Found Tapes @ Theater Kikker :: If you're in or near Utrecht in the Netherlands, if it's raining or if you are bored, then quickly hop over to Theater Kikker, Ganzenmarkt 14 on sunday afternoon, december 14th. I will talk about the Found Tapes Exhibition as part of an edition of the 2008/2009 series of Re:visie:lab meetings. Starts at 14h30. Will do my utmost to un-bore you ... ;-)

un-Tuned City (foundtaping in Neukölln)
(Tuned City, Berlin _iv)

(( --> [ _o ] [ _one. ] [ _two. ] [ _three. ] [ _four. ] [ _five. ] [ _six. ] || [ found ] ))

december 08, 2008.

For thursday july 3th the Tuned City events would take place on the Alexanderplatz, at the foot of the Fernsehturm, and the program looked promising indeed.

Artist Antye Greie, aka agf, had gotten permission to perform at the Alexa shopping mall, via the mall's Muzak system. That seemed the type of experiment worth assisting at.
There also would be a presentation by Pascal Amphoux, of the Cresson institute in Grenoble (a research center dedicated to 'the soundspace and urban environment'); Katie Hepworth and Rob Curgenven would talk about their upcoming 'Milan sound atlas'; Jens Gerrit Papenburg would lecture on subliminal phenomena and the functions and effectiveness of Muzak; physicist Jürgen Altmann would come to talk about acoustic weapons; Udo Noll would demonstrate his GPS-enabled aporee maps around Alexanderplatz; ... and then I did not even list half of the program of that thursday ...

But on the other hand: one-ish, my feet were hurting really badly by now; and, two-ish, what other day would there be left for me to look for cast-away tapes in Neukölln, and when otherwise would I be able to finish what I wanted to put up at Cake & Coffee for 'das kleine Intiem' that Rinus had set up and announced for coming saturday?

This, together with the facts that we had just gotten a wonderful and very complete sneak-preview of Undo Noll's presentation, and that Wolfgang would be going (not walking mind you, he used public transport) and report back to us, tipped the balance to the 'stay in Neukölln' side.

Therefore on thursday Rinus and I took a day off from walking 2 hours up to Mitte, arriving too late for some much looked forward to Tuned City event, and then walking 2 hours back down to Neukölln.

We just stayed in Neukölln.

The Weserstraße that thursday was of a quiet bright but dusty green.


I could do with the time thus gained.

Along one of the freshly whitened walls of the soon-to-be Cake & Coffee gallery space and record store I wanted my favorite found found tapes quote. I wanted to have it up there b i g. Adrian had earlier been so kind as to provide me with a huge roll of white paper and tape to put a large sheet of it onto the wall. But I did not have brushes and paint or a big marker to get the words onto the paper.
sleaze animation I did have a big plastic bag full of unwound cassette tape, though. And though I realized that it would take a long time, I decided that I would go out and get myself a tube of glue, and then 'write' the quote onto the paper sheet in tape.
And so I did, diligently. Letter by letter. Word by word. I must have started the work on wednesday morning, and continued on thursday. In the little 'sleazebag' picture you can see the result, word by word. Just pass the pointer on your mouse somewhere on the photo.
Work as it progressed and the final result are in the pictures below :

sleazebag words

There is no doubt about it. I do see fewer and fewer tapes lying along the highways between Amsterdam and Paris: in these parts of the world the chances for our random sleazebag are rapidly growing slimmer. It is some eight years ago now that british sociologist Michael Bull published his "Sounding Out the City", a study on how people use and experience their 'personal stereos' in everyday 'urban life'. The book is mostly about the cassette-walkman. Along with the demise of the analog audio cassette tape, also the cassette walkman as the dominant and all-present personal stereo device - in less than no time - became history.

In hindsight the history of the cassette-tape and -recorder/player as a technology, a mass-medium and as objects that were part of almost everyone's daily life, will not cover more than a mere thirty years. That's nothing, really ...

I was reminded of this just the other day, while reading Douglas Coupland's generation-Y novel from 1992, "Shampoo Planet". How soon will it be that a sentence like, "I yank the car over and announce, 'We now bring you a thirty second beauty-break,' but Stephanie wants to stay in the car to untangle a cassette" will need to be explained in a footnote? (or by linking to the Found Tapes Exhibition grin ... It is quite probable of course that Stephanie eventually gave up on untangling, and threw the tape on to the parking lot) ....

