With the overuse of radio frequency bands for wireless communications, there comes the increased occurrence of crossed lines where a private conversation becomes accidentally shared. To create this interactive sound piece, Saturday, I used walkie talkies, CB radios, and various other forms of consumer spy (or \’security\’) technology in order to actively harvest such communication leaks. Saturday forms a uniquely intimate portrait of the community of Humboldt Park, Chicago through a composite presentation of conversations stolen on Saturdays in the park. Saturday is a sound based artwork that participants experience through a custom designed glove interface.
When I began working with wireless sound technology, I was started by the sheer quantity of non-phone, low tech, radio transmissions that were constantly being sent around my neighborhood. Humboldt Park is a lower income, racially mixed neighborhood of Chicago. The transmissions included communications between gang members on street corners nearby and group conversations between friends talking about changes in the neighborhood and their families. There were raw, intimate conversations and often even late night sex talk between potential lovers. There is a furtive quality to most of these conversations and also a particular daringness in their tone. During the series of Saturdays, I also recorded the sounds of my neighborhood – the women singing out their windows to their radios, the young men in their low rider cars circling the block, the children, the ice cream carts, etc. These are the sounds that are mixed in the piece. And, these are the sounds that literally drip from participant’s fingertips in Saturday.
Saturday is presented in the form of an interactive glove. In order to hear the audio, participants magically just press their fingertips to their forehead and they hear the sound without the use of their ears. The glove is outfitted with leading edge audio electronic devices called “bone transducers” which make this possible. These transducers transmit sound in a very unusual fashion. They translate sound into vibration patterns which resonate through bone. This is the same process as the natural hammer and anvil system inside our inner ears which allows us to perceive sound. Since the bone transducer does all this work artificially, it allows you to hear crisp audio without it being played out loud or through headphones. So, even if a user covered their ears and then placed their fingers to their temples, they still ‘hear’ the sound.
This piece permits a new way of listening. The user places their fingers to their forehead – in a gesture akin to Rodin’s The Thinker or of a clairvoyant – in order to tap into the lives of strangers. Pressing different combinations of fingers to the temple yield plural viewpoints and group conversations. These sounds are literally mixed in the bones of the listener.