Adelaide Road
Curzon Memories
Escape from the Tower
Gorillaz: Escape To Plastic Beach
If Only
Our Broken Voice
Sculpting With Scent
Surreptitious Soundplay
Theatre JukeBOX

Our Broken Voice

Our Broken Voice shows us one future possibility for Pervasive Media – an experience augmented by poetic content experienced in the real life setting of a shopping mall. Our Broken Voice (2010), by the artist collective Circumstance, was a piece of ‘headphone theatre’ in which the audience were invited to download an MP3 file from a website to a player, and come to a Shopping Mall at a set time. There the audience triggered their players at a synchronized time, listened and moved, following a character imagined by the soundtrack and a series of events set in the Mall. Circumstance developed this work from the model of ‘Subtle Mob’ – forms of low key mass action where the audience is asked to ‘stay hidden’. At a few selected moments in the story participants connect with one another. They become the performance of the soundscape.

COOKING TIME: Over a year

Related Recipes

Fornight Project
Adelaide Road


Artists working with sound and public space
Very talented musicians
Time and space in the Pervasive Media Studio
Recording Studio
Audio software
A variety of musical instruments
A group of experienced testers

Cooks Tip

Use your groups combined talents to create experiences that encourage and allow audience members to behave in ways that are different to what is considered socially normal.


Take an initial idea, such as the question; “do you make the world a better place by smiling more often or blowing up banks?”

Discuss with your collaborators.

Decide on the blowing up banks route and begin to explore ideas of extremism, and especially the way people work against their own communities or environments- be inspired by JG Ballard and his near-future visions of the upset middle classes.

Throughout the project, collaborate with a group of artists with different areas of expertise;
Tassos Stevens – interactive narrative and gaming methods
Emilie Grenier – non-linear narratives and soundwalks
Lottie Child – public space interventions

As well as utilising their specific expertise, encourage overall input and promote the collaborative nature of the project, giving the artists an ongoing stake in the future of the piece.

Start writing music; sketch out rough music ideas as a way of expressing thoughts about the piece.

Begin with a lot of sounds from films with explosions and terrorist acts in them and compose music around them.

Get a feel for the type of location to use. Walk through your location options with the composed sound.

Take it in turns to run workshops for the other collaborators in an attempt to look at approaching the theme from different kinds of disciplines.

For example, get the group to work as pairs and take turns with one person keeping their eyes closed and moving them around in the streets, as a way to sensitise them to the non-visual elements around them, so that people become really sensitised.

Keep in mind that this is the mindset you want to create for the audience; they will heighten their awareness and sensitivity and experience a shift in the way they normally experience things.

Include some playful elements, with boundary pushing and risk-taking.
For example: think about ways of invading other people’s space by thinking about how to get notes into stranger’s pockets.

Situate yourselves in Kings Cross station and observe people. Think how to develop characters based on what you see;

  • what kind of indicators and markers the characters would they have?
  • what kind of behaviour they would have?
  • how they would recognise each other?

As part of developing the piece, look at the interaction between participants; experiment with different ways that strangers can interact then and go out and try them yourselves.

Complete a very rough script and music score. Start doing regular and open public tests.

Invite people who have taken part in previous subtlemobs to try it out.

Start the first test with 10 people and gradually progress up to about 30 for the final test.

Conduct very formal feedback sessions with participants. Use their comments to inform how you rework the piece.

Setup tests every week for about a month and a half. Keep making new versions of the piece.

Bring in musicians to work on other parts of the soundtrack and start reworking the script.

Find participants through Twitter and your email list of people who have taken part before.

Encourage participants to sign up in advance via email; send them a link the night before to a site where they pick one of four characters – for the Bristol one this choice is based on a coin toss.

Conduct a first showing of the piece in Bristol with roughly 250 participants.

Come away feeling not entirely happy with it.

Allow it to stew for a few months, then virtually rewrite it. It’s still the same piece but re-do the structure, re-write parts of the text, re-score a section of music.

Stage the final piece at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Continue to develop and stage the piece – attract 350 people for one in Ghent.

Change the ending because you find that everyone naturally grouped together, when your goal was to make them feel isolated and alone in the city.

Now that you have managed to make your audience feel isolated and alone at the end of the piece, because of this, it makes sense for people to meet after.

Add a meeting point where people meet afterwards and exchange their experiences and swap their stories.

Diners Comments

My favourite free public art experience @subtlemob cannot be beaten. Follow, participate and be bewitched.

Being followed around Cabot Circus, when I actually realised I was being followed, it was really brilliant… then the handing of the note when I was outside Starbucks or Costa or whatever’s up there and there was a man with his head in his hands, but I literally couldn’t work out, he looked really old and like a tramp. I decided I’m not handing him a note and then I looked and there was another person on the floor and that was just beautiful. I thought it was, It really worked.


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