I had known about the [Murmur] project for a while, but I finally took a Saturday to stroll around and find the green, ear-shaped signs. Through my mobile phone, I called the local number on the sign and, for the first time, listened to my city.
[Murmur] is an experiential art installation, found on the streets of dense, downtown neighbourhoods, such as
Toronto's beloved Kensington Market. Part documentary, part oral history, Murmur tells stories and memories about specific geographic locations. Since its first site, it has since spread throughout Canada and beyond. From Sao Paulo to Dublin to Geelong, people are "listening" to their cities.
This is my personal story of how [Murmur] made me listen to my city...
On a gray, November day
, I ventured out to hear for myself. I found green ears, the mark of Murmur, speckled along the streets of Kensington market. I approached the first ear and followed the instructions to dial the posted number on my phone.
I stood there, looking up at this sign and wondered what my cell was going to return on the other end...I was also partially wondering how many people were looking at me looking at this sign. Was someone about to pick up the call?
Then the system was activated. And a voice told me where I was standing. If I looked to my right, which was navigationally north, I was staring at what used to be the old local grocer. If I spun 180 degrees, I was looking at the conversion of one of the oldest establishments in the market.
The stories were told by people who used to live in the community and experienced daily life there. The space was immediately transformed into its former self (closest thing to a real-life
hot tub time machine
?), coming to life with a backing track of bustling noises common to the market at that time.
I stood there, speechless, phone pressed against ear, listening and imagining (at that point I realized I probably looked like I had discovered my voicemail for the first time).
[Murmur] made me take an adventure in my own city. I called the city and the city answered. I have never learned so much about the history of my city in one fell swoop, and from fellow residents and business owners to boot.
What an interesting way to keep history alive and cherish the amazing vibrancy that once lived where we now stand.
The [Murmur] project is an example of a vibrant city.