Noise City


In 2010, for the catalog of the exhibition ARTe SONoro at La Casa Encendida, I wrote a text called “Políticas del espacio aural” [Politics of the Aural Space], in which, drawing on Karin Bijsterveld’s Mechanical Sound, I turned to the anti-noise policies rolled out by the City Hall of Madrid at the time. This connection brought forth the volubility of the concept of “noise,” and its political and economical repurposing by those who rule.

This text, I should note, which can be read in its entirety here, was practically the seed of my personal and professional penchant towards the notions of noise and silence with regards to cities. A longing and curiosity which was later continued thanks to initiatives such as Donostia Noise. Borrowing from the title of the famous Japanese documentary about noise, Tokyo Noise (2002), I produced a workshop in the now defunct center ARTELEKU in 2013. In this space we worked on the acoustic pollution of Donostia, first through reading groups, where we explored the quantification and, thus, the monetization of noise through the use of the decibel, and, afterwards, in walks through the city guided by the corresponding acoustic maps.

The podcast that Mikel R. Nieto did for Hots! Radio about the workshop ended up being a walk. Mikel and I visited some of the most complex points of the city in terms of noise that we had analysed. During this walk, it must be said, we went out for beers, talked to some neighbours and went into many bars. Thus, in the podcast you can listen to an exhaustive fieldwork, but also quite human and funny.

This investigation did not end there. At a later date this project was the source of similar initiatives such as Madrid Noise (2013), within the program of street actions ¡VOLUMEN! organized by La Casa Encendida. Madrid Noise encouraged an active and critical listening of the neighborhood of Lavapiés, guided by noise maps designed expressly for the occasion.

The results of both experiences were collected, moreover, into an academic article that I wrote in 2014, titled “(City)–Noise. A Project about Noise, Urbanism and Politics” presented in the International Congress Invisible Places Sounding Cities. Sound, Urbanism and Sense of Place of Viseu (Portugal).

Not too long after there was Málaga Noise, a reading and dialogue workshop encompassed in the cycle of critical cultures La Ciudad Demudada of La Térmica de Málaga in 2016. Taking a diversity of materials as tools (texts, movies, films, news…) we were able to shoot the same questions concerning the qualifications that pervade the laws of acoustic pollution and the very discourse of listening: What do we understand as natural or artificial sounds? Why does the music I enjoy bother my neighbor so much? What is the relationship between money and noise?

Finally a book was published under the name of Donostia Noise. It collected my workshop at ARTELEKU through a series of quotations and images in the way of documentation accompanied by a brief text of mine, and, also, a CD with the recordings of some of the acoustically conflictive areas which are necessary to understand urban noise in this city.

You can buy this book here.