Sound walk

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On Saturday last, I went for an electrical walk. Artist Christina Kubisch has developed headphones which detect electromagnetic fields and transmit them as sound signals. The wearer is free to go wherever they wish, wearing the headphones, although a map is helpfully provided. Kubisch says that "the “electrical walk” is not an event, rather it is a slow walk which might reveal what was unknown before."

I started from the Goethe-Institut where the headphones are collected. I walked towards Hyde Park, with an ever present hum in my ears. This hum rarely diminishes, and stays almost constant throughout the walk with the only changes being an intensification.

Outside the Austrian Trade Commission, the hum became very loud: hummmmmmmmmmmm
Outside residential homes, it became more insistent: hrurmrurmrurmrurmrurmrurmm

Passing cars zip by like wasps, with a high-pitched zzzzzing.

A bus was like a larger bee, with more another high-pitched but longer zzzzzzzzziiiiiiiiing.

The induction loop for hearing aids at Imperial College amplifies the sounds of the foyer, so everything sounds louder.

The lifts in The Science Museum have an LED screen to show the floors. When the screen changes, the headphone make a rattling noise: tsht-tsht-tsht-tsht

Television screens made a loud, incessant din: rnarrnarrnarrnarrnar

The hums became louder and lower in pitch near CCTV cameras: huuuuuuuhhhhhhmmmmmm

The security shields at the shop of the Natural History Museum make a harsh, staccatto sound: rat-a-tat-tat-tat-rat-a-tat-tat-rat-a-tat-tat-tat

I went to a tube station. Oyster card readers make a beep to our hears, but with the headphones this beep was harsher: zitzitzitzitzitzit

A tube train was a cacophony of noise.

I passed a traffic warden who made the headphones louder than any other person.

The whole walk was fascinating, for the very reasons Kubisch stated. The headphones reveal what is there but we cannot see, nor can we feel. The revelation of these electromagnetic fields is unsettling. The magnetics are ultimately not harmful, but what effects could they have on our bodies?

Hearing electromagnetics as sounds gives them with a physical sense. They become real, and are all around and invasive. The walker in a city is transformed from a free, strolling flaneur to an element within a greater forcefield, surrounded and followed by invisible boundaries.

More information on Christina Kubisch - Electrical Walks here.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Vote Aisleyne to win Big Brother 7!

When Aisleyne joined the Big Brother house (wearing a fab big collared fake fur jacket, I might add), she was described as a Model / Promotions Girl. Another one in Big Brother! But she soon revealed herself to be sharp, funny and aware.

She stood up to the bullying and name-calling of Sezer (calling him out right away) and the odious Grace. She stuck up for fellow housemates Sam and the divine Susie. She is, altogether, a decent person.

The internet is abuzz with campaigns to have Aisleyne win. My good friends at are rallying the troops. A vote for Aisleyne is a vote for decency - and to show that bullying and name-calling will never beat respect and "knowing yourself".

Beyoncé is a llama

Thursday, August 10, 2006

As many will know, I have held the opinion for many a year that Beyoncé is a horse. Yes, the combination of teeth, hair, and long legs have an altogether equine effect.

Now news reaches me that Beyoncé has a new album and single out. This is exciting news, not least for the music, but also so the "Beyonce = horse" hypothesis can be tested that little more.

The single and album covers, however, hold a surprise. Beyoncé has changed. She's no longer the wild horse she was, romping dangerously or crazy in love over a Texas prairie. She's mellowed. Beyoncé has become a llama!!

It's uncanny!

Germany by Novala, Norway, Belgium by Alice

I've collected 3 further maps for my EuroGlobe project.

I asked Novala, a German woman living in Vienna, to draw Germany. She has a very interesting blog here.


I sent two letters to two addresses in Oslo, with envelopes and paper. One recipient has returned a map of Norway. This drawing is by either Erik or Joakim - I don't know which! Hopefully whomever it is will email me so I can attribute them correctly.

Finally, Belgium. Last weekend, I went to a Latin American carnival being held in South London with a vague notion of collecting country maps. I thought I'd maybe meet people from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru - all of which were strongly represented in the carnival. I eventually spoke to a man from Bolivia. I may have inadvertently annoyed him as he was from Santa Cruz, an area which has a growing autonomy movement. He didn't seem keen on drawing the map, but mentioned that the woman with him was from Belgium. So here, the result of a Latin American carnival is Belgium drawn by Alice

Lamb's Conduit Street

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lambs Conduit Street is a small, quiet street in London's Bloomsbury. I pass through it regularly as I work nearby. The businesses on the street are idiosyncratic as there are no chain stores. Each store is an independent retailer: there are grocers, bookshops, opticians, hairdressers, restaurants and bars.

One of the street's most prominent outlets is an undertaker and funeral parlour. The blinds are bright red, with a window display of old London maps showing that the street bounded onto a cemetery in earlier times.

The street has a old world feeling - shop-owners put signs in their windows, take holidays, closing their shops for a week. The pub on the corner is called The Perseverance, an apt name.

Window displays are striking. These are in the windows of a naturopathy shop and a sweet shop.

The grocery store sells local produce, freshly picked, made and baked.

There are also residential flats on the street. Period features have been carefully preserved. Lambs Conduit Street feels, a little oddly, like a modern street from the past.

Now, however, Starbucks are about to open an outlet on the street. This chain store potentially threatens the character of the street. The existing retailers have started a petition - it will be interesting to see how this develops.