Cities are fundamentally shared spaces. Whether it’s in parks, plazas, or public libraries – we gather together and become something bigger. It is in these shared spaces that we have historically generated some of the most influential cultures, disruptions, and ideas that the world has ever seen.
Jason Sweeney, a self-described recluse by nature, has been seeking out quiet spaces in big urban landscapes ever since he moved to the busy heart of Melbourne in 2007. The apartment he lived in was underground, no windows and no natural air. He didn’t last long in that bunker-like atmosphere, but it did inspire him to start thinking about how much he craved silence and quiet, even as much as he, a musician and performer, loved the boom and bang of the nightclub.
It’s much easier to find noise, at present, but Sweeney and his team of designers and artists are changing that through the participatory art project Stereopublic: Crowdsourcing the Quiet. With support from the City 2.0 Award and the Creative Australia initiative, they created an online space where people can essentially geo-locate and crowd-source quiet spaces. Using an iPhone app and interactive website, it asks you to navigate your city for quiet spaces, share these spaces with your social networks, take audio and visual snapshots, experience audio tours and even request original compositions made using your recordings.
The desire here is to create a ‘quiet revolution’ across the globe and to increase the “sonic health” of the city—both for everyday introverts, but also for people with disabilities, like autism and schizophrenia, who crave less sensory stimuli. Sweeney, a sound artist, gets participants to record their own sound and/or voices in these spaces, and then he remixes and sends back to them.
Stereopublic was officially premiered at the 2013 Adelaide Festival, which was followed by further engagement via public downloads of the free Stereopublic iPhone app through the iTunes store. The project has been re-designed to be GPS-enabled for anywhere in the world allowing full access where possible and has gone on to launch internationally, encouraging multiple forms of collaboration – with artists and key creative partners – and participation — with audience and community. There has been ongoing national and international engagement from audiences such as educators, students, musicians, community advocates and urban planners. To date, there are up to 50 cities around the world participating in the project with interest from people in new cities almost every day.
The next main iteration of the Stereopublic ‘quiet world’ is the project Sound Introversion Radio – which was launched at the 2014 Adelaide Festival –and is a 24/7 experimental and ambient online music channel that invites public participation of ‘quiet’ sound works, field recordings, playlisting and, most importantly, ears for listening. The online channel continues as both an automated ambient music portal and a programmed space for live events throughout the year.
A web and smartphone based platform where people can crowdsource and geo-locate quiet spaces.
Jason Sweeney’s interdisciplinary practice in the last 12 years has been in the emerging, risk-taking, and constantly developing fields of digital art and technology, music composition, sound installation, performance art, participatory public projects, online art, experimental film, and screen culture. He has collaborated across Australia with leading performing arts companies, film production houses, experimental art spaces, public broadcasters, community organisations and cultural centres. He has built a vast international network of collaborators, comrades and artistic associates. His core collaborators on Stereopublic are Martin Potter, Nick Crowther, Amy Milhinch and the programming/design team at Freerange Future. As a composer of electronic music, he has also been releasing music internationally with two bands, Panoptique Electrical and Pretty Boy Crossover, via the record label, Sensory Projects.