Reflecting on Places and Practices - Susan Sloan

Alfred, Dritero and I collaborated with students from University of Pristina and University of Rwanda to facilitate the production of some of the short audio-visual vignettes on the Gisimba and Mu Myembe and La Colombiere sites in Kigali, and the Hertica School House and Dodona Theatre site in Pristina. Originally, the plan was to work with the students directly, delivering workshops and developing the students ideas using sound, animation and VR on site and at their universities. As this was not possible, Alfred and Dritero were able to work with the students in Kigali and Pristina directly and I was able to deliver some Zoom workshops on Quill VR to both universities. During workshop sessions students brought together outcomes from the activities they had undertaken using anthropology, architecture and art-based methodologies to investigate the sites. The aim was to synthesise this rich body of information using animation, VR illustrations and sound, to reflect on and reimagine the sites and their past, present and future.  The sound recordings alongside the walking, mapping, drawing, photographs, and films provided a wealth of layered information about the sites daily use and functions, the people who used them, the material structure of indoor and outdoor landscapes, and how these elements transformed through time socially, culturally and politically.  We agreed the sound recordings from each of the sites were especially compelling and we used these to lead some of the visual material.  Some of the sounds were used in audio compositions produced by Dritero, and others were used in their original form, as soundscapes for the animations produced by Alfred and the University of Rwanda students.

I was interested in working specifically using Quill VR with the students to explore their ideas and to think about the spaces as immersive, dynamic structures that they could situate themselves within and think about the sites in three dimensions. The Gisimba and Mumyembe sites were reimagined in Quill VR by the students as dynamic narratives combining their investigative material to produce pieces that were part sculpture, drawing, animation. The sound recordings taken from The Hertica Home School house were developed into a sound composition by Dritero, which was used to reimagine the site using VR software Quill. In building the VR spaces, it was important to think about the structures and actions that could be heard in the recordings, such as the crunch of stones underfoot, the opening and closing of doors, the sound of physical movement through space, multiple voices in a room, and the numerous activities that had taken place within the building. 

The reimagined VR space was based on a drawing produced by one of the students who visited the site. The drawing was rich with information and depicts an interior space within the schoolhouse.  Centred in the drawing is a hole in the wall leading into another space, and in the centre of that space sits a lone chair.  The drawing so beautifully depicts the remnants of the building’s previous function with coat hooks on the walls and empty school chairs.  The final vignette attempts to capture the energy and movement from those classes embodied in the buildings memory.  The Dodona Theatre site was started through conversations about the site with the students via Zoom.  The students were keen to recognise the importance of the theatre as a place of resistance and to communicate the multifunctional purpose of the site.  It was at once and through time, a puppet theatre, a rock venue, a café and an important cultural hub during the conflict.