In a collective workshop, media artist Johanna Steindorf and the participants explored the artistic format of the audio walk as an experimental method of urban research from a feminist intersectional perspective. The focus was placed on listening as a method of exploration and intervention.
The audio walk creates different approaches to the urban space: While walking through the city, different contents are played through headphones, which are tailored to the specific places. The sound directly influences what is perceived with the other senses. Just like a kind of “augmented reality,” what is heard changes the environment and determines how it is experienced. In this way, a notion of city emerges that emphasizes that the city is embedded in situational contexts and in social groups, and that knowledge of the city is actively constructed by listeners in interaction with the urban environment and other people in these situations.
In the project “Feminist City”, urban spaces of Cologne were analyzed with special regard to the social dimensions of “gender” and made tangible in the form of audio walks. The book of the same name “Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World” (2021) by Leslie Kern served as a starting point. In Feminist City, Kern takes a look at power structures that take effect in public spaces and point to social inequalities. She asks which everyday routines are foregrounded and which are neglected in the planning of urban spaces. How are different bodies and identities given access to urban space, or how indeed is it made more difficult? What potential does a city have to improve the lives of its inhabitants? What does a feminist city look like?
Four audio walks were created in response to Kern’s observations of urban spaces and her theses on a feminist city, exploring how women experience urban spaces in Cologne. The GPS-located walks were developed in teams of three to four participants using the app Guidemate, with topics based on chapters from Kern’s book: “City of Fear,” “City of Girlfriends,” “City of Individuals,” and “City of Men.” The audio walks attempt to make these specific perspectives on the city more tangible and to show those mechanisms of power that are negotiated through the appropriation and use of space by the groups of people addressed in each case. They make clear how much the experience of urban space is defined by how our bodies look, are perceived, how they move, and by which previous experiences they are shaped. The audio walks also include participatory and playful elements that invite listeners to interact.
Public Presentation of the audio walks:
Fr., 2. December 2022, 13.15 and 16.00 Uhr, meeting point Köln International School of Design, Ubierring 40, 50678 Köln
Organized by Johanna Steindorf with Yvonne Lober in exchange with Sonja Gaedicke (Institute for Gender Studies TH Köln), FrauenMediaTurm – Feministisches Archiv und Bibliothek and Decolonize Cologne.
An event of the »Open Universities« of the TH Köln and the University of Cologne, sponsored by the RheinEnergie Stiftung as part of the focus topic »Society and Digital Transformation«. Gesellschaft und digitale Transformation.
»City of Fear« (12:48 min) by Citraningsih Sophia Amongsari, Malte Maximilian Kern, Özlem Gelgec
»City of Friends« (14:20 min) by Kira Liedtke, Celina Schmidt, Francis Enie Trogemann
»City of One« (6:00 min) by Emma Marlen Kohlemann, Julia Demirsoy, Nils Benjamin Selman, Lisa Stoffels
»City of Men-Made Audio« (14:05 min) by Mai Albattat, Yining Jin, Juliana Gutierrez Cática
The media artist Johanna Steindorf deals with themes of migration, nomadism, gender, perceiving and being perceived in public space and with the corresponding construction of private space. Traveling through and living in different countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America shape the works of the Quito-born German-Brazilian, which she often expresses using narrative and mobile strategies through participatory performances, audio, video and photography. She studied communication design at the PUC- Rio de Janeiro and audiovisual media at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. In her dissertation Speaking from Somewhere: Der Audio-Walk als künstlerische Praxis und Methode (2019) at the Bauhaus-University Weimar, Johanna has dealt intensively with the audio walk – both theoretically and practically – and has been teaching at various universities since 2015, preferably on the audio walk, but also on other topics at the intersections of art, design, urban space and research. https://johannasteindorf.de
Image: Johanna Steindorf, Street Haunting, 2021.