How do you bring attention to the importance of nature to the most commercialized intersection of the world?
That was the challenge at hand for Soundwalk Collective and the result was JUNGLE-IZED: A Conversation with Nature, an immersive audio experience right in Times Square, where you can borrow Audio-Technica headphones to explore the sounds of the Amazon jungle.
We are proud to be part of their journey in launch this unique exhibit that brings the real jungle to the concrete jungle, so we sat down with the founder of the Soundwalk Collective, Stephan Crasneanscki to discuss how the project transformed from idea to reality.
Audio-Technica: First to start off, what was the inspiration behind JUNGLE-IZED?
Stephan: The first thing that came to my mind basically when I went to Times Square was the concrete jungle. In a sense we eradicate nature from it and build up our own jungle, a skyline.
I thought it would be very interesting actually to invite nature back to Times Square and have a conversation. Jungle to jungle. Concrete jungle to real jungle. To see what happens when both of these worlds confront each other. The idea is that you’re walking through Times Square and triggering hundreds of points of sounds that give you the feeling that you’re really walking in the heart of the Amazon itself.
A-T: How long did it take for JUNGLE-IZED to go from concept to reality?
Stephan: I would say it took about a year, from a good idea to reality.
A-T: During that year, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
Stephan: The biggest challenge is always to make sure what you have thought is actually feasible when recorded and composed for the intended project. Times Square is a very challenging place because of the level of sound is pretty much equal to being in a nightclub. It’s extremely loud, it’s a place where there’s no time, people are always rushing. This makes it difficult to listen and look at an art piece.
We needed to find a project, a sound piece and a visual piece, that would allow people to actually forget time. And to take time.
A-T: Before settling on Times Square, were any other major cities considered?
Stephan: Before starting with Times Square and developing JUNGLE-IZED we worked with David De Rothschild to develop this idea in Berlin, about four years ago. So the birth of this idea really came with David in Berlin. It stayed in the back of our minds, waiting for the right time to unfold itself.
Retrospectively, I really think Times Square really was the best place for this environment to start this project.
A-T: With so many distractions going on constantly in Time Square, how will JUNGLE-IZED get visitors to stop and listen?
Stephan: Of course when you go to Times Square your first thought is WOW there’s so much happening. How relevant can I be here? But then I realized it’s not about trying to fight it, but really it’s to embrace and use it. To actually be a part of it, but with a different soundtrack.
A-T: Can you give us some insight through the process of recording the soundscape?
Stephan: The recording was a collaboration with Francisco Lopez, someone I highly respect, an exceptional artist who has been recording the Amazon rainforest for the last 25 years. When we told him about the project he got very excited, so we were able to collaborate.
A-T: The interactive film is visually impressive, what’s the meaning behind the inverted imagery?
Stephan: The concept of inverted imagery really came with the landscape we were working with – Times Square. It’s the mecca of imagery, of consumption, of visual impact. As an artist coming to Times Square you wonder what kind of visual you would do to confront, to compete or to even have something relevant to say about this.
So we thought about doing inverted imagery, imagery that could only be revealed using your phone (with the invert option). This allows you to actually watch all the screens where we are projecting nature positively, so you can see nature revealing itself, and it inverts all the other commercials. Basically cancelling all the other commercials.
It’s a simple action that you can take to transform positive to negative, or transform negative to positive. The action of transforming negative to positive was a way for us to actually exist, or for a brief moment (for three minutes) to reveal nature in the heart of Times Square. And for a brief moment (three minutes) to put in silence the rest of these commercials.
It’s a very powerful experience. It [the movie] is beautiful just the way it is, by actually looking at the negative. If you are using the phone to do the inverse, it is suddenly showing all the depths of nature – the trees and the animals and the shamans. You have this beautiful movie that is talking about (in three minutes) the soul and the voice of nature.
A-T: What do you hope visitors take away from the experience?
Stephan: I think we really want to open up questioning – what is the meaning of time? What is the meaning of all the commercials around you that are selling you something? What’s the meaning of the concrete jungles we’re building? That kind of questioning is really what we’re trying to make happen.
By bringing nature into the heart of the concrete jungle we pose the idea of what happens when you cancel out all the commercials and allow you to see the nature again.
We’d like to thank Stephan for taking the time to speak with us! JUNGLE-IZED takes place in the heart of Times Square and runs through April 30.