Listening is not a natural process inherent to our perception of the world but rather constructed by the conditions of the spaces and times that engulf us. Cairo is popularly known as one of the noisiest cities in the world, owing most of its sonic constitution to traffic. Through the din of vehicles many Cairenes carve out a space for themselves, using loudspeakers to cut through the sonic mass and achieve audibility within it. These multifarious amplified terrains produce a dense and manifold audio-urbanity.
Through a series of devices, thisexhibitionattempts to employ the technological artifacts of the city as a means to document, inhabit and map its complex acoustic topography. Its main constituent is the cassette sermon, a once hugely popular medium of audio consumption that has almost disappeared from Cairo’s streets nowadays. What used to be a prolific and highly political medium of islamic ethical circulation has now given way to digital means of distribution. Second hand and home duplicated cassettes are nonetheless still available in shops and street stalls across the city.
Tape Echo seeks to revive once more this almost extinct audio form. Rather than archiving the tapes or registering their content, they are used as a medium to document the contemporary sonic constitution of the city, overdubbing the original content with recordings of the loudspeaker jurisdictions that make up its acoustic fabric. Since magnetic tape never deletes its content but merely realigns the magnetic particles it contains, the original sermons remain at the base of all new sounds recorded onto them. In that sense, the tapes operate as non-blank canvas, as a medium which is both part of the city’s acoustic history and a means to document its contemporary voice.
The exhibition combines three distinct sound installations with a series of large microscopic scans of the cassette surfaces. This visualization of their physical features proposes another means of social cartography, one that amplifies the material and auditory aspects of some of the territorial and ideological conflicts and negotiations alive in today’s Cairo.