Why do the ducks not fly south?

Why do the ducks not fly south?

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Images from the audio walking essay












The following text accompanies this work:

On listening
I hear
I am
I receive what is. . .
No argument
My body is sound
Listening guides my body
Sound is the fiber of my being and of all sentient beings without exception
– Pauline Oliveros

When I first arrived in Ólafsfjörður I was struck by how quiet it was. But as I spent more time, I started to heard the sounds. These were the low hums of unknown industry, the few species of birds that had remained through winter, the sounds of water in its multiple shifting forms, and the fragments of stories.

Listening makes the invisible present
– Don Ihde

To really listen to a place and the people requires a kind of surrender. It takes you outside of yourself but also asks you to be present. It also creates an awareness of what is not immediately apparent, as Don Ihde says, it “makes the invisible present”. In Why do the ducks not fly south? I’ve tried to create an experience for both visitors and locals to map this town through the act of listening. Although this work is best experienced alone, it also aims to connect the listener to both place and people. Through listening, the boundaries between what is us and what is not soften. And we move towards an other, or that which we might consider outside of ourselves.


On being here
Ólafsfjörður feels a long way from where I live in Melbourne, Australia. This has provided a certain liberation from the usual weight of familiarity, routine and responsibilities, or the stuff of life. On the subject of travel, Aileen Mysles writes in The Importance of Being Iceland:

Most likely we travel to exist in an analogue to our life’s dilemmas. It’s like a spaceship. The work for the traveller is making the effort to understand the place you are moving through is real and the solution to your increasingly absent problems is forgetting. To see them in a burst as you are vanishing into the world, Travel is not transcendence. It’s immanence. It’s trying to be here.

Through listening and mapping this space, Why do the ducks not fly south? creates this presence and immanence.


About the project
Why do the ducks not fly south? is an audio walk which maps personal stories, local histories, sounds, poetry, songs and reflections of Ólafsfjörður. The walk takes around 25 minutes, beginning at Joe’s Guesthouse, room 202, and ending at Landsbjorg with a video installation: I’ll take my suns where I can find them. This is a series of short landscape videos which recreate the sun using various elements in the found and constructed environment.

This project will also be made available online after the festival as a multi-linear documentary which will include images, videos and sounds from the locations.


I’d like to thank all the people that have generously contributed to this work:
Elísabet Arna Valsdóttir, Ida Semey, Sigurdur Svavarsson, þórarinn Hannesson, Guðmundur Ingi Bjarnason, Alda María Traustadóttir, Lára Stefánsdóttir
And also: Ave Kara Sillaots and the childrens choir, Kaffi Klara, Landsbjorg, Samkaup Supermarket, Brimnes Cottages, Alice Liu and my fellow artists at Listhus, Kristen Tytler

Songs in order:
Minni Karla: Ave Kara Sillaots and the childrens choir
Eg elska þig: þórarinn Hannesson
Moka snjó: Lára Stefánsdóttir
Nú er úti norðanvindur: Ave Kara Sillaots and the childrens choir

Ihde, Don: Listening and voice: phenomenologies of sound. 2007
Mysles, Aileen: The Importance of Being Iceland. 2009
Pauline Oliveros: The Earth Worm Also Sings: A Composer’s Practice of Deep Listening. 1993