Soundtrackcity Rotterdam

Pablo Núñez Palma (Chile, 1984) has BA's in Film Directing and Aesthetics. He is currently following a Master's Degree programme in Artistic Research at UvA Amsterdam, next to the Master of Film programme.

"What happens when, instead of going to the cinema, you go out onto the streets to be a projectionist as well as a spectator of your own film? The four soundwalks of Soundtrackcity Rotterdam will change the reality into great cinematographic experiences."  When I read the offering of Soundtrackcity Rotterdam, I decide to take a chance.

It’s a cold but sunny day in Rotterdam and I am walking in Wilhelminapier wearing a big pair of headphones that keep my ears just warm enough to avoid a severe headache. With one of my hands I hold a small iPod while in the other I have a map that is supposed to guide me through the circuit. After walking for a few minutes I feel lost, but still keep on going and decrypting the map. Finally I realize the accurate directions are just the excuse for a free walk around the block. Tricky, I think. The only doubt remaining is: when should I press play on the iPod? I notice it’s already too late, I walked too far in the circuit. I see no other solution but return to the starting point.

I’m leaving the cinema for the second time with a pair of headphones on. I press play. I don’t hear instruction but it’s okay. I listen to a soundtrack with cars and wind whistles that mingles with the sound of the city. There are just a few more like me in the area. We see each other, but ignore each other. I guess we don’t feel like talking or walking together. No one told us to do so and secretly we believe that staying apart will makes us look less like tourists, so we keep it like that.

After a quarter of an hour I start to hear something new. First there is this old voice with an African accent, saying how impossible is to imagine what is going to happen. Ok, I think, this sounds like one of those BBC radio documentaries that sometimes I listen at breakfast. They are quite interesting. They are nice. After that the man stops talking and for the next half an hour I listen to testimonies of different people speaking in all kind of languages except those I am able to understand. I rethink about it for some time: this is far from being nice.

There’s this long monologue of a woman speaking in what I think is Chinese, then another woman speaking in what I suppose is an East-European language, and so on. During my walk I come across with people walking or biking with their own headphones. Would they realize that I am experiencing something much more artistic than they are? Would they understand that what I am listening to is actually connecting me with the city in a more cinematic way than the music they listen to? I think about my first days in Amsterdam, walking with no clear direction, getting lost and finding new ways in the city while listening to Sebastien Tellier’s OST for the film “Narco”. Sometimes -not so often- I do these kind of things. They give me a sense of secret adventure, of intimacy with the space. That is far beyond what’s up here, I think. What I am listening to now is not an adventure; it’s news read in foreign languages.

In the middle of my ‘tour’ I begin to foresee this is how it’s gonna be for the rest of the trip. No special circuit, no hidden objects to be found, no poetic or arty performances. It’s just me, the city and the Chinese woman talking. And please don’t get me wrong, I deeply respect the Chinese woman. She is probably saying something very important, maybe a terrible life experience, maybe something very political that I might be interested in but I just can’t get it because of the language barrier. I feel kind of offended for the lack of attention I received in this hermetic installation. It’s just too open, too misguiding and too serious. I feel abandoned by the artist or whoever is in charge of this event. Nevertheless I decide to keep going on and, just to make it more interesting, I use the time to take some pictures with my phone.
Suddenly I really start to enjoy taking pictures. After a while, I am really focused on capturing the different landscapes that coexist on the Wilhelminapier. Suddenly I hear a voice saying “End of the track”. By then I have completely forgotten the initial reasons why I was here.

Pablo Núñez Palma