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Artist: Duncan Speakman

February 17, 2010 (To see videos, installations, and more)

“At the heart of Duncan’s practice is a healthy disrespect for technology and a rare sensitivity to sound..coupled with lucid and truly unusual ideas…he is again set to make us look through different eyes for a while.” – Helen Cole, Arnolfini

I love people art and flash mobs! I’ve never been in one but my best friend was once a zombie in Seattle. I’ve seen silent dance parties, but this is something else 🙂 A subtle mob is about “trying to make films without cameras” and “integrating with a social or physical space, not taking it over” (, where you can sign up to participate). I thought this work was one of the most beautiful instances of collective experience, or even more so collective consciousness, that I have ever seen. It’s surprising what sharing an audio-visual experience (especially out of the dark of the movie theatre) can do to people’s perspective.

Check out Speakman’s piece “as if it were the last time” (and the participants overwhelmingly positive reactions” at his website:

Speakman is a UK artist who mostly works with street and public art- in an aim to “use the poetics of the everyday in an attempt to make invisible public art works”. Many of his projects involve sound- groups of people (sometime actors) listening to music, stories, maybe even specific instructions, while inhabiting a public, social space. He says he explores “how we use sound to navigate geographical, personal and political environments” and tries to engage his audiences physically and emotionally. Just watching the video of “as if it were the last time” proves him effective.

See more of the process in this video: His work also includes photojournals, soundwalks, and installations like this one (below), where the sound of schoolchildrens’ footfalls on various surfaces was recorded and then implanted (with small speakers) into that same surface and played back:

One term for the silent or unexpected public works is “guerrilla art”, but that covers a wide range of pieces and forms. Philadelphia writer Gary Steuer thinks artists like Speakman are filling a void:  “…We need to create a new art form category of experiential, immersive, participatory art. I don’t feel that any existing art form categories adequately capture this new developing body of work.”

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