As the common saying goes, “seeing is believing”. It seems this applies as much to physical experiences as it does to virtual ones. Whether visiting Linz in person or online, it is frequently visual perception that takes priority and informs one’s sense of place. What new realities might emerge, then, if the virtual and physical spaces of Linz are instead experienced via sound?
In Virtual Listening the audience is invited to explore this question through a site specific, participatory sonic experience. In this 10-minute experience, the audience is blindfolded and transported by the artists through the FMR 23 festival site on a specially created vehicle. During this journey the audience encounters their surroundings via a geolocated narration and soundscape, generated from AI and artist’s encounters with Linz in both physical and virtual space. A key part of these sound layers was a spoken narration. The focus of this narration was to both guide the user through the festival site, while offering various fragments discussing how digitisation and virtual worlds shape and are shaped by society. Within this work, the audience also hears additional soundscapes crafted by Jim Zweerts, a Netherlands-based sound artist and electronic music producer.
The journey ends with the audience member being safely returned to their original starting location and their blindfold removed. How has this experience changed their perception of Linz? How can they share these new auditory memories with others? With their vision now returned, can they piece together the path they traveled? Did they even travel anywhere at all? Is it that “hearing is believing”?
The project was exhibited in the FMR23 – Biennial, a festival for art in digital contexts and public spaces that took place in Linz, Austria, from June 6 to 11, 2023.
The audio used in the work can be found in the below video. Alongside this audio is a animated 3D scan of the festival site where the work was exhibited. This imagery was collected by the artists during their research and production residency in Linz during March 2023.