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Introduction

Two weeks ago, I suspended my paid employment managing concerts in London, packed up my flat in London, turned on the engine and began a journey.

I had been given a 3 month appointment as the 26th Artist in Residence on the Bridge Guard residency programme, with a start date of April 2013.  Bridge Guard is designed to support artists and musicians, who work on projects which place emphasis on uniting, connecting, and bridging communities.

The residence is located in Štúrovo, Slovakia and allows artists to work in complete freedom, drawing inspiration from the landmark of the Maria Valeria bridge which connects the two towns of Štúrovo and Esztergom, as well as the two countries of Hungary and Slovakia.

Having obsessions with cars, driving and sound, it seamed like the natural equation to bring all these things together and create a sound work to document a journey to the residency.  My story involves my trusty 1996 Mazda, a sound recorder, far too many service stations and the pursuit of final destination.

I recorded everything on my way, the weather, machines, conversations, nature.  The project is a recording of a journey across a map from a place I knew very well, to a place I had visited many times on google maps, in an attempt to create an audio soundtrack between my starting point and my destination.

There is something really important about driving, it gives a sense of distance and an understanding of the scale of the world which isn’t achievable through most other forms of transport.  For me, it was also a way to understand borders and crossings, the points where languages change, where rules and requirements differ, and how all of this says a little bit more about how we understand our own environments and lives.

The medium of sound sound is a universal way of sharing the world and can bring our communities together by transcending the barriers of language as well as having no geographical restrictions.
 

The culmination of this audio diary will be a soundtrack which will be delivered as a gift to the Bridge Guard Residency as the first of my projects whilst on duty.  This is the 3rd Drive-in sound project I have completed since 2011, the first dedicated to my arrival at CAMAC Centre for Arts and Technology in france, resulting in a number of performances given from the back of my car and the publication of a series of CDs intended for car radio.  Details of my other projects are here at http://www.estherainsworth.com.

Thank you for joining me on the journey.

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March 27th 2013

Primrose Hill 

London at 7am,  I haven’t slept and my life is in boxes and stored, on hold for my return.  Someone special is standing in the middle of a rearview mirror waving.

London traffic seems only hostile to those trying to enter the city.

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A RECORDING

At the ferry port it is sunny, but cold, we are in line waiting boarding…and its really late almost an hour and it feels like we will never board, but we will always be bored.

Repeated announcements in English and French and French and English – delay, delay, delay.

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Calais daytrippers, families trying to entertain screaming children, mostly with sandwiches, enjoying the the spacious emptiness of cars which will no doubt return laden with booze.

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A RECORDING

The gambling room is the only room to relax momentarily while everyone is walking around in circles trying to find the perfect place to enjoy the journey.  Desperate shoppers racing on board.  The gambling room is dirty and feels like it should be filled with smoke, I lose myself in the sound of fruitmachines and make a recording behind someones back.

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A rocking boat and nautious feelings as emotions float around on a seasick stomach….on the deck a chimney paints the perfect blue sky black.

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3 hours of the A4 and The Premiere Classe Hotel Reims – Ring road

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MEMORY NOTES 

Moderne Art Burger

The smell of a smoking room

Rock ballads and French Rap

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A RECORDING

Its raining, the sound of cars passing the hotel on the A4 like long exhailations, I follow the pattern with my own breath to encourage an unwilling sleep to come.

March 28th 2013

Reims

We are woken up by ladies with worn out stilhetto heals and worn out faces ascending the staircase to rooms frequented by truckers.

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I have been invited tonight to attend a gallery opening at CAMAC Centre for Arts and Technology and it is time to go.

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The Euphoric house breakdown CD creates a broken down CD player.  From here on there is no more music only a radio for which the car has no antenna.  We are at the mercy of the strongest radio stations which compete to make their way through to the receiver….Sometimes sound, sometimes nothing at all, sometimes white noise.

This will be the soundtrack to the rest of the drive across Europe. Driving in and out of radio transmissions.  Our location and the speed we travel dictate what we hear and the map becomes the DJ.

