“Surface Level” is an audio walk that is experienced via a GPS enabled mobile device. This first iteration has been written for a particular block on the West side neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. The format and concept of the walk, however, is translatable to any number of different neighborhoods, in any city. It is configurable for a walk around a block or a walk down several blocks.
Beginning with an observation of elements of the neighborhood and ending in a series of poetic fragments, Surface Level is a transformation of the act of noticing.
The audio script is designed to take the participant from observed exterior viewpoints to imagined interior viewpoints. The exterior observations are tied to details of the specific site, in this case, the block between Connecticut Ave, 17th Street, Vermont Ave, and 16th street. In the second half of the walk, the poetic fragments suggest what people inside the houses may be doing, and take the format of an action paired with a pronoun. The aim of the piece is to attune the participant to small often unnoticed details of the neighborhood, to consider what those details might signify, and to elicit a curiosity of the lives beyond the walls of each house. This particular walk specifically highlights elements of change and shift along this block; The Westside of Buffalo is currently referred to as the "renaissance" neighborhood of the city, and as such is prominent in local conversations about urban rehabilitation and gentrification. This work attempts to place the subject of urban change into real space at the street-level, and through transforming the 'act of noticing' into imagined mini-narratives, push through the material representations of this change to connect to the present moments of lived-in spaces.
Surface Level is meant to be experienced with noise-canceling headphones. Each observation or poetic fragment that comes over the headphones is padded by silence. This is to focus and clarify the sense of sight.