Thursday, 23 February 2012

Sonic Wallpapers Update Feb 2012 part 2

Here is the second part of our recent interview with Felicity Ford, sound artist, talking about the Sonic Wallpapers project:

RL: You mentioned that you were considering a more innovative approach to exhibiting the wallpapers and audio sounds. Is this still going ahead and what are your thoughts behind this approach?

FF: I am in discussions with MoDA at the moment about the best way to display the Sonic Wallpapers alongside the actual wallpaper samples. We are exploring the potential for displaying the wallpapers in sites where sounds have been collected for the Sonic Wallpapers. Collecting all the sounds for the Sonic Wallpapers is going to involve some research into different kinds of places and buildings, as there is a huge variety of different atmospheres and sounds to record. Once I have found appropriate locations and made field recordings in them, it would perhaps be exciting to exhibit the associated wallpaper samples in them. For example, if I visit a historic house to record the creaky staircase and the particular sounds of opening an old, casement window for one of the wallpaper interviews, the wallpaper for which I needed that sound could perhaps be displayed there.

Installing speakers in each location would be extremely costly, so the plan is to provide a QR code and a sound-list in each location. This means that people with a smartphone can scan the barcode and download and hear the Sonic Wallpaper associated with each piece in situ, on their mobile phone.

I am excited about exploring these options, because I think there are many different ways of giving sounds to audiences besides sticking a pair of speakers in a room or presenting sounds in a concert setting. I think the audience will have to work a little bit harder to get the sounds in the ways that I am proposing to exhibit them, but I am hoping that the sounds, the moments of discovery and the sense of participating in a treasurehunt will be exciting enough to make it worthwhile!

At its simplest, the wallpaper interviews are like a virtual tour through many different kinds of imagined spaces and rooms. People describe tall rooms, small rooms, toilets, staircases, kitchen drawers and all sorts, and while I hope to recreate this sense in the soundpieces, I think it would be just fantastic if people could experience that idea in a very physical way, journeying to all kinds of quirky or interesting buildings to see the wallpaper samples, and to hear the sound pieces which I have created in response to them.

RL: Where will they be exhibited?

FF: I can't say yet, as we haven't finalised the recording locations! But I am hoping that most of the sites will be public venues, lying just a little ways off the beaten track, and free to access.

RL: If people cannot get to the venues can they see (and hear) the exhibition online?

FF: There will lots of material available online, because obviously the QR codes are not a technology which everyone is familiar or comfortable with, and not everyone will be inclined to go on a soundhunt around London looking at wallpaper samples and searching with their phones for downloadable pieces of Sonic Wallpaper! It will be possible to hear and see everything from the comfort of your desktop, and it may be worth encouraging people to download the sounds to a personal mp3 player if QR codes prove to be less successful or user-friendly than they currently seem.

RL: Yes, speaking of QR codes; are you planning to test out the feasibility of QR codes as a way of giving sounds to audiences?

A QR code is basically a barcode which links directly to an internet address, and there are loads of phone applications which will turn your mobile device into a barcode scanner. If you want someone to be able to download a sound and hear it through their headphones, it is advantageous, because it is much easier to introduce a small image into most environments than it is to introduce speakers! We're still thinking about how this will work in practice, though.

RL: You have recently created some learning resources as part of the Sonic Wallpapers project. Who are they for and what do you hope they will achieve?

FF: I have created a 3-part worksheet series which basically unpacks my own creative process behind making Sonic Wallpaper, so that other students of sound can see the rationale behind what I am trying to do here. I think there is a lot to be discovered through the process of doing something, so I have tried to explain the process in practical terms, step-by-step, and I have provided a set of audio samples which people wishing to experiment with the process have something to work with. I would say this learning resource is really aimed for people who already know how to make field-recordings and edit sounds, as I haven't provided any instruction on this in the worksheets!

I am developing some other resources, which will be a little bit less complex, and which are aimed at anyone who wants to experiment with considering wallpaper from a sonic perspective! Over time I am hoping that the Learning Resources page will come to be a useful collection of sounds and worksheets for contemplating the everyday ritual of decorating our homes from an entirely different, sonic perspective.
For the latest info about the project go to the Sonic Wallpapers blog.