“I am interested in how audio affects our perception of the physical world. We understand three-dimensional space by using our vision , but also by the character of sounds we hear. If these sounds are manipulated and changed, then our perception of reality can be drastically affected”
One of the most important and prolific parts of Janet Cardiff’s practice is her Audio walks.
Her first walk was generated from a residency at the Banff Centre, Alberta- Canada. Entitled Forest Walk (1991), she describes it as “the prototype for all the walks that followed”, although admitting to its technical inconsistencies.
By 1996, Cardiff had developed the idea (and her technical proficiency) to create Louisiana Walk #14 for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, Denmark. In this piece a “filmic soundtrack” is created, which was then destined to become the “format or style that [she has] been experimenting with ever since. ” Cardiff layers multiple voices to create tension and to alter the listener/walker perception of time. This method has similarities to those used in The Whispering Room, but differs in the use of single source of sound (the headphones). This creates an intimacy as the thoughts of artist temporarily merge into the mind of the participant.
Munster Walk (1997) was created when Cardiff was commissioned to create a walk for the Munster Skulptur Projekt. The idea of commissioning of an audio piece for traditional sculpture festival provoked a realisation for Cardiff. The idea was the “walk as sculpture.” This gave her insight in what she was doing with her walks and to some extent, her work as whole.
The notion, ‘walk as sculpture’, expels traditional thoughts that sculpture can only exist as something physical. The instructions, which the participants follow, encourage them navigate a space according to the privileged perspective of the Artist. This is similar to how one experiences physical things in sculpture: one navigates the empty space around the sculpture according to its lines and contours, which have been formed by the privileged technique of the artist. In sculpture, one is moved by visual instructions, whereas with the walk one is moved by aural instruction. So in the realm of theory- an audio walk becomes one and the same with a sculpture. The collision of these ideas are pertinent through out the rest of Cardiff’s work, in particular with The Forty Part Motet, which explores the spatial qualities of sound.
For those of you wishing to experience one of Janet Cardiff’s walks, there has been one created in London called The Missing Voice: Case Study B (1999). It begins at the now defunct Whitechapel Library and meanders around London’s east end. It is available to download here
Image and quotes courtesy of