Snapshots of broken French radio excites a conversation about how the most unloved music becomes wanted when there is no other choice.

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MEMORY NOTES 

French villages

A beer opposite the local theatre where I break the bottom of a glass and it won’t stand up anymore.

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An open white gateway and a welcome from familiar faces of friends.

Many conversations are had, many forgotton, some recalled, some are broken, and some remembered always.

Much dancing, drinking and the rest of the night is lost….

March 29th 2013

Marnay sur Seine

A hangover erases the morning then back on the road.

Some old memories are driven through and out the other side.

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Today’s drive –

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A service station picnic and a beautiful sunset.

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The signs have changed language along with the radio station, so we know we have crossed a border.  The roads are a little different in design.  It’s hard to place why and it feels like driving in a big computer game.

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MEMORY NOTES

Ibis Budget Karlruhe

Time to switch language

A gift of Easter eggs from the hotel receptionist

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A man in the corridor comes out of his room with a towel covering is groin, then turns around to reveal his naked rear.  Welcome to Deutchland.

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A couple of years ago, I had this idea that I’d do a trip across europe but only stay in corporate generic hotels (without mentioning brands), because they are all the same inside.  I wanted to experiment with the idea of crossing the biggest distance possible but having the same experience every night so that it was like no distance had been crossed at all.

The second Ibis Budget is booked for tomorrow night just outside Munich.

March 30th 2013

Breakfast in Karlsruhe

A RECORDING

Breakfast cafe diner.

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On to Munich

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The landscape disappears into white.

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MEMORY NOTE

Ibis budget number 2

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A RECORDING

Local german men watching the sport.  One of them very old wearing a cowboy hat and a giant cardigan covered in wolves.  He keeps looking over and smiling at me.  I pretend to be enjoying the sport to avoid eye contact.  The waitress pours a pint over our table.

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March 31st 2013

Outside the hotel, Puttsbrun

It’s Easter Sunday.

I have been invited to a meeting with Karol, the founder of the Bridge Guard residency which I am now only one day from commencing.

We are meeting on the motorway at a service station in Mondsee, Austria.

We have arranged to meet at 3pm.  I have never met Karol and I have only a photograph of him and our email exchanges.

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There has been heavy snowfall overnight.

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MEMORY NOTES

Over the border at the service station a police passport check.

British cars have become fewer and fewer since France and my basic German isn’t working any more.

Agrevated locals shaking heads and staring…I have no idea why.

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Mondsee Services

I am 2 hours early, so walk around the hotel to look at the lake, but the snow has painted out the view and nothing can be seen apart from white.

A RECORDING

The snow falling on the rooftop of the hotel creates genuine white noise.

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Karol arrives on time.  I identify him from his photograph and his inspection of people in the restaurant.

We share information, stories and easter gifts.  It feels surreal to meet someone so fleetingly at a motel on a highway in Austria.

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Weinburg – Near Vienna

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Due to Easter, the hotel tonight is closed and the staff are not working.  A code to a key box has been issued, but it seems there is no-one else staying at the hotel.  There is no sound, no sound at all.  It almost feels like a joke or a reality TV show, we can access the bar, kitchen, breakfast area and gym and there is no security control in place.

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In the room is a welcome from the hotel manager.  

I go out and make some recordings around the hotel in the grounds. 

April 1st 2013

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Approaching the Austrian Hungarian Border

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A city of wind turbines, larger and more of them than I have ever seen.  The road is rugged and not kept well, it feels like we will just disappear into nothing, into a giant pothole.   

A disused border control station, with broken windows and empty booths, the road keeps disappearing beneath the car, a forgotten land.

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First glance of the bridge, which will be my project for the next 3 months.  I have a text message from Gyuri, who will be my guide on arrival in Sturovo.  I have not met Gyuri and only have our email exchanges.  We are to meet in the public car park by the cafe by the Danube. 

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MEMORY NOTES

Looking for Gyuri in the car park and connecting with a knowing smile.

The final destination of the drive and beginning of the next adventure.