Acoustemological Investigation

Sound Diary: #Tehran

The Project

Title: #Sound Diary 3

Location: Pardis Phase11, entrance to Pardis 11

Duration: 02:54

Audio channels: Mono

Time of recording: 13:35 PM

Device: Zoom H2N

Sample rate: 48kHz

This research-oriented project begins with an interest in the sensory dimension of Tehran city life before moving on to a more specific study on Pardis Phase 11. This project employs sensory methodology in the form of acoustemology to investigate the city and urban transformation caused by the forces of 'global architectural culture', 'de-localisation', 'progress', and 'development'. This work evolves through a collection of media content in the form of field recordings, which were captured at a site-specific location in the east of Tehran: Pardis Phase 11. In this project, I plan to create a discursive sensory environment in order to generate a contemplative and in-depth reflection of the land transformed into an urban setting. This is accomplished by documenting and exploring the site-specific location, with a focus on the materiality and visibility of architecture. This project was inspired by the materiality, physical-spatial, and symbolic elements in the visualisation of housing architecture in Tehran. Furthermore, in order to become an acute observer of Tehran, it is necessary to develop a critical reflection on the rate of urban transformation, which is disrupting the human relationship with space.

Acoustemology is the combination of two words, acoustic and epistemology, which seeks to create a sonic experience as a means of knowing. Steven Feld was the first to coin the term in 1992. Feld’s research and observations among one of New Guinea’s tribes, the Kaluli of Papua led him to realise that sound was 'central to making sense, to knowing, to experiential truth' (Feld 1996:97). My interest in acoustemology stems from its inter-disciplinary potential as an analytical tool for studying urban experience in the context of urban architecture. Because my project, Sound Diary: #Tehran, focuses on sensory methodology, I chose an acoustemological approach to engage with sound as a way of knowing and experiencing everyday life through forms. It should be noted that the recorded sound is not the only important factor. Focusing solely on sound recording is insufficient for providing an intimate connection to a location and its inhabitants’ experiences. As a result, the listening process is just as important as the recorded sounds. They are both attempts to recreate a sense of ‘place experience’ as well as the possibility of encountering other realities. According to Rice, 'acoustemology points to the existence of alternative ways of encountering the world and possibility of hearing other realities' (3). The possibility of sensorial openness through the ears and auditory cortex, in the parts of the mind that make sense of and give meaning to what it has perceived. Furthermore, encountering other realities through life and human built environments in sound and listening in acoustemology has piqued my interest and informs my artistic research.

Cities play an important role in the creation of sensory environments and human experiences. Each city generates its own unique visual and auditory stimuli, which contribute to the sensory lives and experiences of its residents. As Merleau-Ponty notes, 'sense experience is that vital communication with the world, which makes it present as a familiar setting of our life. It is to it that the perceived object and perceiving subject owe their thickness' (Merleau-Ponty 2001:61). It appears necessary to see the subject’s faculty of senses play a critical role in comprehending and interpreting the object of the city that is under study. In other words, our senses interact with the city and perceive the objects therein, comprehending and making sense of what we perceive, as well as giving meaning to it, by using our rational faculties.

As an artist/urban researcher, my initial approach to my investigation was aesthetic in nature. More specifically, it follows Alexander Baumgarten’s aesthetic, and asserts the possibility of epistemological applicability for our sensual perception. According to Hammermeister, 'Baumgarten's aesthetics refers to a theory of sensibility as a gnoseological faculty, that is, a faculty that produces a certain type of knowledge' (Hammermeister 2002:4). In a more Kantian sense, we can consider ‘aesthetic’ to be a cognitive capacity of our faculty of sensibility. According to Peter Osborne, 'in Kant’s account, not only is sensible intuition an indispensable element of knowledge, but the faculty of understanding plays an essential, albeit logically undetermined, role in the aesthetic judgment itself' (Osborne 2001:3). Osborne goes on to say, 'Here, aesthetic includes reference to the two other cognitive faculties. Most fundamentally, it is concerned with the harmony of these three faculties and hence with the unity of subjectivity itself' (4). In this context, my artistic research-project investigates urban design and housing, with the goal of using 'reflective judgment' and our sensibility's epistemological capacity as a critical component in developing our ability to affiliate our faculties of sensibility, understanding, and reason in everyday life. In other words, to explore and study urban phenomena using the aesthetic capability, i.e. the unity of three faculties mentioned above.

This is made possible by opening and engaging sensorial elements, via methodological components, that become an important part of the mind’s cognitive capacity. By staying close to sound and the act of listening, I hoped to create a narrative about the transformation of life and the living environment. Using and working with an acoustical framework, I am drawn into the ways in which our senses can play an important role in raising political issues. The result of sensuous experience generated by artistic research and intervention allows for the formulation of new forms. This would enable the perceivers to see the world as it is or perhaps as it ought to be. The questions and concerns about how ‘it is’ and ‘it ought to be’ would lay the groundwork for political awareness. Furthermore, it can be used as a starting point to understand how policymaker’s decisions can influence different types of shared environments and living spaces.


I am fascinated by our built environment and housing architecture, and how they can be understood through the act of listening and sound. I intend to stay in one location and observe the passing of hours, minutes, and seconds, to see the changing light of the place, and to listen. The act of listening is critical to this project because it is a preliminary auditory investigation of the location. For me, the act of listening and recording is a unique way of engaging with a location and its distinct character. It forces me to focus on my surroundings and become a keen observer in order to comprehend the physical world. As a result, listening and sound have essentially evolved into a novel way of interacting with our built environment and city. In other words, it is reading and studying everyday life and reality in order to develop auditory forms of knowledge. As an artist/urban researcher, I see the city as the quintessential example of human history in the making, future life imagination, and social justice ideas.