Ximena Alarcón: Sounding Underground


Sounding Underground: listening, performing and transforming the commuting experience

In 1997 the creation of a virtual underground was somehow a bizarre idea that the author attempted to realize. First, the representation of metaphors of a metro in a multimedia format opened ideas of what could be possible to achieve on the Internet, e.g. how sound fragments uploaded by different people could run on the same navigational interface and what this mixture is telling us about our urban culture. How does it sound?

Listening was the practice selected to perceive the whole of space and time relationships within a journey, and how these resonate with each individual. First in London, and later interconnecting the experience with Mexico and Paris, the author followed a mixed ethnographic method with commuters in each city, involving them in reflective and performative listening practices.

Sounding Underground is the resulting interface that links the three cities’ metros, along with their cultures, evoking social, symbolic and political perceptions for each listener. The process followed by participants, and the interaction with the environment by users on the Internet, have opened paths for the acknowledgement and transformation of this experience, as each underground sonic journey becomes potentially a metaphor of a commuter’s life.


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Background photo by: Eneas De Troya

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