SWS20: Winners’ reactions

Two weeks ago, we announced the winners and honourable mentions of the Sound Walk September 2020 Awards. From a shortlist of 13, and scores of submissions, the jury was impressed with the range and quality of submissions.

We asked the creators of the pieces that won, or received an honourable mention, for their reaction.

Ver de ouvir ao caminhar

The first to respond was Carlos Queiroz, the driving force behind the winning work Ver de ouvir ao caminhar, described by the jury as a “superb production, with a beautiful dose of inspiration”.

Carlos, hailing from Brazil, responded in Portuguese. Here’s a rough translation:

“I believe that sound has always been something important to me, and this realisation started with music. I remember the experience of sitting with my father on the pavement in front of our house, listening to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Legião Urbana.
In addition, there is also an important sound-based memory that was produced inside the trucks of my uncles and my father. Sounds from the inside and from the outside that mixed the landscapes of the road, with the sound of the soul. It was still in that period, during my adolescence, that I began to learn to play the keyboard.
My teacher used to say that I ‘learned by ear’, given the ease with which I incorporated the sounds he exposed me to. But this process was interrupted abruptly; I arrived from school one day, and ran to my room to practice what I had studied in my latest class. But, when I entered, I couldn’t see my keyboard.
My parents had to sell the keyboard, because we needed the money.
It was then that, for me, music became silent, and only eventually came back to make sense in my life many years later, as an adult.
Today, due to my relationship with dance and my studies and researches round the interaction of the city with the body and language, sound has become part of my constellation of affections and my ways of doing and acting in the world.
It was in this movement that I discovered the event Drifting Bodies, Fluent Spaces: Online meeting/conference about Walking Arts.
Given the fact that the year was totally atypical (due to the Covid-19 pandemic), the event proposed that the participants should produce audio papers, with the aim of being heard by people on their walks.
Here in Brazil, we were completely barred from leaving home, and I decided, together with my student Rafael Borges, to produce a work that would provoke walks in the imagination, and in the affective memories of those who heard the sounds I produced, with sound-based multidimensional techniques from poems, and poetic proses of our authorship.
From this came the work Ver de Ouvir ao Caminhar: mapeirar narrativo dos lugares e paisagens de um corpo sonoro polyifônico (experimentações em binaural audio), written by the two of us, the audio compositions which I produced, as well as a cartography of the affections made from the experience of listening to these audios.
Having said all this, it was with immense surprise and thunderous joy that I initially received the information that the audios had been selected for the SWS20 shortlist and, now, that they have been awarded the main prize.
Receiving this award is, above all, a creative stimulus. But it is part of something much bigger, and more important, which was to have met such kind people throughout this process. This is truly the best award I could ever receive. May it echo in me other sound memories, and may they reverberate into the sensations and affections of someone who believes and defends the importance of investing more and more in art as resistance and transformation.
Thank you to the jury, friends, partners and students.”

A different LENS

Carlos’ response was quickly followed by that of Elspeth (Billie) Penfold, a textile artist who brings her experience of teaching and research into her performative work, and who lead A Different LENS, one of the honourable mentions for the SWS20 Awards, and a true community project, with collaborators including local artists, community groups and all the walkers of East Kent.
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. 

Elspeth, on behalf of Thread and Word, the arts group she founded:

“Thank you from the team at Thread and Word.
Needless to say, we are delighted to receive an honorary mention from the  SWS20 awards. It is always wonderful to receive recognition but even more so when it is from one’s peers.
The project, A Different LENS, was delivered by Thread and Word, an arts group with a fluid membership set up by the artist Elspeth (Billie) Penfold in 2014. It is a project of many voices which was enriched by the way the group rose to the challenges we faced in recreating time and space through storytelling and digital media.
A Different LENS is a celebration, and an acknowledgement, of the many ways in which we can reinterpret the world through multilayered storytelling. We want to thank you for including us in your story.”


Irena Pivka, who, together with Brane Zorman, make up Cona, and created SandBox, which also received an honourable mention, sent us a celebratory card in response.

The postcard reads:

“Happy to be part of SWS20 and to receive an honourable mention, among so many great and intriguing works. Respect and keep walking.”

In reviewing their piece, the jury was impressed by the use of walking as a political act and as a tool for the consideration of alternative futures.

The Texture of Air

Laura Mitchison, managing director at On The Record, closed the ranks. On the Record was responsible for The Texture of Air, which the jury saw as a “sonic feast, artfully produced and intelligently undertaken”.

Laura, appropriately, responded with an audio message:

“Shout out to the sound walkers of the world! ‘Thrilled’ doesn’t begin to capture the feeling of winning the SWS prize. You’d need sound effects to convey the excitement. Imagine, if you will, the sounds of a bionic ear firing up for the first time… a clanky lift shooting up to the top floor… a dollop of custard slapping down on a plate. Our entry – The Texture of Air – explored two old hospitals where you could hear these sounds. We transposed them into music and into story, with the help of staff and patients.
The title of our soundwalk is a direct quote from James, a patient who suffers from anosmia. James said – “I dunno it’s a memory maybe, the texture of air” – to describe how he relates to the world, without his sense of smell.  Funnily enough, we finished editing our sound walk just as the world population was succumbing to a strange new virus, which also changes infected people’s smell and taste.
Once the pandemic is over you can see the permanent exhibition we created for the staff and patients at their new treatment centre. Visit ‘the texture of air’ at 47-49 Huntley street, before too long, I hope.
Thanks to UCLH NHS Foundation Trust for giving us access to their extraordinary buildings and extraordinary people. Thanks to the judges and thanks for listening.”

What’s next?

We’re preparation for Sound Walk September 2021.

What are you creating this year?

Babak Fakhamzadeh

Founder SWS Online Jury 2022 SWS Online Jury 2023

Babak was working in ICT4D before it had a name (2001), never really left it, and knows how to throw together a pretty mean combination of a wide array of programming languages, both frontend and backend. He brought photomarathons to Africa (2007) and won ...

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