Powell River is home to an exciting new art project that brings together the sounds and stories of the places and spaces around our community, and active transportation. The audio walks, which were created in collaboration by Powell River Division of Family Practice, Tourism Powell River, Powell River Cycling Association and Powell River Employment Program (PREP) Society’s Powell River Diversity Initiative, feature some of Powell River's most beloved trails and areas including Valentine Mountain, Willingdon Beach Trail, the Sea Walk and Willingdon Creek Trail. We were curious about the ideas and inspiration between this excited new project, and caught up with Megan Dulcie Dill, a Powell River artist who works on the audio walks, to hear all about it.
Live and Invest: Where did you get the inspiration for the audio walks?
Megan Dulcie-Dill: My inspiration for this project are amazing contemporary artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/index.html), naturalist Bernie Krause (http://www.ted.com/talks/bernie_krause_the_voice_of_the_natural_world) and the Vancouver-based World Soundscape Project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Soundscape_Project) from the 1970’s - specifically about the effects of sounds on a community.
Ultimately, I would like to use some form of this approach in education. I think it could be an innovative approach to experiencing and exploring the outdoors or an object in more depth. It is similar to drawing and painting something from nature, but working with the 3D qualities of sound. With all the accessible technology nowadays the way it translates to education could be interesting.
What are the audio walks and how are the different from the trails and signs that already exist?
The audio recordings are different because they can be a more in-depth perspective or interpretation of a site. Through the recording a place becomes a 3D experience for the senses. The project is about art on the trails and in public spaces, and this artform is in a digital audio format. Anyone can participate so a diversity of views can be presented. I think of it as more fluid or interchangeable than a traditional sign project. Usually a sign is condensed information and visually static. This project shares layers of information through sound.
What are the walks? The audio walks are visually marked with wood signs in industrial heritage areas, urban parks and commercial zones. The signs indicate the start of a specific audio walk and direct participants to this website to download or listen to the recording with headphones on a smartphone. Directions for each walk are indicated within the recording and are set at approximately 5 to 20 minutes in duration.
The function of ProjectArt SOUNDZONES is to present an alternative experience to familiar routes and encounters by combining intimate sound recordings with unique sites. The result is a heightened sensory experience; listening, looking and rethinking the immediate environment and contemplating conventional knowledge systems. The geographical, historical and cultural context of a site or object are central themes to the recordings while physical spaces become areas of exchange and exploration.
Why was being involved in this project important for you?
I felt that there were stories about the land and places that people would like to share and we don’t listen enough in day to day life. It takes a commitment to listen. These community stories also have limited accessibility and one of the ideas behind the project was to create a groundswell of voices and places around the community both in the role of creators and participants. We often see the same groups together in society but by taking the art out of an institution (which may have limited or similar visitors) the intention is to make the art more accessible. *this is an experiment but that is the intention!
What are you hoping the audio walks will contribute to the community?
An inquiry into what art can be. I know a lot of people have assumed this would be similar to an audioguide but that is not necessarily the outcome. Harvey Chometsky has included his own music and questions around learning art through practice while Raymond Lavoie’s walk focuses on people with disabilities and their perspective of a specific place from a TrailRider. One of the upcoming walks underway combines a near death birth experience and the support of a community combined with life and death of the forest. Iona Waisgluss has created an amazing one with interviews and information about Valentine Mountain. I also hope people will be interested in hearing the stories while getting outside and interacting with the environment. I hope the community gets outside, walks more, drives less.
Through moving sound installations participants experience their environment in different ways and are challenged with new sensory interpretations. The walks have been created to encourage outdoor experiences and promote public art. The virtual recordings also raise questions about established truths, histories and authorship through the fabrication of new stories.
These place based audio recordings are intended to be experienced as a compassionate and creative approach to sharing memories. They are hybrid mixes of narrative, history and fantasy with motifs based in ecology, voice and language.
How can people access the audio walks?
The public can access our site, which is a work in progress at www.projectart.zone.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about the walks?
I am excited to be doing a similar project as artist in residence in the national parks this summer. I will be in Newfoundland at Terra Nova this July to create soundscapes and paintings that are informed by the area. I am looking forward to sharing my experience about the project in Powell River and becoming immersed in the unique qualities of that area.