Marginal stakeholders and sonic territories in motion
The research I have conducted with the supervision of CRESSON aims to explore the political dimension of sonic environment within Grenoble public spaces, with a special focus on marginal stakeholders and sonic territorialization.
Silence is maybe the first peculiarity which Grenoble gave to my long walks. While exploring and listening to public spaces my attention has kept by an incredible absence of aural everyday practices. Even the market place was quiet in the morning, and during the evening the streets of the city center were completely empty as soon as the shops were closed.
I’ve gradually started to understand this silence as a form of homogeneity where every cue was precisely in the “right” place, thus preventing me to easily uncover its problematic dynamics. Cafès and shops occupy the sonic environment of the city center through commercial music; tram bells and bicycle wheels contributes to decrease infrastructure loudness. At the same time traditional music spreads out the street stands through the multicultural area of Saint Bruno. Furthermore public life in parks is vibrant and offers a wide range of activities; from children playgrounds to music and sport events.
On one hand we could say that all these elements reflect in an ordinary and well organized environment – thus into its organized sonic sphere – but, on the other hand, what does actually break this order is the presence of a wide number of homeless. A disturbing presence, we may say following the shared feelings of a clean and rich alpine city.
By focusing on the sonic territorialization established by homeless – a series of vocal practices originated from both groups and individuals – I’ve started to be more and more interested by such a discordant ambiance. Therefore the following questions have emerged:
Which sonic traces enlighten contrasts and dissimilarities from the “common” feeling experienced by citizens? Could we talk about sonic marginality, or even identify certain kind of everyday practices which affect public and sonic space?
The core of city center represents the perfect fieldwork for this analysis. That is public spaces – especially place Grenette and Jardin de Ville – where sonic differences are louder than elsewhere. Within this frame, and rarely elsewhere, an “alternative” sonic – and of course visual – environment could be experienced due to the massive presence of the marginal stakeholders who are camping out in the parc and in certain corners of the commercial square. Here is possible to listen and experience to their practices; which are unusual for a city center and precisely for this reason conflicting.
The conflicts emerge because the range of expressions that a stranger introduce to the soundscape create an heterotopic territory which overlap, provoke and oppress the “other” everyday practices, or rather the silence previously mentioned. The creation of this unconventional territory is permitted, but not fostered, exactly where it could be more evident – in the core of the city center -and reveals the place where marginal stakeholders express their identity. What sort of identity then?
Here comes the “sonic territorialization” of homeless through their dogs and the relationship they establish with them. This aural dimension is responsible of a violent soundscape composed, among others, by the barks and the screams at the dogs. Through this perspective even voice games are easily mixed up, while the visual appearance of the groups does not help to improve the perceived scenario.
Not only groups of homeless, rather individuals are scattered within the older streets singing or lamenting, apparently without a speaker. This aural practice reveals an extremely suffering voice; not only a powerful complaint, rather the statement of a marginal stakeholder.
This system of moving aural practices creating sonic heterotopies, inquire about the creation of alternative sonic spaces. Indeed, does such vocal expressions reveal a tension which goes further from a simple “provocation”? In other words, are we helped by these aural practices to better explore the lack of understanding within social inclusion policies?
I’m convinced that it is not within noise pollution control that homeless sonic practices have to be stored. Furthermore, housing as well as working policies should be taken into account in order to disclose the reasons which lie behind all these sonic cues.
In closing, through this research I would like to examine in depth how peculiar sonic traces could be symptoms of unsolved social issues and how a sonic inquire could inform and reframe both the institutional and the citizens understanding on social inclusion.