Wednesday, 7 October 2009

screw anonymity: I want snow

I've been sitting on this for a few days as I couldn't decide whether I hated it or loved it, but I think I'm coming down in favour of the latter.

This video is part of a new ad campaign by Sony. Sony invaded the village of Seyoisfjorour in Iceland, set up speakers absolutely everywhere and pumped out music for 3 days and nights. On the project website, Sony says that they collaborated with a number of artists including Richard Fearless and the Guillemots, but it isn't quite clear whether new music was specifically commissioned for the project of if 'collaborated' just means that the artists agreed to allow their music to be used in the ad.

I've seen a number of cynical comments on various blogs where Sony is accused of Big Brother-like intrusion into an unspoilt Icelandic village. There's something not only very simple minded about such comments but also remarkably naive. In the first place, there would have been no way Sony could get away with such a project without the collaboration and agreement of the residents of Seyoisfjorour - the village also probably got a nice chunk of change in return for their participation, but these issues are pedestrian and ignore the most interesting aspects of the project.

Just a guess, but if some hip, young, Berlin-based artist initiated the project instead of Juan Cabral for Sony, I bet the general reaction would have been completely different. The idea behind the ad is fantastic. I can't remember the number of times I've thought how cool it would be to have a soundtrack for life which is exactly what's happening. I don't think anyone could stand such a thing for more than a few days, but I love the idea of an experience shared by an entire community.

I only know of one other similar project - one that aims to tap into this idea of a city-wide shared experience - and that's the Emotional Cities project in Stockholm. A Swedish agency Farfar collaborated with artist Erik Krikortz to design a project which reflected the emotional state of Stockholm-dwellers and projected it via coloured lights onto sky scrapers in the centre of Stockholm. To get involved, residents log in to the EC website to update their mood, which is then collated and averaged with all other respondents and the corresponding colour is projected on the building 24-hours a day. Such an interesting idea to have a visual gauge of how everyone in the city is feeling.

While I think the Sony project only works because it's in a small village, I don't think the results are any less interesting - perhaps even more so - in big cities. In fact, it's probably more important to encourage large-scale collaborative projects in big cities, where a sense of community is often difficult to come by. And before you say that people live in cities for the anonymity and don't really care about that lack of community, I charge you to think of the NYC blackout in 2003 (a lovely post of someone's experience of the blackout here) or the big snow storm in London earlier this year where everyone I know took the day off to go play in the parks. City-wide shared experiences change people for the better, even if only for a day or two. As far as I'm concerned, the more of that the better, and while I'd prefer if such endeavours weren't financed by corporate communications companies, if that's the only way to make it happen (apart from mother nature and father energy grid), then so be it.

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