DBFS2020 – Lila Bullen-Smith:”nothing in the area but a highway” soundwalk

nothing in the area but a highway Lila Bullen-Smith 

Abstract: This audio paper is an excerpt from a walking project dedicated to the economies, 

histories and aesthetics of the A10 ring encircling Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Taking the form of a conceptual audiovisual tour, it seeks to create semi-performative rituals of attention in the abstract, deterritorialised urban space surrounding the ring. This excerpt is a narrative investigation into Westerhoofd, North-East of the A10. Taking a review of the area left by a disgruntled tourist on Trip Advisor as its starting point, this audiopaper will be an inquiry into a place that appears to have “nothing in the area but a Highway”.

Rooted in the practice of embodied counter-cartography, this investigation critically probes into the liminal sites stitched together by the A10, places which pulsate with a buried and unattended history. It seeks to create the conditions for a unique attentiveness, one which aims to resituate and reembody the listener within these spaces and histories through a series of suggested gestures and actions. This research asks what it means to stop in places that are intelligible only when traversed speedily, behind glass windows. A circular route through which commodities, people, and information flow that remains largely invisible to the pedestrian. What would happen if we cut through the ouroboros and let its contents bleed out? The economies, aesthetics, and histories that border the ring seem entombed in a live burial, barely registered or seen as deserving of an attentive gaze. This accelerated perception, characterised by speed, smoothness, and absence of friction negates the possibility of perceiving what is fragmented and contradictory. Here, the physical act of walking, of attending via walking, can counteract the perceptual experience mandated by transit; allowing us to stumble upon the city’s hidden and repressed spatial formations. 

1 DempsyS, “Amsterdam Viking Cruise Docks”, Trip Advisor, 2016, https://ibb.co/th0NM0X. Screenshot by author. 

Listen nothing in the area but a highway


Lila Bullen-Smith (b.1995, Johannesburg) is an artist and researcher based in Amsterdam. She is currently studying towards her MFA at the Sandberg Instituut. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Media Studies at The University of Auckland in 2018, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Hons) in 2016 at Elam School of Fine Arts. From 2017-2019 she was a collective member of RM Gallery, establishing the RM Women’s Moving Image Grant and Archive Project. She has exhibited in numerous galleries across New Zealand, and has written for Another Gaze: A Feminist Film Journal, #500words, and other publications. 

Name: Lila Bullen-Smith Nationality: New Zealand/South Africa

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