Polyrhythia (2013)

Exhibited at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster, and Mobile Media Lab in Montreal.

Polyrhythmia was developed during a residency at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and was a Sound & Music commission.

Polyrhythmia is a participatory audio installation that uses GPS data to explore how the movement of an individual is connected to the temporality of the city. A series of six tapping, whirring and buzzing machines respond to live GPS data from walkers who carry the Space Metronome smartphone app.

GPS in smart phones helps us to find the nearest restaurant, to get from A to B, to find where our friends are and to contribute to collaborative online mapping. This capacity has been discussed as ‘net locality’ or the ‘geoweb’ and refers specifically to the spatialisation of data, the ability to layer information, images, texts into the city and to share it with others. But places are forever changing, traffic ebbs and flows, darkness and daylight come and go, we wait for buses and run for trains. In the early 1990’s the sociologist Henri Lefebvre described the way that rhythms combine in the city as ‘polyrhythms’. In a contemporary interpretation GPS smart phones are bringing new rhythms to the city, as they connect distant people and places, things that are far away become part of the polyrhythmia of the city nearby.

GPS locations are commonly represented visually on maps that tell us where we are, but sound is also an important part of how we relate spatially to people, objects, vehicles, buildings and landscapes. We navigate using the nearest tall building as a landmark, but we’re also aware of the clock that chimes every hour. We see someone rushing past out of the corner of our eye, but before that we heard their footsteps approaching.

This work uses GPS to sonify movement, to listen to a map of the temporal nature of life in the city. If that data about movement is turned into sound it can be heard as a pattern of movement, a rhythm that speeds up and slows down.

This work is the result of an ‘Embedded’ residency at the Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed, Bristol, supported by Sound and Music. For blog/video’s/artists talk see: