June 24th, 2010
Shawn Micallef, Gabe Sawhney and contributors
Features: Stories told by city residents
Production credits: Shawn Micallef and Gabe Sawhney
Launch date: 2003
[murmur] is a Toronto-based collective, collaborating on a location-based archival audio project of first-person stories and memories related to particular urban locations, as told by people with a personal connection to the story material. A distinctive green ear-shaped street sign is mounted at each place with a story connected to it, displaying a phone number passersby can call on their mobile phones to access that location’s stories, or to leave their own.
At its core, [murmur]’s mission is to allow more voices to be woven into the “official” narrative of a place or city, democratizing the ability to shape people’s perspectives of place, and making cities, neighbourhoods and ordinary places come alive in new ways for listeners.
[murmur]’s stories, though personal or even purely anecdotal, inevitably reveal elements of the wider social, civic and political history of a given spot, its surrounding location, and the communities and individuals connected to it. And each story’s details truly come alive as the listener walks through, around, and into the narrative.
By engaging with [murmur], people develop a new intimacy with their surroundings and “history” acquires a multitude of new voices, while the physical experience of hearing a story in its actual setting – of hearing the walls talk – brings uncommon knowledge to common space, bringing people closer to the real histories that make up their world, and to one another. [murmur] also allows participant storytellers to become community artists themselves – participants in the act of transforming place, and creating and linking communities, through story and public art.
The physical marking of the story access spots, by pole-mounted metal signs at street level, also lets these stories become part of the physical urban landscape, giving tellers the opportunity to leave a tangible, lasting mark on the communities that inspired their stories, and mapping their experiences onto space together with others who have shared, or continue to share, that space.
Community members and visitors can dip in and out of the collections as they go about their daily lives, and once they have, the hope is the storied spots will continue to resonate with new levels of meaning and historical association, far beyond the occasion of first listening.
Showcase written by Andrew Wilson