I’ve tried writing this piece about the Sound Swarm in Hamburg a half dozen times. It won’t come out. It was too tremendous a labor, should have written in installments.
Summary: the Sound Swarm is a rolling loudspeaker orkestra, a loose choreography of bicycles whose together form a distributed mobile sound system to be used for direct action interventions or just ripping a whole in the fabric of everyday life.
Aggregated into sub-swarms according to our tools: ants with megaphones hats, birds with home-made resonant 5-gallon bucket speaker systems, fish with a collection of 80′s boomboxes, and bees with megaphones mounted on tall crutches. Each of these groups was fed a distinct audio channel via four fm transmitters mounted on the queen bee, a type of chariot built from two tall bikes with a cockpit in the center for the sound controller. The queen is armed with so many batteries, cables, gadgets, and antennas that it looked more lunar landing craft than anything for use on this planet. One of the festival curators called it “something from the next century”. We can only hope she is right, that the art of the future will be made from junk, powered by human sweat, and defy the law.
Being in the cockpit had to qualify as one of my personal favorite “performance” experiences, as we rolled off curbs, over cobblestones, through grass, dodging police, sometimes cowering under a plastic sheet during brief rain showers, while controlling five-channels of sound spread across thirty moving speakers in a chaotic mass of hundreds of bicycles pouring through the dark streets of an unfamiliar city.
Like any worthwhile performance, the police department provides the last act with a siren-lights-as-disco-party crescendo. Have a look at this newspaper piece. Later there will be some video of the performance/action. Until then these stills of the preparation.
I give up on trying to describe this more, just want to say thanks to Kampnagel for being a festival willing to take risks, and to this iteration of the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination for being a team solid enough to realize such an idea.