Acoustic Bogota

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

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

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


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