We’re very pleased to announce the winners and honourable mentions of the Sound Walk September 2020 Awards.
Sound Walk September 2020
To give a global sound walk award in pandemic times is a challenge, even more than it would be without a world-wide pandemic. Creating a sound walk in the last year was a matter of imagination, and of courage. We explicitly invited creators to think out of the box, to realize and submit works that allow for walking not only outdoors but also (and even more than otherwise) mind travelling. Even in their restricted movements during the pandemic, many creators went outside, and others shared their walks, or memories of their walks, through alternative and imaginative formats. But, there is a challenge in appreciating, understanding, and experiencing sound walks that are created in interaction with a specific place and their “locale”. How to evaluate, from a distance or online, a work that is made to immerse in a place?
To compensate for this challenge, we gave the opportunity to the shortlisted creators to contextualise their work in a supporting text, which were published in the weeks after Sound Walk September 2020.
However, we had the luck and pleasure of receiving strong support from an excellent jury, composed of global and world class specialists and artists. Their combined expertise and experience filled in much of the blanks, along with the additional context provided by the creators themselves. Nevertheless, we are aware that there is a paradox in evaluating sound walks at a distance, and that maybe more valuable works may be out there that could not be appreciated in full, and that, possibly, another award winner is still out there.
It’s no news that everything we all did and experienced in 2020 was overshadowed by COVID. One consequence of many of us spending a lot of time inside, was that the number of new walking pieces created during 2020 was perhaps not as large as we originally hoped for.
However, with a significant influx of relevant ‘audio papers’, performative, or walking audio essays, submitted to Drifting Bodies / Fluent Spaces, in July of this year, we were off to something of a start, eventually welcoming a still quite impressive number, nearly 70, of walking pieces submitted for SWS20.
Meanwhile, we at walk · listen · create hosted a dozen or so online events during September, while the total number of events organised by us and the community, you, fell only just short of 50.
All this meant that, even though we felt a bit worried halfway through the year, as to what we could possibly facilitate and see being created during 2020, the eventual outcome, interactions and community building, was impressive, strong, even heart warming.
All of this, thanks to you.
Shortlist and jury
The shortlist for the SWS20 Awards was selected by the team behind Sound Walk September and walk · listen · create, and announced in October. Each of the 13 shortlisted pieces were found to stand out in one way or another.
In the weeks that followed, each of the creators of the shortlisted works published a background article on the creation, context, and scope of their work, providing a unique insight into the production process for each individual piece.
Some, also, had the opportunity to augment our insight into their work through our bi-weekly online cafés.
The SWS20 Awards jury, tasked with the challenge of selecting the most outstanding sound walking pieces of 2020, consisted of four of the SWS Advisory Board members, Josh Kopeček, Julie Poitras Santos, Hamish Sewell, and Maja Thomas.
Through a collective voting process, followed by insightful, broad discussions, the jury decided to recognize two pieces as this year’s winners, and another two as honorable mentions.
But, everybody wins! Scroll down for the details.
The jury identified two of this year’s projects as particularly standing out from the field of submitted works. Both works will be rewarded with a one year ‘gold’ membership for walk · listen · create, valued at 100 euros, and one pair of bone-conducting headphones each, valued at 150 euros, the latter kindly provided by our prize sponsor Echoes.
The Texture of Air
The Texture of Air led by On The Record, ScreenDeep, and Nicole Robson, is part audio storytelling, part visual performance, part oral history. The work is a playful foray into the closure of two NHS hospitals in the UK, one ear, nose and throat hospital, the other dental, after many years of service, and the altered spaces and places encountered when something’s gone awry.
With chance encounters, cochlear implants, hearing tests and pinging instruments, this work is a sonic feast, and is artfully produced and intelligently undertaken. “Hospitals are intensely private, guarded spaces,” writes Laura Mitchison, managing director at On The Record, “but in their last days, they slowly opened up to our gentle enquiry.”
Coming out of a particularly difficult year, The Texture of Air is pitch-perfect in the time of COVID, and as embodied as one can get, without actually being there.
“Thrilled” doesn’t begin to capture the feeling of winning the SWS prize. You’d need sound effects to convey the excitement.Laura Mitchison
We’re immensely pleased that what can be seen as a curated ‘archive’, provides a sense of magic and discovery, while also being so much fun to experience.
Ver de ouvir ao caminhar
Ver de ouvir ao caminhar, roughly translating to ‘seeing by hearing while walking’, by Antônio Carlos Queiroz Filho and Rafael Henrique Meneghelli Fafá Borges is a superb production, with a beautiful dose of inspiration, bringing this intense listening piece to the forefront of our attention.
