Jason Sweeney chilling in a quiet place
In Japan they have pods; small, quiet cocoon like capsules where people can seek out silence. In Adelaide, a favourite quiet space might be a trickling fountain in Victoria Square, a non-descript city car park or a narrow thoroughfare off a main street.
Jason Sweeney, a self-described introvert, is morphing his search for safe, quiet places into an ever-evolving sound-art project. Stereopublic: Crowdsourcing the Quiet, a tech-savvy pursuit for web and smartphone, will launch at the 2013 Adelaide Festival.
With roots in music, from playing in bands to community radio, 41-year-old Sweeney calls himself an interdisciplinary artist these days. A composer for theatre, dance and film, he has worked with companies including State Theatre Company of SA, Vitalstatistix, Chunky Move, Belgium’s SOIT, Restless Dance Theatre, Tanja Liedtke, Closer Productions, Force Majeure and UK-based DV8.
He has been releasing his electronic music compositions internationally with bands Panoptique Electrical and Pretty Boy Crossover, via the record label Sensory Projects, and he is in the thick of creating a feature film The Dead Speak Back slated for 2013 release.
But Stereopublic is something “I’ve been working on for years in one form or another. I knew it would shape shift and have different incarnations. It’s just incredible how well received this incarnation of it has been,” said softly spoken Sweeney. He said he pitched the idea in an email to David Sefton, Artistic Director of the 2013 Festival and a fellow electronic and experimental music enthusiast, and Sefton was quick to jump onboard.
Poster Child for Quiet
“This is one of the most important projects in my life. It’s hugely personal,” said Sweeney, who for all his music-making and current it boy status, is something of a poster child for quiet. The concept for ‘crowd-sourcing the quiet’ grew from Sweeney’s own inherent discomfort in crowded, noisy places.
He tells a story of a basement apartment he rented in Melbourne. “There was no natural light, no air – but when I stepped outside I was right on Flinders Lane, one of the busiest places in Melbourne. I lasted eight months there and then I had to come back to Adelaide. It was such a relief to come home.”
With support from the TED Prize-winning City 2.0 Award, Arts SA and the Australia Council’s Creative Australia New Art initiative – as well as Adelaide City Council – Sweeney and a team from Freerange Future, a design studio made up of designers, web and app creators, are developing an online space where people can geo-locate and crowd-source quiet spaces.
Their aim is to increase the “sonic health” of the city— both for everyday introverts, and potentially for people with mental health issues or disabilities such as schizophrenia or autism, who crave less sensory stimuli.
Jason Sweeney seeking solitude
At a time when the Government and the Adelaide City Council are gung-ho about making Adelaide pulsate with activity and are encouraging pop-up creativity from the laneways to the parklands, a quest for solitude might seem off kilter.
But Sweeney says “quiet can have a vibrancy of its own.”
“This is a community-building project; I really want to connect it to the city as much as possible.” In Adelaide, for instance, a favourite quiet space could be beneath a tree in the Botanic Gardens, among the crowds in the Adelaide Central Market or in a department store restroom high above the hustle and bustle of Rundle Mall.
For someone unnerved by heavy-duty social contact, Sweeney interestingly has conceived an art project that relies on participation for it to work.
From 1 March, 2013, people will be invited to contribute to the sound map online at www.stereopublic.net as part of the Adelaide Festival. There will be an Adelaide-centric app that includes a map of quiet spots around the city and the website will act as a portal to other relevant quiet events, including quiet walks, workshops and talks.
Ultimately, Sweeney says he’d like to implement a ‘quiet hour’ or even a full ‘hushday’ as part of the Festival. And down the track, he said it’s possible the Stereopublic model could be set up in other cities, with their own city-specific app.
One of the coolest features of the Stereopublic app draws on Sweeney’s musical talents.
Once participants find their quiet place, they can record the sound of that place, write about it, give it a mood through a colour chart or take an image and post it. As a reward for the input, Sweeney plans to offer a composition relating to their chosen quiet space.
‘I figure if I’m asking people to commit physically to finding a space, the composition is a reward of sorts.”
He says he expects the project will attract lots of young people because it’s about using technology in a very engaged way as a creative tool.
“I hope it will appeal to introverts too, and be unashamedly appealing to people who want to be antisocial,” said Sweeney, who is only just catching on to what a big year he has ahead. “I’m starting to realize how large scale this is and it’s starting to give me heart palpitations.”
And with that, Sweeney continues his search for a quiet place to recharge.