A Field Guide to the Dark Ecologies of Newtown Creek is a piece of sound-walk designed by a group of media artists named The Floating Studio for Dark Ecologies (FSDE), who aim to encourage citizens to engage with urban waterways in a creative way.
It is an audio orienteering with a leaflet for the 3.8 mile waterway — Newtown Creek, where its severe industrial contamination which results from refineries and plants, hasn’t been under effective control until recent years.
It guides you to tour around and introduces the sites and history of the waterway. Beyond that, it adds some thoughts and recordings, enlightening and helping you to reflect the relationship between human beings and nature philosophically.
See what has been introduced in the tour.
1 Excellent Interaction
One of my reactions to the soundwalk is the great interaction between the audio and listener. The second-person narration closed the distance between listeners and the narrator. Moreover, by using questions, It easily arouses the interest of audience to focus on listening to the environment carefully, engage all senses, provoke their imagination when telling history of this place so as to strengthen the understanding of this place.
For example, the narrator let you take a deep breath and ask questions about your feelings. Questions encourage the listener to follow what the audio said and engage more in the experience using all senses like vision and smell.
In Track 5: The Steps“Take a deep breath in through your nose, sad with a saltwater? “
Another example here is that the narrator comes up with three sentences for listeners to complete in Track 9.
In Track 9: Foundtain“On the surface of the creek, I see _____”
“Coming to the place, I did’t expect to find _____”
“When I walk out of here, I remember _____”
They appeared just before we headed back. These three questions really reminded me to recall what I saw and constructed my experience there. The way how the sound-walk narrated maximized the interaction between the listener and the environment.
2 Philosophical Thinking
Most importantly, I think the shining point of this sound-walk is the Philosophical thinking added in. It tried to convey some deep thinking about the relationship with nature, the true concept of nature, etc, which were really enlightening when combining the real-time sceneries. I remembered that the narrator set the speculative tone at the very beginning of the sound journey by quoting John Macfee’s argument of time and human life.
Also, the narrator put forward the term “post-natural” in Track 2 (when discussing the entity of barrels). It suddenly reminded me of the famous photography work named Rhein II by Andreas Gursky. We’ve changed and shaped the landscape, intentionally or unintentionally. So what we see is not what nature looks like.
It is a good sound-walk with detailed introduction to the current creek, vivid historical background that connects you to the past, and deep thinking about how we treat with ourselves and the nature.
P.s. It’s specially designed for citizens who live in the area for a long time. It indeed helped them to open a new perspective to appreciate the normal scene. Yet it’s not suitable for tourists (like me) to visit because of the mundane landscape, no matter how good the audio guide is.