Michael Bull, on the other hand, appears to be reaping profit from the sudden change in technology. While earlier on he studied 'Walkman culture', he now of course studies 'iPod culture'. He interviews users of Apple iPods about their relationship with the little digi-treasures, which - Michael concludes - many of them use in their everyday life to create a privatized sound world as they move around noisy urban environments. I heard him talking about iPod culture two years ago at the Sound Souvenirs symposium in Maastricht. readerHe was also one of the speakers at Tuned City. Indeed, it was this same thursday july 3rd on Alexanderplatz, that he lectured on 'Sound moves: media technologies and urban spaces'; one more among the many talks that I have missed ... Michael is one of the contributors to the Tuned City reader an indispensable companion for those like myself who for whatever reason missed the conference (whether all of it or just some parts) but still want to get a good impression of what it all has been about. Michael Bull's contribution is - of course - about iPod Culture. His article is called "Turning out the city".
In the article he states that the technology of the cassette walkman was 'limited', as compared to the iPod. Which is obviously true, but does not seem to have much relevance for the way in which urban travelers first used the one, and now use the other: as a sonic shield enabling them to 'privatize' the public urban spaces that often willy-nilly they have to traverse. The daily travel, for example, necessary in order to get from home to work and back again, which by many is considered as a 'non-experience' in a 'non-space', a necessary evil. Here indeed the metaphor is appropriate, of a set of earbuds or headphones as an auditory equivalent of a pair of sunglasses: both are "protecting and empowering the user who no longer has to return the gaze of the other or hear their unsolicited requests" (Tuned City reader, pag. 176).
But such strategies for 'silencing the other' of course apply whatever the precise technology is that's powering the earphones, whether that is a (cassette or other) walkman, a radio, or an iPod. In this respect I don't think that these 'iPod culture studies' shed relevant new light on the (imo somewhat over-dramatized) conclusions of "Sounding Out the City".
Most revealing actually is the footnote in which Michael explains why he limits his study to users of Apple iPods. He actually appears to have been threatened with a lawsuit by Sony, owner of the name 'Walkman', for using "walkman" as a generic term to describe personal stereo devices. In order to avoid problems with Apple, he now only interviews Apple iPod-users ... That seems a rather curious act of self-censorship, especially for a scholar. Though the described auditory strategies can be applied using whatever the 'brand' of the technology used, from a more general point of view I would suppose there to be, on the contrary, an important difference between groups of users of different brands of 'iPods'. I'm pretty sure that 'branding' in relation to mp3-player technology is of far greater importance than it was with respect to (cassette or CD) walkmen, and that the group of Apple iPod users differs significantly from that of, for example, generic mp3-players, or the group of people using their cell phone to listen to music.

Though I have loads of different brands of walkmen, and meanwhile - much to my own astonishment - came to possess no less than three Apple iPods (one of these is no longer functioning, though, and another one is Raudio's pre-loaded Certified Reconditioned), I did wear neither a walkman nor an iPod when I went out foundtaping in Neukölln, in the late afternoon of july 3th, to see whether along the way I would still be able to pick up some thrown away tapes.
It was still very hot, and the walking did not come easy as my feet still hurt from the two long Berlin walks on tuesday and wednesday. So I knew I would not go very far.

I had to walk slowly, and did so for some two hours, up and down the Sonnenallee, down on one side, back up again along the other. The Sonnenallee is a major 'traffic axis'. It proved to be a good choice, as - somewhat to my own surprise - in this relative short time I managed to pick up no less than six bits of tapes, all along the Sonnenallee. Quite a few I suspect having been out there for quite a while already.

Here's a Google satellite picture on which the finds of that thursday afternoon have been indicated:

found in NK

Later on I finished the sleazebag quote, and that evening Rinus helped me to put it up on the wall of Cake & Coffee's. I started untangling and restoring the found tapes, so I would be able to have them play during the das kleine Intiem event, two days later, on saturday.

Given the demography of the neighborhood it was of course no big surprise that most of the finds turned out to contain turkish music ... All of them together make up the 96th acquisition of the Found Tapes exhibition.

next: « das kleine, Intiem »

tags: Berlin, Neukölln, foundtaping, found tapes

# .286.

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