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Michal Kindernay: Every city is different in terms of the way how it sounds. As I visit a lot of either big or small cities / towns I'm aware of their unique soundscapes. And they are structured in many ways, sometimes divided in many small units functional such as small cities / cells within the city. Sometimes they consist of a huge mass of dense housing interrupted only by rings, highways and green strips, river corridors. It is always a challenge to perceive sounds in the cities and find their better form. My experience is that it is always possible to find quiet places even in very big noisy cities, even if it is getting more and more difficult as the urban hum is increasing and people are actually afraid of the silence and have started to artificially put sound (music, effects) in public space. On the other hand, I find the city's noise very distracting and harmful and feel anxious because in general it is increasing. I support organisations with new ideas and approaches on how to decrease sound pollution, car traffic and protect green areas. And I also believe in improvement on a personal level. When people learn how to listen and how to be aware of sounds I believe it will change wider attitudes to these issues and bring about positive changes.
MRF: How do your Sound Maps open the viewer’s senses to a more ecologically-attuned experience of the city? What methods do you use to achieve this?
MK: Sound Maps, which are partly inspired by sound-walks in relation to the acoustic ecology movement and its consequences, are always about challenging and exploring the (not only) urban sound environment. And because my artistic background is in visual art and intermedia, visual interpretation is very important. Shifting the act of walking and listening into another media, that of drawing, exposes the issue in a different light. People observing the drawings can see a babel of abstract lines or they may imagine the real route, the walk, the ubiquitous sound and its dramatic metamorphoses. At the same time there is a creative way to influence the drawing through subtle abstractions and mutations of the walk / drawing, when there is a unique situation and sounds evolve more into a compositional form, when the sounds change colour from the toneless greyness of the city. One of the main concepts is to search for relative silence and thus the walk consists of a lot of interconnected shortcuts referring to a calmer more silent city with less exhaust fumes.
MRF: You have described yourself as a ‘walker / urban hunter’, how does your approach to walking in the city differ from the aimless strolls and social observation of the modernist flâneur?
MK: Art of walking. People don't walk any more, or they do so less and less. Long walks are almost utopian. Almost nobody walks longer distances between cities or regions anymore. Communication structures prevent that and the transmittance of the landscape is more and more impenetrable. Hectic society shapes the behaviour of people accelerating the rhythm of the city. And there is no time for walking, no will, no need either, due to the strong pressure of the automobile industry. When I sound walk I concentrate on walking itself and sonic events. Visual content is inhibited. The walks become more organic and has a shifted raison d'etre.
MRF: Michel de Certeau in the Practices of Everyday Life talks about walking as articulating a ‘second, poetic geography on top of the geography of the literal, forbidden or permitted meaning,’ do you agree that walking has the potential to produce new, liberated understandings of urban space? Can walking be an act of radical opposition to the rationality and order of the capitalist city?
MK: I think that the act of walking can be statement against fast, strictly programmed, rules-based city structures. Walking is a liberated and free form of natural movement within the city and it shapes the temper of the urban space. It is important to change the aspect, shift the walk and routes in different ways, not following the given rational premises. When we are trapped in traffic, the underground or in shopping malls, the city changes. Threads of movement convert into a chaotic mass, existential stagnation, commercial ant hills.
MRF: While creating your work for this show involved walking in the city, your artistic practice often involves spending time in the countryside – how does the immersion in nature of a walk in the wilderness compare with walking in cities, are urban dwellers exiles from nature?
MK: This is actually a very relevant question. As I have tested tools for sound drawing a lot in the urban environment, I'm planning to spend more time with sound drawing in the countryside in the upcoming winter months. The concept has to change, either the way of walking, or the paintbrushes. The sounds of nature can be felt better through certain kinds of meditation. Continuance, rhythm and temperament can be dramatically slower and much stronger. During walks in nature sometimes I feel intoxicated by the raw sounds of arboreous skyscrapers. Every step is louder than the urban step in the jungle of the urban jungle. I have a desire to sound walk and draw in the bush and Malay jungle full of unbelievably loud and different sounds of birds and insects.
Michal Kindernay (1978, Hradec Králové) is an intermedia artist working with interactive connections of sound, image, and other inputs. His works include video performances, installations and interactive projects. He received a Bc from the Faculty of Fine Art at VUT Brno (2004-08, Peter Rónai's video workshop) and an MA from the Center of Audiovisual Studies at FAMU, Prague (2009-12, Miloš Vojtěchovský's workshop). His early works include cooperations on audiovisual stage performances (2005, with artist Milan Langr and collective Victory Nox) and a series of photographs, videos and installations inspired by insect morphology. Since 2006 he has been also working with live video (Opthalmodensis with Petr Kocourer, Jan Žalio and Ivo Hos). In 2006-07, together with Lenka Dolanová he realised a project connecting the Czech city of Pilsen with the former Czech neighborhood Pilsen in Chicago. With the artist Guy van Belle he collaborated on the research of interrelating the image, sound and atmospheric processes using modified recording devices (Noise Calypsos, 2008; Art Pollution Kit, 2009; Wind[cam], 2010). He is a co-founder of the artist collective yo-yo, member of RurArtMap and Školská 28 gallery in Prague. He lives in Prague.