Café Voyeur

Café Voyeur was a surround-sound installation presented in the 2004 Melbourne Fringe at Kent St Bar & Café in Smith St, Fitzroy.

For this project we aimed to develop the ideas we had explored in the original City Frequencies performance from 2000. While recording sounds around the streets, shops, offices and restaurants of the Melbourne CBD for the original City Frequencies project, we occasionally chanced upon snatches of conversation as people would walk by our microphones. These captured random phrases were an interesting element in the overall palette of sounds we had at our disposal. When brainstorming ideas for new projects we thought there would be potential in focusing specifically on people’s conversations.

So we came up with the concept of “Café Voyeur” where small microphones would be hidden in vases of flowers on tables in a cafe and people’s witty or banal conversations would be recorded. This was the era of Big Brother as the new TV show people seemed to like, with the implication that everyone wants their life to be seen as something interesting and worthy of putting on public display. We decided that making the microphones somewhat obvious and promoting the fact that we would be recording people’s conversations would solve ethical and legal issues as well as be a nice theme to explore.

We secured funding from the City of Yarra to include the project in the 2004 Melbourne Fringe Festival. And the nice folks at Kent St Bar & Café agreed to host us. We recorded the conversations from a couple of random tables over some weekends in June. Then spent a couple of months editing and working with the material to construct a surround-sound 6.1 installation that we installed back in the Kent St space for the Fringe Festival later in the year.

When we presented the soundscape for the Melbourne Fringe the manipulated conversations merged with the conversations that were then taking place in Kent St. following year, in 2005, we presented the work again in the upstairs gallery room at Kent St. In 2004 the wo

For lots of interesting information on the technical setup we used, including our miniature FM microphones, and the results of what we captured, check out the Cafe Voyeur page on the City Frequencies website.

City Frequencies
Cafe Voyeur
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