Listening to the Echoes of Bergen: Mapping the Soul of a City – a workshop with Yara Mekawei

BEK 24.10.2023 26.10.2023


BEK invites artists interested in sound explorations to a 3-day workshop with artist and scholar Yara Mekawei in Bergen. Looking into the philosophy of listening, experimenting with different techniques for field recording, and learning to capture the essence of various locations through sound, we will try to draw a sonic map of the city.  

Dates: 24–26 October 2023, 10:00–15:00 each day
Participation: The workshop is free and in person only. The workshop is held in English, and no prior skills are required. The workshop will take place in BEK and different locations across Bergen. Make sure to dress for the weather.
Registration: Places are limited and registration is required. To register for the workshop, please send an e-mail to by 17 October.

Listen to the sonic maps created by Mekawei earlier here.

On “Listening to the Echoes of Bergen: Mapping the Soul of a City” by Yara Mekawei:

The Art and Philosophy of Listening: In the realm of sound, we often find ourselves mere listeners, passive recipients of the auditory world that surrounds us. Yet, within the act of listening lies a profound philosophy—one that invites us to transcend mere hearing and engage with our environment on a deeper level. This philosophy of listening takes on new dimensions when applied to the task of drawing a sonic map of a city, as we shall explore through the lens of Bergen, Norway. 

The Philosophy of Listening: Listening, as philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy suggests, is not a one-way transaction but a relational act. It is an act of communion between self and world, an intimate dialogue that bridges the perceived gap between observer and observed. When we embrace this philosophy, we transcend the passive role of mere auditors and become active participants in the symphony of life. 

Recording Sound as a Gateway to the City’s Soul: Our journey through Bergen begins with the realization that sound is not just a series of vibrations in the air, but a gateway to understanding the city’s essence. To draw a sonic map, we employ the art of recording—an act that involves not only capturing sound but preserving the spirit of place and time. 

Bergen’s Architectural Diversity: Bergen, with its rich history and striking contrasts, provides an ideal canvas for our sonic exploration. We navigate through its architectural wonders, each a unique chapter in the city’s story. From the iconic wooden structures of Bryggen, whispering tales of the Hanseatic League, to the modernist concrete expanse of Sentralbadet, we encounter materials and designs that influence the acoustics of the city. 

The Relationship of Sonics with Time and Location: Our recordings are not isolated echoes but vessels of history and harbingers of change. By connecting sound with its temporal and spatial context, we transcend the boundaries of the present moment. The resonance of footsteps on ancient cobblestones, the hum of street life in the fish market, and the whispering winds through Bergen’s narrow alleyways—all become part of our sonic tapestry, a representation of the city’s dynamic character. 

The Philosophy of the Soundscape: The city is not a collection of disjointed sounds but a living, breathing soundscape—a symphony in which nature, culture, and architecture harmonize. The philosophy of the soundscape encourages us to perceive our environment as a collective composition, where every rustle, echo, and reverberation contributes to a larger narrative. Our task is to capture these intricate stories and emotions that interweave to create Bergen’s unique soundscape. 

The Physics of Sound Recording: Recording sound is not a mere art but a science. Each material, be it stone, wood, or concrete, possesses its own resonant frequencies. Understanding the physics theories that govern sound recording allows us to decipher the unique sonic textures of architectural materials. In Bergen, this means decoding the language of its structures and capturing the essence of the city’s soul in each recording. 

Drawing the Sonic Map of Bergen: As we traverse Bergen’s diverse landscapes, we embark on a sonic cartography journey—a quest to map not just the city’s physical contours but its very soul. In this journey, we do more than listen; we engage with the philosophical depths of auditory perception. We transform sound into a medium of storytelling, connecting it with time, location, and emotion. 

The act of drawing a sonic map transcends the mundane and becomes a celebration of Bergen’s essence. It is a testament to the philosophy of listening, a testament to the interconnectedness of sound and place, and a testament to our capacity as active participants in the symphony of life. Bergen, with all its architectural diversity and sonic richness, reveals its true soul to those who dare to listen, to record, and to map its echoes.

Yara Mekawei

Yara Mekawei, a renowned artist and scholar, masterfully merges the urban pulse with architectural essence, crafting intricate auditory vignettes transformed into visual forms. Her groundbreaking work defies artistic norms, transmuting sound into sight through a synesthetic alchemy. Rooted in architectural philosophy, social historiography, and philosophical literature, she weaves conceptual dimensions for a diverse audience. Mekawei’s art draws inspiration from varied social philosophies, reflecting her cultural identity within a North East African context. Her legacy bridges sensory experiences, resonating with the human sensorium, transcending boundaries and epochs.

The workshop is part of New Perspectives for Action – a project by Re-Imagine Europe, co-funded by the European Union.

Images: Yara Mekawei