalist structures as much as the next hombre, but I think in terms of my research here I am trying to work out responses that do not repeat or attempt to ape architectural practice.

Do these entropic processes signify a problem...

Of course I have limited knowledge of architectural process and in many ways am making lay responses from the angle of artistic pracitces...

In many ways there is a result right there. I have found my research path has led me not to direct collaboration with architectural practice but in finding responses to perceived practices and just physically being in a different architectural space than Liverpool.

To interact and collaborate directly with an architect is I suppose the next step, but I think the path I have taken now, an almost entropic map of a city (this is not yet fully realised) 'in use' has value particularly in terms of any future work with respect to the city and Awareness of Sound. My instinct draws me to the natural hybridization of musics and their contexts and reproductions: thinking of these gestures of entropy through musics...

I now want to use a military band as a sound mechanism. There is no intention of approaching the military politics of Colombia, thats a whole other residency... though of course this kind of reading seeps through. I want to use it because a band like that is in a position of authoritive use of the city perhaps disrupted by them playing songs like Paint it Black some kind of entropy in a static model of authority... Of course pop music has its own topography of authority. Mick Jagger and Mariah are allowed on the airwaves but perhaps funky carioca (see Walter Benjamin made my Booty Bounce) is more entropic and more like pirate radio.

It follows also with the idea of using existing city sound sources (not a constructed soundscape) and processes and not imposing my own compositional authority. Of course I am doing this anyway but maybe looking at how to play with that, I hope...

Mapping the entropic topography... how in sound....

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

International Symposium For the Study of Criollisation

Walter Benjamin Made My Booty Bounce

Artist and the City, news, emerging thoughts, perspectives and practice

Went with class "The Artist and The City" to the Colpatria building, the highest building in the city. We made recordings from various points, avoiding the air conditioning units...

Of course your sense of perspective with sound works differently than that of the visual. In photography we naturally understand and construct perspective from a 2D image but with sound perspecive works differently.

The familiar sub bajo roar of a city works almost like background radiation. Unlike in image, information from a distance does not infect the foreground, we distinguish easily between objects. With sound low frequencies travel further and in a non directional way and so it is as if the far distance, which would not be visible within a photographic frame, is present even amongst foreground sounds.

Of course this is apparent when you begin recording with a wide dynamic range, the bass frequencies from far away are not removed by our perception.

Had very interesting talk with Andrés and Alejandro about how my projects sound event could work.

Think there should be a strong interactive element in the sense of playing sound to non art audiences in the city. Perhaps some kind of live sampling of voice at particular truck stops and play sites around the city.

I think some element of recognising your own city and particular things from some kind of new angle is important...


Wonder to the true value of this mapping and understanding the city. And also wonder about approaches. My initial approach to the basic idea of a soundscape seems a little cold now: i think I have to play between generic recognisable city noise and particular microscopic experiential sounds.

The project has evolves into research into how sound art practice can interact with a city and into city/urban based artistic practice in general. There is no direct interaction or collaboration with architectural practice in my project, but collaboration with other artistic practice in Bogota that is informed by architecture and urban planning issues.

I cannot stress more the importance of being able to discuss my work with other artists here; Talking with Alejandro, who shared my lecture space at Los Andes, Andrés and Anna led me to think about the importance of the interaction angle, so the truck tour of the city will be stopping at key sites. Once stopped I hope to gather a crowd of people to listen...

Anna also reminded me of the importance of being a tourist it removes the normal routine that you follow in space dictated by work etc wherever you live you are free to drift and explore and experience differently. I like that I will not really be able to make some sort of detailed empirical map instead it is some kind of intuitive map of place and sound

A particular example is that this blog and my sound maps are now part of Jaime Iregui's El Observatario project.

There is definate dialogues going on and I hope will be ongoing. How an artist like me defines a map (some kind of hybrid sociological experiential mapping) and how an architect would; and looking into the value of these different forms of mapping. I am suspicious of how sound mapping ie making recordings of time and place itself can be given an assumed artistic value due to it's relative obscurity.

Of course it is not really that obscure; Murray Shaeffer, the acoustic ecology movement; there is a rich history of this kind of mapping in urban centres, with a major work by Mauricio Bogota soundscape project.

My take is to use an idea of mapping as only an exercise in thinking of a city. From that starting point I feel I need to make some sort of physical or contextual affect on something (like live sound events, driving through the citys traffic system, an exhibition in a temporary building, using a military marching band) to avoid the way sound becomes so easily conceptualised as non physical and abstracted from the environment through recording.

This can happen in general installation practice with speakers hidden away, cables tidied, CD walkmans, and the recent format of CDs and MP3s making the sound work dissappear into ideas of "the virtual".

In many ways thinking of oneself as a sound artist is a problem in itself; one can be caught in the process of recording in the obsessive capturing of sound

My initial response is to take sounds and manipulate them in an intuitive musical way; to follow the concept of situationist/architecural drift from the work of Constant Nieuwenhuys except drift in terms of experimentation, drifting through resonances and plug ins...

and then for me the key is what to do with this result? I liked Pedro Gomez Egana's description of a kind of generosity in the practice, presentation or performance if you like of music or sound or material. You embed your result somewhere in space or context or community. For example a performance of Harmonica is not a multichannel layering of harmonica tones played acousmatically, but friends and colleagues wander a space playing nieve harmonica tones this seems more generous to an audience than making them sit and listen to an electroacoustic performance. This of course has its own importance and validity I am not critcising that kind of compositional practice per se, but in terms of my work here this 'genorisity' is important.

