I am now more or less at the half-way point through my residency at BasementArtsProject. I have received a fair amount of contributions already in the form of drawings and audio recordings, and I have been working them in to the audio visual collage. In doing so I have encountered various creative challenges which is what I would like to dedicate this blog to writing about.
When starting this project I had it in mind that I was going to use the drawings to piece together in the form of a ‘map’. Fragments of personal experiences sonic environments from around the world would be woven together as if forming a map of a landscape. An imagined landscape that could perhaps be travelled through, using the collaged map as a guide. I wanted viewers of this map to also be able to hear sounds, or indeed a collage of sounds relating to specific details in the drawing. In my ideal scenario this map would be interactive, so that if you click on certain parts of the drawing it would play certain parts of a track. A viewer could effectively make their own journey through the landscape, and create their own piece of music in the process.
Firstly, I have had to confront my lack of technical expertise on the web development front. I am not a coder and my knowledge of HTML stretches as far as copying an embed code into an iframe! So my grand idea of an interactive map is off the cards until I find a collaborator that can help me develop this. I am all ears.. Let me know if you are interested! Since this project is initiated by my virtual artist in residence at Basement Arts Project, I thought it would be nice to have the work developing in the virtual BasementArts gallery space that I created on ArtSteps. However, this format has led me to confront challenges that I had not anticipated at first regarding the arrangement of space and time.
I should make clear that I see this whole project as a form of participatory cartography – a visual and sonic expression/ representation of spaces and experiences in those spaces. When looking at a map of a place (a real map of a real place), we are able to create an imaginary journey through that place by imagining ourselves walking down the streets represented on the map. Our movement through space always follows a linear trajectory. It may not always be a straight line, we may meander and double-back on ourselves, but nonetheless we do not get teleported from place to place. Even if we fly somewhere, we are still following a line through space. Landscapes however, continue in all directions, both horizontally as well as vertically. Their existence is beyond us, we are always just wherever we are. A map of a place (traditionally speaking) covers just the horizontal plane of a landscape, but nonetheless extends in all directions. It proposes that any number of trajectories, or journeys, across it could be possible with a point A and a point B. A piece of music, arguably, has a similar linearity, it has a start and an end. Unless it loops infinitely, or modifies itself as an ever evolving pattern.
The map I am making is not of a singular place, but a collage of many places that are not next to each other in reality. My challenge as an artist is how to link all these places and sounds together into what could perhaps be read as a map of an imaginary yet continuous landscape. A landscape that you could travel through, from place to place on a linear journey without needing to jump from island to island. How do I place and arrange the images? and how do I arrange the sound accordingly?
This got me thinking about narrative. To what extent does a story need to have a fixed narrative, and to what extent can it be fluid and evolving. Is a narrative linear, or rather a web of interconnections?
Generally speaking I have been using the image as my starting point, and the sound elements have followed. Although as the map has become more complex, I have based my placing decisions on a combination of what kind of sound is present in the audio, and what textures, shapes and colours are present in the drawings. As I receive new materials to work with, the collage has grown from a central point. Similarly in a way to the growth of a village expanding into a city. Initially my placement of drawings and sounds was purely aesthetic, but as the project has grown, I have given more careful consideration to the types of spaces that are represented – whether they are they urban, rural, quiet, noisy, indoor, outdoor etc.
I initially thought that creating this project as fragmented images in the virtual gallery space would be the perfect way to experience this work, but I have since realised that it has made things more complicated. The map grows in all directions, but in order to display in in the online gallery, I need to divide it up into sections. Partly because the images become too pixellated when they are on a large scale, but also because in order to work with the linearity of an audio track with a start and finish, there needs to be a linear progression through the map, meaning that the journey around the room becomes a linear journey around a map that is not linear in its form.
In short, I feel that the virtual gallery is not the best way to present this piece. I think it serves as a great way of presenting it for the residency, and keeping it site specific. But in this format, it works only as fragments, each of which has a section of audio dedicated to them. Instead, my preferred format is the zooming map, an online interactive image, closer to my original vision. I have created an example of this now on my website where the zoomable map can be viewed. https://www.kimbalbumstead.com/soniclandscapes
My plan from this point onwards, for the remainder of my residency is to continue growing the map, and using the audio as a series of ‘journeys’. So rather than there being a single audio narrative that uses all the samples from all the drawings, there will be a number of different audio tracks of around 10 – 20 mins each, which take a ‘journey’ from point A to point B in the map, utilising the samples from the points in the map (drawing and sound) that the journey passes through.