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Mobile Audio Fest is a 4 day event exploring the relationships between mobility and (new) forms of listening and sound-making. Conceived as a series of “rendezvous” in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, Mobile Audio Fest presents 15 projects by international artists in which mobility plays a central part. The program includes performances, installations, apps, soundwalks, audiowalks, workshops and talks.

Today the sight of a person wearing headphones walking the streets has become banal. Mobile audio technology is pervading our environment and thus modifying our listening habits and, by the same token, our audio-sphere. New horizons are opening, as sound can be processed in real-time, geo-located, transmitted and downloaded by the smartphones we have in our pockets. Artists have long been interested in itinerant forms of listening and sound-making and different approaches find their origins in practices that pre-date today’s technology, such as spatialised installations, urbain performances, soundwalks, field recording, navigable scores. Mobile Audio Fest presents a range of art forms, strategies and media that constitute some of the current articulations of this field.

Several projects propose roaming listening experiences in Aix-en-Provence or Marseille, engaging the urban in its physical, aesthetic, historical, social, political or imaginary aspects. Projects such as katrinem’s SchuhzuGehör_path of awareness and Jessica Thompson’s walking machine amplify the bodily interaction between the walkers and their environment through the sound of their footsteps; other works (such as Eric Maillet’s Mots croisés or Andrew Brown’s OpenCity Aix) directly address historical and social issues through voice and narrative, while Irena Pivka and Brane Zorman’s Field Frequency Flux infiltrates the public space of a park using radiophonic interference.  

Other projects engage with soundscapes through nomadic performances: they revive traditional mobile musical forms such as the skiffle band with up-to-date portable technologies – Steve JonesSoundwalking – or they temporarily redirect the acoustic space of the city – Pierre-Laurent Cassière’s Transphere.  

Some artists reveal aspects of the existing environment which are there all the time but normally imperceivable : Christina Kubisch, for example, provides us with special headphones that pick up the electromagnetic waves generated by everyday electrical apparatus. Eva Sjuve sonifies variations in levels of pollution and Peter Sinclair uses the the road’s surface as a score to generate musique as we drive.

Several projects explore the relationships between virtual and physical acoustic spaces through geolocative and navigational applications or immersive installations. Owen Chapman involves the public in a field-recording mapping of Aix-en-Provence which becomes the basis for a live performance in his virtual environment Echoscape. Amandine Provost uses wind speed and direction to navigate the Locus Sonus sound map, while Marie Muller maps her sounds to a virtual 3d space; audio objects that fill an otherwise empty exhibition space.

Finally, streaming technology can be used to transmit the sound of a trajectory captured with a mobile device and a microphone in real-time. Laurent Di Biase, working in collaboration with a group of “pedestrian streamers”, applies this principle to mix the sound of the world outside the auditorium for a seated audience. Maria Papadomanolaki, for her part invites us to interact with her as she shares the sound environment of her London Borough, the aixoise audience guiding her via twitter as she plays her route.

The majority of these projects have been created, conceived or re-adapted for specific places in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille through in-depth explorations of these urban areas made during residencies and workshops with students. They address the complex interactions between mobile technologies, everyday practice and spatial context in a variety of ways. They reveal sound’s nomadic and vibrational condition, while emphasizing the embodied and situated relationship between the listeners and the spaces that they inhabit.  

Peter Sinclair & Elena Biserna
Curators of the Mobile Audio Fest