This is truly the best award I could ever receive.Carlos Queiroz
The piece takes great advantage of the ability to walk and listen, connecting the listener with their local environment, while also transporting them to another space. Whilst it was still effective with static listening, the piece really comes alive when you take it on a walk yourself.
The work is an ambitious and innovative combination of poetry, music, field recording, studio recording, and binaural audio, and noticeably sets itself apart from other entries.
SWS20 honourable mentions
Besides the two winners, the jury felt it important to recognise two additional works as outstanding. Both works will be rewarded with a one year ‘silver’ membership for walk · listen · create, valued at 50 euros.
A Different LENS
A Different LENS, by Elspeth (Billie) Penfold, is a sound walk that takes place around Margate, and incorporates the voices of contemporary walkers, as well as the words of writers through the ages, who were visually impaired or blind.
There is an interactive map that can be accessed via computer, or walkers can navigate the landscape using their mobile phones. Those exploring the region in-person can also find signs with a QR code which prompt passersby to access the soundwalks directly.
We are delighted!Elspeth Penfold, on behalf of Thread and Word.
The jury appreciated the geolocated nature of this project, the precise mapping, the quality of the binaural recordings, and the text and images that accompanied the recordings. One juror found that repeated listening revealed many echoes between the different narratives, and the themes of blindness and sight.
As the creators wrote, this project unveils the human connections and emotional underpinnings of maps: objects that we usually consider flat, static and objective.
SandBox, by Irena Pivka and Brane Zorman, captures the period of silence during the pandemic when daily life ground to a halt, followed by the subsequent gradual return to noise. Sandbox is a downloadable, site-specific, geo-located, participatory work that invites walkers to explore the transitional spaces of railroad tracks that have awaited redevelopment for over a decade, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Artists Irena Pivka and Brane Zorman use the audio walk as a format to encourage active listening and increase sensitivity for our coexistence with the landscape. By extending an invitation to reevaluate the surrounding environment and its potential, Sandbox invites a meditation on planetary limits through the intersection of both real and fictional spaces.
Happy to receive an honourable mention among so many great and intriguing works.Irena Pivka
The jury was impressed by the use of walking as a political act and as a tool for the consideration of alternative futures. As nature rehabilitates and repopulates the abandoned area, walking participants can consider how nature reasserts and regenerates itself, and in that awareness find a vision for societal change.
With a pandemic in full swing, the producers of Sound Walk September 2020 wanted to create opportunities for creators to get involved, together, remotely, during our month-long celebration of sound walking.
We created a platform, 30 Days of Walking, through which people could book a slot and post a recording of a walk they were to undertake on a particular day, at a particular time. This in order to create a kind of month-long sound walk, or, ‘slow radio’: a process of passing on the baton from one sound walker to another.
Knowing that artists would be adhering to pandemic movement restrictions specific to the area in which they lived, artists were able to book a time slot for a short walk or for a longer meander.
We had hoped we might get a handful of people from our community who would record more than one walk and post it to our calendar.
It was to our surprise and joy that some artists took this as a challenge, and one in particular, Kelly Markovitch, not only recorded a sound walk every day in September, but included a range of activities and diversity of routes around where she lived and worked.
What was revealed to us during the month was that Kelly Markovitch grew in confidence in what she recorded and where she walked, and provided listeners with an immersive experience of the area of Nova Scotia in Canada in which she lives and works.
So it’s with great delight that we recognise Kelly for her work through a special mention as part of the Sound Walk September 2020 Awards, and support her future work through awarding her a one year ‘silver’ membership for walk · listen · create, valued at 50 euros.
If you, like us, are amazed by the gorgeous map that’s accompanying this announcement, and poured over its details, you will have found that this beautiful map is full of references to all of this year’s shortlisted projects, and more.
The map was put together by Chaim Holtjer, a long-standing map-making enthusiast from the Netherlands, and is free to use, in any way you like, but not commercially. Use it as your desktop wallpaper, send it to your friends, print it out and hang it on your wall, and join us in celebrating 2020 as an exceptional year for sound walking.
A high resolution version is available here. A very high resolution version is here.
Sound Walk September 2021
It’s already 2021, as time waits for no one. September is less than 9 months away, and submissions are already open.
What are you creating this year?
We have a few more things up our sleeves for this year, the first of which, the lovely new site you are probably reading this on being the first, so stay tuned.
Come next month, our membership plans will be open to everyone, allowing you to support us financially, and for us to grow bigger and better.
And, if you’re keen to support our work on a larger scale, contact us.
Here’s to all contributors, the shortlisted creators, and all winners. We can’t wait to see what you have in store for everyone, this year.