Solivagant, derived from Latin origins, is a word to describe a person who is a solitary wanderer. (Merriam-Webster).
I am alone, guided by my intuition and emotional connectivity to a space. Being alone is not a sign of loneliness, unpopularity, sadness, or unhappiness. On the contrary, I see it as independent freedom to seek the pleasures and beauty of any visited environment, to find myself within a new space and learn from the experience. To me, this is a realisation that I am comfortable and confident in travelling or exploring a city, in new or old visits. There is an opportunity to see, hear, touch, smell, be present in alternative segments of my visitation to a place. This ongoing series is a simplified method of capturing these moments, of what it is like to be a Solivagant.
As I am trying different approaches to record my interactions with places, there will be variations in the media representations. I am on a journey; this process is to learn and be inspired by what is available to me. I do not restrict my curiosity; I allow it to flow together with logical decisions of personal safety within a place. It is about trial and error, however, to wander and be immersed in a place is of outmost importance.
With the Covid-19 lockdown lengthening and being stuck indoors for days at a time, escaping to nature is an opportunity to find myself and continue my passion of exploration. I enjoy exploring the city; it is also part of another research I am working on (Read about my other research on Covid-19), but I need a break from it as well. As I cannot fly to other countries, I explored more of the beauty within Northern Ireland. In time, I will fuse city and nature experiences, for now nature keeps calling my name and I keep trying to discover something new along the way.
With each journey, there will be new additions to this series, hopefully representing more global experiences when the current dangers of Covid-19 pass. I may also insert all the media and location on a Google Earth project.
How it began:
I started this series after I attended a webinar on photographs within research. We were all asked to bring in a range of photos to represent who we are. As we split into groups for discussions, the partner I had asked me why I showed this photo (among the others) and I replied, “Well this photo represents me, I am alone in a city full of people but I can still be who I am and grow, just like this tree is alone within the entire forest, it can still be what it wants to be.”.
I took audio and photo recordings of different walks I went on, but did not have a project concept in mind, it was just something that I wanted to implement on these adventures. However, after having that discussion within the webinar, I decided that I should use my skill set to represent the passions I have, to document my journeys, and combine them into something that defines who I am. I am a researcher, a student, an artist, a traveller, a foreigner, a person who can find happiness within myself from the natural beauties that the world has to offer.
Each piece is a compressed snippet of my experience, at the moment using audio and photo recordings to represent these journeys. They manifest into a variation of the audio concept called Soundscapes, audio that represents the environment which was popularised by R. Murray Schafer. As an artist and researcher in sound, I am trying to expand my media techniques and learning to include visual methods. This is turn will help me grow this project into Audio-Visual Interactions.
Moment 1 — Lagan Meadows:
I frequently walk to Lagan Meadows, a large forest park with a walking/cycling lane, the Lagan River, wildlife, and distance from city noise. That is one thing about city life, a person like me wants to change sceneries. This is my go-to escape place, as it is located relatively near me. There is always an opportunity to venture into different areas of the forest park. I allow the site to attract and direct me when I visit, to dictate how long I stay in a particular spot.
During this visit, I learned that there were a herd of cows within the park, that were on a small island that had fencing all around. This sparked many questions about why they were there and how they were put/got there. Throughout this walk, there are moments of people and wildlife that beautifully intertwine with one another, sonically each element has its position within the forest, there is not a diluted sonic image, instead one that beautifully organised by the balance within nature.
Moment 2 — Lagan Valley Regional Park
I kept using Google Maps and different visitor sites from Belfast or Northern Ireland tourism to find interesting parks in my nearby area. It seemed logical that Lagan Valley Regional Park to be my next destination since it is a place I had not visited before. When arriving in May, there were not as many rainy days that we experienced. This left the river at low rise, allowing to walk up onto some rocks near Shaw’s Bridge — a stone arch bridge. Continuing off the footpath and rising into the park’s forest, it felt like I was walking in the cinematic world of Jurassic Park. The size, shape, colours, orientation, of some of these trees and plants, were all new to me. I had never seen such diversity within one park. It truly felt like I was in a whole other world.
As I stood alone to record, swarms of bugs would approach me, sometimes pleasant to record and other times just a nuance. However, that is the beauty of nature, you are not in control of it; you allow it to be and you appreciate that it is there.
Moment 3 — Giant’s Ring:
A site I had put on my bucket list to visit while I was here during my master’s seemed appropriate to take the long walk and finally visit. I recorded various points of this 18 km walk, trying to capture each interesting moment that presented itself to me. It is incredible that when arriving at the Giant’s Ring and seeing the massive size of the site to only have a few stones remains in the centre. Yet, this created a wonderful sonic experience. Listening at a distance you can hear that you are in the middle of nowhere, that there are sounds from close and afar. When entering the stone in the middle, you lose all sense of your surroundings; it creates a protective sonic box from the environment. You then appreciate that moment, that within a grand size of a place, you can still find alternative ways to experience those intricate smaller moments.
The walk also presented interactive moments with people and a farm full of cows, as I began walking down a trail in which I thought it interested the cows with my human presence. They followed me along the trail only to realise that they were thirsty (as it was a little past mid-day). It was an entertaining moment to see the hierarchy within the herd and which cow was allowed to drink first from the water hole. Long after walking through other points, I returned through another trail in the Lagan Valley Regional Park; I stumbled upon a small crossing bridge and a little stream of water underneath it. This is where a small group of kids on bicycles were attempting to cross the stream, some made it over flawlessly, others took a small splash.