Listening to Abu Dhabi
Speculative Soundwalk, Creator, 2018
Listening to Abu Dhabi is a Speculative Soundwalk that guides listeners through a technologically mediated experience of the city’s past and future. It is designed to be heard using the Echoes app, while moving along the Abu Dhabi Corniche, with each piece being triggered to play as you progress down the path.
The project draws on research in climate data, history and urban planning to explore how Abu Dhabi residents’ relationship to the city will change as sea levels and temperatures inevitably rise, as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Comprised of 13 sound pieces mapped to specific locations along the Corniche (one of the city’s most popular beaches), the project uses the GPS app Echoes to walk listeners through soundscape compositions that imagine the past, present and future sounds of the city. It utilises and explores embodied listening in space as a tool for deepening relationship to place, and in doing so, aims to facilitate and foster a personal relationship to the climate data it presents.
Each piece is a soundscape composition and narration that imagines a specific moment in history, from the Stone Age, to the 20th Century, to the Present Day, and up to the end of the 21st Century. Listeners progress chronologically along the walking path, ideally beginning 25 minutes before the sunset Maghrib call to prayer for optimal environmental conditions. The piece should be experienced through headphones, in situ, to fully experience the immersive stereo soundscapes and feel the tension between hearing familiar soundscapes become strange, while walking through a familiar environment.
Throughout the walk I repeatedly ask them to listen, and imagine, and reflect on their bodily existence in the present day. In presenting speculative soundscapes of a changing climate, mediating an encounter between bodies and space, Listening to Abu Dhabi uses imagination to foster thoughtful interaction with climate data. It asks listeners to actively engage with their relationship to Abu Dhabi by imagining the future and their responsibility to it.
Download the Echoes app to experience this piece (and many others) in situ.
Not currently in Abu Dhabi? Listen to the piece in playlist form below, and download my Capstone thesis paper to read more.