Maybe even my manipulation of sound will fall away here; the manipulation will be in the presentation. In the way my recordings are played back into the city to interact with the live soundscape I will have little or no control of.

Overview of Residency Exhibition


Exhibition in temporary site of multi channel sound installation. Chaotic system in Pure Data will move sound and samples made during the residency through the channels and so the space.
Documentation in video of "The Conversation" exercise
Documentation of local marching band playing pop music
Documentation of truck, cars and people replaying the collected sounds into the city

Evento Sonido

Truck travels through route of the city with sound system distributing samples of the city back in to the city. Its chaotic distribution (to parrallel the installation PureData process) controlled by traffic flow.
Truck makes 2 stops on its routes.
I will be on the back of the truck mixing audio live.
Independent cars and people playback audio material on CD, and hand out CDs to public.
A marching band follow truck route the following day, domingo. They will play tracks that have some kind of cultural reference


The title Acousmatic spaces which I used in my funding application for an exhibition in Preston informed by my research here is intentionally misleading to some extent; my work is the opposite of acousmatic or 'behind a screen' as i think the translation is from the original Greek. Please correct me on this any linguists out there.

However it is to do with deconstructing an acousmatic performance into a city space.

In Preston there is a Foucaults pendulum that will represent an early sense of a places relationship to the rest of the world geographically, physically and a reference to an empirical description of space an early global mapping system. The pendulum will modulate sound material in some way using an acceloremeter placed discreetly on the pendulum.

Then there is an opportunity for some interesting transfer of material and process. I now think I will drive through a route in preston playing sound from Bogota: the same samples will now use the Preston city 'machine' to generate some kind of interaction. Or perhaps only the process will be transferred.

My plan to use a marching band in Colombia playing music like ¨Paint It Black" and "Inspector Gadget" alongside the truck with its manipulated soundscapes, with all its strange contextual play can also be transferred. This time a Preston based band can play south american pop like Reggaeton.

I'll paint it black next time Gadget

My friend Mauricio a philosopher at Los Andes was reading Walter Benjamin the other day and I was reminded of his Arcades project and its importance to this kind of exploration of a contemporary city that existing contemporary structures like the shopping streets below the septima, are like some kind of site for how a city and a society may work. My reference to this is rather wooly however.

I am reminded of maybe the kind of practice of UK artists like Becky Shaw or Jeremy Deller or Janet Cardiff; their process makes some kind of interplay with the world it does not become an audio CD or virtual product only: it is sited in some kind of constructed context or one that already exists outside the art world. I guess this is the interaction I am thinking of. My take is to have exercises in thinking of a city space and from there try to use the city structures and topogrpahy that exist already to distribute my artistic 'results'

In many ways mapping and then contextual play is the key to this kind of exploring a city through practice

I liked the map Deller did for his Turner prize exhibition last year; it was like a thinking map or flow chart of where all his projects are coming from or are going to...

Inti Guerror's, (a friend at Los Andes) interest in topographies is a good example of approach. He initially wanted to explore recently updated security systems of Los Andes and had the idea of presenting the live radio conversations between security guards at varied geographical points. So we have a sound installation at hand. Perhaps I will link to some of Inti's writing on the project here for accuracy's sake. But allow me to use my perspective on the project.

Then his instincts drew him back to a non art object the security staff make at the security stations, stickers that show you have legal access to the University are often handed back to staff on leaving, where they are stuck together into a small ball or cube that over several weeks become large football sized objects made entirely of the constructed identity of valid access, the identity of non terrorists....

What the final outcome of his project may be we shall see...

What is interesting in relation to what I want to do here is that an embedded non-art practice (into a community like the security staff) can be used as some kind of signifier for the areas the artist is exploring.

Thats why the marching band (after recording one last week, see link above) is perfect. I want them to play songs you might think unusual like "Paint It Black" by the Stones. But this is no artistic intervention like Jeremy Dellers Acid Brass but there is a tradition of playing pop arrangements to these bands here. Of course I will be making some intervention just by communicating with them.

First reactions again

I think initially I imagined some kind of abstracted and largely empirical form of sound map and I had looked into using database and mapping software used by acousticians. I imagined borrowing some kind of scientific process from acoustics engineering sound pollution related practice and then making artistic decisions from that point.

However my practice has only borrowed this engineering or empirical based approach as something to inform what I am doing rather than attempting some kind of scientific or statistical approach.

The residency has instead involved me building relationships between artists in Bogota who interact with the city in some way and many who share an interest in cross discipline practice. Their artistic practice is informed by architecture and in turn

My web based maps are a reflection of that simplistic almost lego mapping approach to visualising the city but I now want my maps to be mapping a more vague terrain. A vague topography of sonic terrain and layers to the city...

Site for writing on architecture practice meeting artistic practice.

Tanque Del Silencio

Thanks to Carlos for taking me up there for some contemplation on the city, the sublime and Reggaeton. Also was interesting to see some Columbians nearly arrested for taking pictures of a giant map sculpture of their own country...

Interesting link on public art