Oracle invited me last year to write a text regarding their practice. The writing project was originally planned as an exchange while travelling together one week on the Buratinas boat, navigating on the canals and rivers starting from Brussels. Due to the sanitary conditions with the Covid19, the trip together could not be realised or at least was complicated.
Instead of seeing the situation as an obstacle, I saw it as an opportunity to travel with them from afar. Me, living outside the city and them, inside. My question was ‘how, through their voices echoing with the urban spaces, will I imagine the city’s everyday life?’. Because one of the things that Oracle’s practice does, is to offer ways to perceive and encounter the city and its inhabitants.
For the following texts I was inspired by the records Oracle sent me every day during one week. Besides that, the book Invisible Cities written by Italo Calvino gave me a way of structuring my imagination. Regarding the genre, I opted for a kind of ‘sci-fi storytelling’ that offered me as an artist (because I am not a writer) the idea of being able to reach limits beyond the daily news and instead, get closer to the (their) little stories of our (their) everyday life.
Record: Monday, 8.06.2020
It’s 5:30 in the morning.
We’re on the edge of a magpies’ grounds and a crow’s stairway.
On our right side: two beings observing manifestations between volatiles in the city of Aurora, dislocate from the urban scores. They pique my curiosity and I follow them.
A whirring stone goes by and drives us to silent distancing. Enraged dogs line up beneath the fortifications and we take shelter in the breeze that blows through the foliage. The morning train opens its drawer and lets in the shivering notes. The train is empty of public, only the street cleaner gives his attention. At least for a while and then goes back to work.
The two beings continue their route, meandering along the canals. The nation in the background is still sleeping very deeply. I am still here following them in their shadow. Their voices stream with the low-frequency floods. The magpies have joined us and poke the mic. They snatched phrases along the way: “Another time, another place”, “Just like Z”, “The owls are in danger in the administrative towers”, …
A technological meme rips, copies, transforms, reprograms the sound waves from floor surfaces and lets us embrace the pavements before we leave.
Record: Tuesday, 9.06.2020
Opera is a dramatic city delineated in one or more zones, set to music for singers and instrumentalists. Every Tuesday of the month the zones unite and mix the dissonances. You find there an amazing cultural diversity where everyone finds their place. The people who live there are called ‘los banditos’. They are quite shy and wear masks made of different colours. During their union the ‘los banditos’ pull off their masks and raise their voices. While they are tuning their chords, they occupy the most exotic positions.
There is also a dark side to Opera, namely the existence of a continuous noise that never leaves the urban landscape alone. This noise intensifies over the years and one day the ‘los banditos’ will have to leave the city, because it simply will be unbearable.
But in the meantime, they don’t worry too much. Every pave, balustrade, boat buoy, flagpole or mailbox is a good guide to face and tune the voice. They all prefer to go to the largest turbine that stands slightly elevated above the city bushes. They have a code name for this place: C.Y.R.B. The people from outside the city have no idea what this code stands for, only that it refers to that place. The ‘los banditos’ like to rage in the turbine. It amplifies their sounds and disparities throughout the urban landscape. Their actions discolour life over the years.
Time never stands still in Opera; it keeps falling and sounds like rubbish. A seagull assists him and asks himself: “Hoooooooooooooow? Hoooooooooooooow? Hoooooooooow? Hooooooooow to go outside? How can it be okay? Hooooooooooooow?” Think of it as a daily ritual where the seagull picks the time up at noon and coordinates the day for tomorrow.
Record: Wednesday, 10.06.2020
Pulmonis is a very attractive and graceful city. She is irresistibly beautiful.
Unfortunately, she evaporates slowly in the wind.
The city is only accessible by steam train. Once you arrive in the station hall, the public messages twitter in your direction: “Take care of your loved ones and eat crap food!”, “Frau Schwein Kein takes care of your skin, go there in a minute!”, “Keep babbling, babbling, babbling bus, baabbbelaaaa, babbelooo”, … Once you get out of the station hall, you enter one large piazza.
That’s Pulmonis! One large piazza!
The entire piazza is populated by people sitting at running turntables. No scratch void exists. They talk to each other all day long and can’t live without the series of buzzing noises engraved by the phonograph.
They never change places either, they just speak different languages. The only beings that move around, are a kind of mosquitoes that meander around and along the tables at different scales. They whisper the sound of shifted stones in people’s ears and promise that the lungs will be rolled up in a pipe. Then the lungs will be taken to a sidekick healer who will smoke the pipe.
On the periphery of the piazza, there are men and women working all around, opening cardboard boxes. So far no one’s been able to see what’s in those boxes.
Maybe that’s where Pulmonis’ secret lies?
Record: Thursday, 11.06.2020
The floors of streets and boulevards are vertical and endless in Attacca. You can travel all your life without ever having seen the whole city. To traverse the different neighbourhoods without pauses, you have to bounce from one level to another. That’s for athletes. For those who are less sporty but reckless, there is the possibility of riding on aerial platforms. Once you’ve reached a floor, all the transport facilities you can think of are provided.
The sun and moon live side by side. So do the day and the night. They make no distinction between each other. This phenomenon creates very remarkable meshes in the vegetation. Everyday life thus has strange hybrids, un-integer combinatorics and irregular fractals.
On every street corner you have signal transmitters that notify you whether or not you can/may infiltrate actions distorted by foggy glasses. The city is built on massive power and you wonder where they get those resources from… They’ve never come to a total meltdown. You could say it’s the most ideal city ever! But hasn’t every idyll something unheard of?
Well, if you dig deep enough in the fibre optics, you might encounter the Echo glass. A mysterious whispering voice inhabits it. Depending of the pulse, the voice whispers a coding, a warning, a welcoming, a lullaby or a statement. The Echo glass spans the entire city in its verticality. The only person the mysterious voice avoids is Mr. Boom. So, stay away from her with him.
Record: Friday, 12.06.2020
Aerea is built on one main street that consists of several alleys polluted with ads. In the epicentre of Aerea a gigantic playground is nestled which will keep growing over the years. The expanding construction, composed of small and large tubes, features various materials and textures: steel, grass, glass blocks, sand, stone, paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, polyethene, … The richness of materials implies that you experience particular acoustic dimensions according to your position.
You easily orient yourself, because each tube has its specific colours and aromas;
- when you approach the orange-yellow tubes, you usually hear children playing with a ball,
- the green-yellow tubes often host rotating Merry-Go-Rounds,
- the red-purple tubes emit isolated voices that crave not to move. They look out to live within their territory and rage all day long with memories from their childhood,
- the blue-green tubes house telegram messages becoming indecipherable from day to day. It’s a real pity because that’ s how Aerea loses her memory bit by bit,
- the brown-yellowish tubes will be accessible when 5G arrives.
Then, you glide from the slide to the swing, fly to the seesaw and are catapulted to the monkey bar, to finally crash into the black & white tubes where you are rocked to sleep by a kind of Gregorian chants.
In the background of this community: motorbikes, cars, trams, bicycles ride on the sides of the main street silencing the horizon lines.