British Council Creative Economy

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9 April 2014

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire

Natasha Chubbuck and Katherine Jewkes reflect upon their first few days in Recife, as the second instalment of Recife: The Playable City speeds into gear.

Reclaiming the River (Natasha Chubbuck)

"It's Monday morning on Day 3 in Recife, and we're sat in the cool offices of Porto Digital. My group have taken a moment to do solo work for an hour or so on the project reflecting on the conversations and sights and sounds of the city from the last few days.

We met together on Saturday morning for a tour of Porto Digital, before splitting off into our teams – my team decided to start by walking around Recife- visiting the market, talking to local people, getting a feel for the city. The important thing, I think, was to feel grounded in the place where we were going to make work, and it was fantastic to have such brilliant guides in our Brazilian colleagues.

Sunday was all about idea generation, contemplating the type of work we wanted to make, and the questions we want to ask through the work - lots of post-it notes were thrown up on the walls, and common themes began to come to light: story, bringing people together, abandoned buildings, play, art armoury, maps.

In the afternoon we visited a Favela by boat, which was a brilliant way to see a new part of the city in a new way. When we got to the Favela we spent some time at an event called Reclaiming the River, which was organised by local artists in Recife." Read on here.

Sonic Branches and Transformative Telescopes (Katherine Jewkes)

"Our first day of making kicked off with constructing a full-scale version of a telescope, and a working prototype of the 'sonic branches' we had previously developed. We're still working to refine the technology, but the finished item will be programmable to play a range of stories about local people and places. The casing of the telescope is changeable, to feature different designs that relate to the story the telescope tells. Laura created some beautiful designs that echo a local style we've been inspired to use on both projects - a 'xilogravura' or woodcut look that appears in graffiti all over the city.

On Monday we ran our first test with the 'sonic branches', with some unexpected results! It seems that the system goes haywire when confronted with 30 degree heat and humidity, resulting in some music playing with no need for touch pads - making contact with the humid walls of the PortMídia building was enough to set the music off - how's that for playable!

In this version, the foil plates and text from Bristol have been replaced with hands made from conductive matting, installed directly into the street. The first test was loud, a little shambolic, but a lot of fun, and drew a lot of attention from passers-by and office workers, who watched with puzzled expressions from a distance or coming to talk to us about what was going on.

This first test proved that we're on to a good thing with the concept of public and collaborative music making, but made us realise there are environmental factors in Recife that make a big difference to the functionality of the project!" Read on here.