Locative Media Sound Walks: Connecting Nomadism with Contemporary Geolocated Flânerie and Open Source Practices

Soundwalking is a practice that encourages conscious listening and interaction with the sound environment in a non-linear and improvisational manner. There is a theoretical relevancy with “promenadology” and Benjamin/Baudelaire’s flânerie, as the user/listener is invited to wander through an “aurally augmented” urban environment. The result establishes rhizomatic maps and lines of sound/audio walks relevant to the city, as perceived and aurally captured by the artist. The practice of soundwalking suggests wandering new routes, thus questioning linear urban planning, and uses field research and sound recording and their juxtaposition to escape from the model of the “panoramic city,” which is mostly perceived visually.

Most soundwalks and geo-located sound installations use open-source platforms that combine locative media (GPS) with music/sound/performative compositions by applying them to a region’s map. The artist’s and the listener’s function often coincide, both in cases where the sound is recorded while crossing the area and in those cases where the path chosen by the walker/listener determines the artistic result.

In this paper I will attempt to connect the concept of “nomadism,” as introduced and explained by Deleuze and Guattari, with contemporary artistic practices of sound walks, site-specific sound compositions, and geo-located sound interventions in urban public space by juxtaposing the principles of nomad art with those of open-source platforms and flânerie.

As Deleuze and Guattari (1980) imply, many social activities, including art, can constitute a war machine drawing “a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight, a smooth place of displacement” (ibid., 423) by reforming or acting against dominant systems and/or practices (ibid., 500). In the case of soundwalking, nomadism does not apply by suggesting fleeing the city but by proposing wandering as resistance to its confined and bordered space (Deleuze 1985, 149): in these soundscape compositions, narratives prevail, communities acquire space and voice, buildings are not mere subjects for sightseeing tours, the city is not a collection of historical information but a space to aurally, artistically, and socially wander within the micro-frames of which this space rhizomatically consists. Music and narrative as tools, leave behind ethnography, documentary, score, concert halls, museums, and institutions and become pliable materials, fragments of a living organism, of a city-score whose music is made by and is addressed to people. Actually the notions of nomadism and war machine apply here “as a war of becoming over being, of the sedentary over the nomadic” (Deuchars 2011, 3).

Departing from the distinction of audio walks, sound walks and listening walks, I will connect these contemporary artistic practices with the Deleuzian notion of rhizome and nomadism in order to indicate how the sound routes of wandering create experiential, non-dichotomous relations between public space and people that inhabit it or cross it, and how this process is a becoming-art through the inclusion of lines of flight and soft spots that converse with displaced artistic tools and site specific sound representations.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1985. “Nomad Thought.” In The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation, edited by David B. Allison, 142–49. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1980. Mille Plateaux. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

Deuchars, Robert. 2011. “Creating Lines of Flight and Activating Resistance: Deleuze and Guattari’s War Machine.” Seminar at the Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.