Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

The Voice of the Ruhr’s Cultural Landscape

Exploring the Artistic and Scholarly Potential of Soundwalkings

Weronika Kobylińska, KWI International Fellow

Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI), Raum 106, Goethestraße 31, 45128 Essen

What is the sound of the wind? This seemingly innocent question must remain without an unequivocal answer. As the numerous acoustic ecologists have already noted, each time when the wind touches an object it creates a sound, which is unique for this particular acoustic event (Schafer 1977). Canadian composer and radio artist Hildegard Westerkamp (b. 1946) perceived these subtleties very well. We can read about the ever-changing voices that wind produces in one of her numerous essays:

“Wind whistling through electric wires. Wind rustling through grass. Wind trapped between buildings. Wind howling, mourning, rustling, wailing, whining, screaming…” (Westerkamp 1974).

Westerkamp belongs to the pioneers of acoustic communication who established in the 1970s soundwalking as an empirical method for identifying and registering audible (but usually neglected, or unnoticed) components of various locations. The concept of soundwalking was already acknowledged as a crucial tool in the history of acoustic ecology. However, I would like to focus on contemporary art strategies which incorporate sound walks as creative practices. During the presentation, I will introduce artists who – through bodily exploration of the Ruhr Area – create environmental narratives, which include urban noise, sounds of nature, or the “voice” of the cultural heritage. Does this spatio-temporal, multi-sensory practice have the potential to represent the landscape as a truly Latourian “social network”? As a system, where the dialogue between different social actors is taking place? In the course of the ColloKWIum I will try to address those concerns.