Visit from Ximena Alarcon

We had the pleasure of welcoming Ximena for a lunch and a chat today. She is an ethnographer and sound artist, based in the Institute of Creative Technologies, in Leicester. She spoke with us about her plans to further develop the project that was at the heart of her phd, a virtual installation about sounds and memories of the London Tube. She will be exploring the commuting experience of users of the metros of Paris and Mexico City. She has many ambitions for this new phase of her work, among them, reworking the virtual installation to integrate various aspects of it, and create the possibility of links with its counterparts in other cities.

We discussed several aspects of the project, for example, the way sounds and memories can be represented differently (textual vs aural), the linearity of commuting and the non-linearity of the installation, as well as the relation between autobiographical experiences (life courses) and memories of the Tube and the tension between soundscapes and visual material with the predominantly visual paradigm of webdesign.

Personally, I was again quite intrigued by the Ximena’s approach to fieldwork and to her installation (she had presented a small part of her project at the VE workshop last year). Her project to understand and represent experience are not based on brute force (obtaining thousands of sound samples) nor on appeals to authenticity of her observation as the all-knowing fieldworker. Rather, her way of working is highly iterative: gathering material in the company of respondents, talking to them at length, going back to them with the material gathered, reworking it, gathering once again the respondent’s reactions to the transformed material, making it part of her installation. All this work constructs a very rich version of experience that requires a lasting, growing research relationship, and one that draws beautifully on the reflexive potential of respondents.

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2 responses to “Visit from Ximena Alarcon

  1. What a coincidence!! I was speaking about Ximena to one of the researchers that I meet in Sussex last week. Holger Schulze, from the University of the Arts Berlin, works on Sonic Anthropology. There are not many people working on this field, Holger complain, so he was interested in knowing the work of Ximena. The other reseracher was Frauke Behrendt (http://mobilesound.wordpress.com/).

    Well, I send the link to both of them because I am pretty sure that they will be interested in Ximenas’s work.

  2. What a great connection Adolfo, which I’m sure will be appreciated by all parties involved–thanks! Lunchtime discussion today further focused on the interesting approach we heard about yesterday, and especially about the relation between arts and research.

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