Audio walks: Frederiksberg, Hanstholm and getting lost

A clutch of audio walks has come along of late. Three main types:

Falling more or less into the first category, I’ve just listened to a series of 10 audio files from Frederiksberg Stadsarkiv about the area during the First World War – see Syndikalister, kunstnere og gullaschbaroner (map). (Frederiksberg is an enclave with Copenhagen, a separate municipality, which means it does its own thing culturally.)

Part of the recent Golden Days Festival, the files are also available as an app, which does offer a map, but they work just as well as podcasts. At over eight minutes in some cases they might feel too long to listen to in situ, where there were also pictures and text on stands during the festival. Content heavy, I don’t feel I’ve retained much in the medium to long term, and I’m more likely to go back to the text versions which popped up on the blog.

Bill Aitchison highlights a feature of this sort of audio tour: “You look on the map, walk to number 1 then press play and listen. When that’s finished you look at the map, go to number 2, press play and so on.” More effective, although more onerous to create, are tours which offer directions and a commentary at the same time, “so that you walk with it and it talks to you throughout”.

An example of this type of audio walk is the Energy Walk at Hanstholm, a small town on the north west coast of Jutland with several claims to fame. As well as its fortress bunker, Europe’s biggest fortification from the Second World War, the town has the largest industrial harbour in Denmark, with ferries to the Faroes and Iceland, and is a centre for marine energy. Traces can be found in the area from both prehistoric times and the Vikings.

The Energy Walk, developed as part of the Alien Energy project (Facebook | fanzine) running at Copenhagen’s IT University under its Energy Futures banner, brings all this together. Launched on 6 September in Hanstholm – see the photos or listen to the audio (English and Danish) – until 1 November you can collect a digital walking stick at Færgegrillen in Hanstholm, should you be passing, and follow the walk that way, although it works fine as a podcast.

This one takes a more lyrical approach, with the English version narrated by ethnographer Laura Watts, who blogs at Sand14. I have to admit to finding it a tad tiresome in places, although traces have stayed with me.

Finally, coming up on Friday 3 October at 18:30 BST is Fracture Mob, an audio led flash mob by artist Jennie Savage, who is inviting people all over the world to get lost simultaneously:

This audio walk invites you to become lost in your familiar geography and the fictional sonic landscape of the audio guide, where you will encounter street markets, shopping malls, beaches and birdsong recorded in enigmatic locations. The artist’s instructions to walk are the same for us all, however each of us will interpret her directions, walk at a different pace, become lost in familiar territories and, of course, inhabit different landscapes.

The walk can be followed live on the day or downloaded as a 30 minute ambient soundscape in three flavours: wanderer, idler or drifter. Meet points have been set up at various locations, including Christianshavn metro. The walk was commissioned by Plymouth Arts Centre and coincides with the opening of the Walk On exhibition, still doing the rounds – hear Jennie talk about it and her other work on Talking Walking.

While I’m getting the intention behind all this, the performative aspect is troubling and when I’m walking I like to be in the moment, it’s kind of the point. But getting lost, or waylosing, is turning into one of those tropes – see the experimental travel tag. On the day I will be in Venice, however if you are tempted to participate do let me know how you get on. Update: Bill Aitchison on following the tour in Beijing, and hear Charlotte Spencer and friends describe Walking Stories, a similar performance undertaken by groups of 20 in a park.

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