Ecology of the Invisible Cities

The intention of the application through sound, interactivity and visuals is to reconnect the app users to nature and inform them about rapid urbanization and it’s effect on ecology in different ways.

(Currently unavailable to download)

“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
— Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities has commanded the attention of myriad scholars.
The places Calvino describes in his book, though, don’t exist on any map. The whole basis of the book is a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, where neither of them understands one another’s language at all, but come to understand each other through the color of Polo’s imagination. Each city represents a thought experiment, or, as Polo tells Khan at one point, “You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.”

Inspired by these imagined cities, Nandita Kumar is inviting different sound artists from different cities to study the relationship, mediated through sound, between human beings and their urban landscape. The intention of the application is to reconnect the app users to nature and inform them about rapid urbanization and it’s effect on ecology in different ways. Most reflections done by the sound artist needs to be from their own immediate environment. The idea is to make the “invisible visible” in a cityscape/ecological landscape through sound. The sound may also visualize an imagined utopic city.

About the mobile application:

The app is interactive and will be available on IOS and android. When the user chooses a color through the live feed of the camera from their immediate environment, a sound that is linked to it starts playing. The composed soundscape is designed for listening to while walking with their mobiles, using headphones in an urban environment. The viewer will be able to see through their phone camera the immediate visual environment, which would change into a live filter of the same hue, which the user selects from the immediate environment. The app is an augmented reality app that will enhance the viewer’s immediate experience through sound and visuals. A concept note written by the sound artist will also appear and can be read while experiencing the soundscape. The app functions by enhancing one’s current perception of the city and the environment, beyond the daily spectacle imposed by industries through advertisements and the shaping of social interaction (through attractive mobile technologies), by bringing in different thoughts and ideas from varied local perceptions of cities and triggering a different shared awareness of the surrounding environment.


User Interface

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Conceptualization and project head: Nandita Kumar
Software Engineer: Siji Sunny and Yadnesh Wankhede
User Interface: Transhuman Collective

Sound Artist Involved:
1.Angus Carlyle, U.K
2.Miguel Carvalhais, Portugal
3. Jasch, Switzerland
4.Kari Rae Seekins, LA
5.Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, Copenhagen
6.Yiorgis and Takanobu From U.k, Japan
7.Jake charkey and Mynah Marie from Bombay
8. Félix-Antoine Morin, Montréal, Canada
9.Owen Vallis, LA
10.Claudia Molitor, U.K
11.Lasse-Mark, De
12.Dawn Of MIDi, NY
14.Brian House, N.Y
15. Nandita Kumar, Mumabi

Sound from Application

“Frequencies of LA, 9PM” by Kari Rae Seekins; LA, USA
In todays modern cities every inhabitant is bombarded by a cacophony of frequencies. Some of these are audible frequencies created by automobiles, close quarters with other humans, and the hum of the city becoming larger or smaller. There is also a new wave of frequency pollution, which has especially taken shape in the last few decades with the rise of wireless technology. These EMFs (Electromagnetic frequencies) have been linked to numerous concerns for the health of not only humans, but plants and animals as well.
For Frequencies of LA, 9pm I used a recording of the frequencies around me at 9pm outside my home in a relatively quiet part of Los Angeles. I also gave sonic representation to the frequencies outside of audible range, imagining how we might perceive them.

“The Phantom” that walked MayaNagri” By Nandita Kumar; Mumbai, India
The work explores three days that Mumbai stood still post Bal Thackeray death which was extremely insightful to a new immigrants like Kumar, who moved to India in 2010, and Mumbai in 2011 . Neither having any political biases or a television to super impose a thought, she observed the city through sound. Mumbai is also know as MayaNagri (city of illusions) which attracts large migration from the rural parts of India. It is a densely populated city, which is extremely noisy whose people, have no sensitivity to traffic sounds, loud festivities, religious processions, political announcements etc. It is a super active high frequency city that carries forth the dreams of many Mumbaikers. Even at night or early morning people are unable to restrain themselves from honking. To see such a city come standstill out of fear of riots post Thackeray death was unbelievable. In a matter of hours the entire machine stood still and was enveloped by this eerie silence. The birds also unaccustomed to such silence remained almost quiet. Kumar shares that “As the fear settled in on the last day, I felt I almost had a glimpse of Utopic Mumbai. For the first time I heard laughter of children and the natural ecology from my window. I slept peacefully without my usual earplugs dreaming of a Mumbai quiet and peaceful, where the citizens are not governed through fear but are self-actuated and choose to live on the same frequency as nature. A city where it’s people understand that- ‘frequency you create is the frequency you live’.”


Nandita Kumar is a new media artist who works in varied mediums to create immersive environmental spaces.

All Rights Reserved@ Copyrights 2008 NANDITA KUMAR