Reflection – Sounds and visions from the city

Part of the ‘Street art’ exhibition at ‘The Herbert’ was ‘Nowhere Near Here’ – a stop motion video by Panhl, a street artist from Oxford. It consisted of long exposure stop motion footage of Oxford in the night plus light stencil animation of small animals – cats, dogs and other creatures typically found in cities. It used a song by Röyksopp (‘What Else is There’) as a background.

The video was fragmented, and it was showing the city from a different perspective – when the sun goes down, the streets have a different life. There are street lamps, empty streets, cars lights and a general feeling of loneliness. In the middle of this, some animated small animals were the main characters – the only ‘living’ creatures in the video. The whole video was about them doing their natural things – going through the streets, meeting other animals, making friends and playing, etc.

I was touched and inspired by this video – it shows a whole new layer of the city life, a hidden world most people don’t even suspect exists. Another aspect of it is that tells a story from the animals’ perspective. The effect is that we sympathise with the animals, because they are natural, innocent, don’t have hidden thoughts – if the story had been told with human characters, it wouldn’t have felt authentic at all. So, the animals were a very good choice, and they also create the feeling of objectivity.

The video made me think about the city stories we’ll never know – if the streets could speak, they would’ve told us about a whole different world that is parallel to ours. There are different creatures, different types of friendships, relationships, stories… It is an ecosystem of its own.

‘Nowhere Near Here’ also inspired me for the ‘Coventry Sounds’ mix – a 1:31 min. recording of the city soundscape. Unlike Panhl’s video, where there was no sound of the city (the soundtrack was only Röyksopp’s music), my recording is all about the city sounds. However, both approaches have a lot in common, and I think the most important aspect is trying to understand and feel the city.

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