Places, Sounds, Words: Sound Art and Photography by Sirpa Jokinen
How do we find ourselves situated in the world? What constitutes the sense of place? Where do we get our bearings?
For Places, Sounds, Words, Helsinki artist Sirpa Jokinen explored these questions through a series of exchanges with people in Moscow and San Francisco. Some were her friends; others were strangers. She asked them to take her to a place of some personal importance. She photographed them there and, with sensitive microphones, recorded both the sounds of the sites and her interlocutors’ explanations of their significance.
By focusing on sound, Jokinen challenged the apparently immediate, objective givenness of experience, implied by sight, presenting the sense of place rather as dynamic, relational, and temporal. In the distance, a man called out for his friend. The wind came up and then died away. A passing skateboard interrupted the stillness of the day. Listening then to her contributors’ explanations of the meanings these places held for them, these dynamics were shown to be value laden, highly subjective, and deeply personal. A garden was defined not merely by its flowers and a fence, but rather as a place one woman shared with her husband. A street corner was defined not merely by its stores and traffic signals, but as the scene of one man’s first outing alone as a boy—with all the promise and apprehension it entailed.
Beyond the merely physical, Jokinen explored the poetic constitution of place. And, by juxtaposing interviews from Moscow and San Francisco, she revealed these poetics to be socially and historically qualified, as well as highly personal.