Sound as a map and an archive

Sound. The vibrations that travel through the air (or another medium) that can be heard when in contact with a person’s eardrum. Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh takes this definition of sound outside of physics and places it within history and urban anthropology. In his artist bio Emeka Ogboh explains that he creates soundscapes to explore how private, public and collective memories and histories are translated, transformed and encoded into sound. Through different projects sound is treated as a map and an archive.

“If you have ever been to Lagos you will understand why sound is my preferred medium. One of the first impressions of the city is the intensity of its soundscapes,” Ogboh states in an interview with Africa Is A Country.

Ogboh’s work Lagos Soundscapes directly addresses his fascination with the history and aural infrastructure of cities, particularly in Lagos. For this project a video camera and recording device captured the audio that maps out Lagos. From the sounds of cars moving to yelling bus conductors and vendors selling items to those occupying the streets, audiences can listen to a layered audio cartography that was mapped out by sonic vibrations. The beauty of this comes from the fluidity of this cartography. Unlike physical, visual maps, these sounds are present the way in which the inhabitants of the city have made sound coordinates. This kind of auditory mapping fits in with the dynamic nature of cities and the urban cultural habits of those who make the city their home.

Ogboh’s more recent sound installation Logan Squared: Ode to Philly, featuring poet Ursula Rucker, engages with sound and collective memories. Part of the citywide Monument Lab exhibition in Philadelphia, here we see Ogboh play on the idea of monuments as physical features. He presents a sound monument that features Rucker’s poetry, songs by the Chestnut Street Singers as well as Philadelphians whose ideas and memories were documented during Monument Lab’s discovery phase [Monument Lab is a public art and history project produced with Mural Arts Philadelphia]. In this work we see how sound is used as an archive in the same way that a statue or mural would be used.

Check out some of Ogboh’s older work below to get a feel for his soundscapes.



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