Living through touch in Until We Meet

Words by Paula Catalina Riofrio.

I invite you to do this task before, or rather after you read the article. Find yourself the time and space to be openly connected with your eight senses. Now record yourself reading this through: I’m in Crystal Palace, the wind runs cold but the sky is absolutely blue, the grass is lush green, the trees hold onto the summer. There are people around with headphones covering their ears and I wear them too. All senses are open. I think as I feel. I feel and I know. I feel existence as a communal experience through my individual body.

Now listen back and breathe consciously as you hear the recording.

Greta Gauhe, in collaboration with Follow Through Collective, devised a sound-guided multi-sensorial happening called Until We Meet. The collective gathered us around Crystal Palace overground station, where we, the participants, received some information, mainly about what to do and where to find the QRcodes. We geared up with a headset and little bags to collect whatever memories we wanted to carry with us.

Step after step, past and future stopped making sense. All I had in front and around me was existence. Where do you decide to walk? These kinds of decisions became important, every step guided a particular experience; a beam of sunlight on your forehead, on the palm of your hands. I was drawn towards a small hill, where I scanned the first QRcode. The voice invited me to walk to the top and see the people down on the line in front of the lake. Anton, the owner of the voice, shared some memories lived in that place and then invited me to imagine myself as a pirate. The soundscape from the recording and Anton’s vibrant triggering imagination made me visualise myself on a pier full of ships, in the presence of a diamond sea in between the morning breeze. The recording finished as the sound of birds inside it merged with the ones in the branches.

Every corner of the park, each tree and the space around them became a vast field for interaction. As I scanned the next QRcode I heard James Joyce’s Ulysses. It was a simple Saturday promenade, yet the monologues that guided the odyssey seemed as real and close to me as my own inner voices, provoking thoughts and movement.

Hanna’s voice directed me to the stones. Here is a list of the happenings I noticed there: leaves flickering on the blue along the wintry pines, a family holding hands together on a bench. I was encouraged to play and jump to find different ways of traction among the rocks. 

The need to open my hip came upon me, I ended up balancing upside down feeling the smooth surface, accommodating my weight differently as I moved. The voices of children in the back of the recording made me imagine another time in space, but the laughter and the screaming of the ones in front of me brought me back to the park. 

Greta guided the next recording. The recording tells us is sitting on the grass in Munich. I concentrated with my eyes closed and my ears unavoidably open as I started to near the Victorian dinosaurs of Crystal Palace’s lake. Body interactions between us were described, a sensation of warmth was felt and then visualised through my spine. I was not looking at the sound of her voice, but through it. The vibrations and my way of interpreting its meaning altered my stillness, welcoming and incorporating movement from the invisible body whose voice started to disappear; becoming a memory gathered through sound, lived through touch.

A sense of immense gratitude and joy arrived to me as I was crossing the bridge. Flavien’s voice encouraged me to feel the bannister on both the east and west sides. He made me aware of the sensible memories that bridges carry. He was there with me connecting different times through a particular place. I imagined Flavien on the west side, with one hand on the bannister and the other one reaching towards me. He invited me to take a selfie, but I decided to take a picture of our hands’ shadow’s dancing together. I felt a compulsory need to move, feel the air, or perhaps the memory, the imprints of his presence.  

At the end of our adventure, all the participants met on an island in the middle of the lake. There was an absolute peaceful sense of community as we all came together. The outer landscape found an unspoken language with the inner lands of my being. I felt time was deconstructed in order to build overlapping spaces where people could meet one another regardless of their physical presence. Until We Meet was a sound-guided journey that established connections through the senses, ours and others; from the plants, the humans, the stones, the water, the grass, the air.