My experience of Sonotopia

On the first day of the Sonotopia residency, after the preliminary introductions, the group went on a walk through Liberté and Jet d’Eau. We went to Marché Nguelaw, and to a neighbouring metalworking atelier. That visit was very remarkable to me. The atelier was stimulating to me, both visually and sonically. One thing that was particularly interesting to me was the repetition of forms and sounds. In this atelier, we found these sculptural installations of scrap metal surrounded by the strident sound of metal being cut and modified into new shapes. This brought my attention to repeated forms and sounds throughout the city.

While those ideas were brewing in the back of my mind, I focused on a continuation of a previous work, Fluid Marks, which dealt with gender. I had been thinking about adapting the project for the Senegalese context. Marion connected me with the social centre near Ker Thiossane, where young women who had not completed traditional schooling learned trades. I spoke to many of the girls at the centre, as well as some women in the neighbourhood. While the conversations were quite interesting, it soon became clear that I would need to modify my approach to these conversations. That is not something I was able to explore further during the residency but it is one branch of thinking that I have been exploring after the residency.

As I had to walk to and from home during the residency, I started to notice different sounds on my route. The sounds of the city are usually overpowering, but I was drawn to a very subtle sound and sensation, the crunch of bottles under my feet as I walked through the streets. It shocked me how much these bottles had become such a ubiquitous part of our lives, how normal it was to be walking on debris every day. I don’t know if I ever would have noticed it anew, had Sonotopia not invited me to change my relationship to the sounds of the city. I started to collect these bottles, and the act itself became a performance, as several people stopped me either to thank me, or to ask what I was doing, or sometimes to point out a bottle I had not noticed. That is something else I would like to explore further.

It was quite an enriching experience to share these moments with the other residents. While I was not able to be on-site all the time, I learned many things from my peers, and I very much benefited from watching their experiments and from the conversations we had. The way each and every participant thought and interacted with sound and creation was amazing to see and be a part of.

For example, it was Nika’s idea to hang a large speaker from the dome in the garden, and it was an amazing opportunity for all four of us to work together in some way, even if I ended up being the one to use it.

My work for Sonotopia

For the Sonotopia – sonic explorers residency, I created an installation reminiscent of the city. On a bed of sand, I placed several bottles, some of them completely crushed, some of them still in their original state. I invited people to walk on them, to recreate the sound that punctuates a walk through the city. I wanted people to reflect on that sound, outside of the context they usually hear it in. With the sounds of cars and motorbikes passing, with the hustle and bustle of the city, it is easy for the crunch under our feet to go unnoticed, but outside of that context, walking into Ker Thiossane, I was hoping people would have a moment to feel and hear this.
This installation was accompanied by a video of a foot repeatedly stepping on a bottle. I wanted to highlight the process by which these bottles get so flattened, as well as the sound of that plastic being crushed.

In the garden, we installed a large mosque speaker hanging down from the dome. I used this speaker to play a few clips from the interviews I had with the young girls at the centre next door. This was a playful installation that people could play with, pushing the speaker back and forth, and hence changing their spatial relation to the sound.