(You are here) Somewhere
With his latest work, (You are here) Somewhere, part of a new flurry of releases on Impulsive Habitat, Bruno Duplant seems to have given us an aural adaptation of Marc Augé’s famous book Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995)…
In his essay, Augé theorized the idea of the “non-place, the ambivalent space that has none of the familiar attributes of place and which incites no sense of belonging.” What he investigated, were not only those generic spaces necessary to the accelerated circulation of goods and people, such as airports and bus terminals, but also those anonymous “rest and recreation” environments such as chain hotels and shopping malls, which can be found anywhere in the globalised world.
This idea is certainly not new and has been looked at before. I am thinking of Simon Whetham’s Mall Muzac (Unfathomless, 2011), for instance, where Whetham captured recordings in The Mall, Broadmead, Bristol. And yet, Duplant’s album is still an effective exercise in sonic dislocation, a timely reminder of the increasingly depersonalized landscape, the ever increasing gentrification of many urban centers the world over, is bringing about.
The French composer and sound artist makes no concessions, collecting “sounds from everywhere. From inside & outside” and offers them raw, with no treatment. The result is both familiar and destabilizing. I found myself trying to latch on to any recognizable sounds, such as snippets of conversation in languages that seemed identifiable, in order to give some concrete domesticity to this alienating “Somewhere”. Ultimately, the sonic environment captured by Dupont is the aural equivalent of stock images from picture libraries, too mundane and immediately accessible to have any real meaning. It is only valid as a sort of shortcut to suggest transit and idleness. Snatches of Excerpts of baroque music, for instance, were never going to act as a geographical compass.
There is no definite indication of any timeframe either. The sound of what could be crickets introduces a seasonal marker, but the uncertainty of whether this might belong to an interior space quickly transforms it into a mechanical buzz. Birdsongs merges with a busy fuzziness punctuated by beeps that subverts any pastoral suggestion. And yet, I found myself back in the countryside with more cricket song.
An unedited recurring mobile phone interference suggests that the kind of aural anthropology of daily life pursued by Duplant cannot be approached without taking into account the pervasive connectivity we are trapped in. The irony being that there is nothing here I could connect with. Or rather, I could connect with so much, as to make the whole exercise meaningless. By the time I could distinctly detect a few words of French spoken towards the end of the second part, I was beyond caring, even though, finding out where I was supposed to be, should never have been the goal of this listening experience. This “Somewhere” is not somewhere I long to spend time in. But sometimes it is important to be reminded of this.
(You are here) Somewhere by Bruno Duplant is available as a free download on Impulsive Habitat.