The Wandering House Sonic Archive by Cecilia Cornejo

The Wandering House ~ Sonic Archive, is a repository of testimonials and ambient sounds gathered by artist and filmmaker, Cecilia Cornejo Sotelo, through her multimodal project, The Wandering House. Designed as an exploration of home and belonging from a rural perspective, the archive is comprised of reflections recorded with community members between 2019 and 2023 in three river towns in southeastern Minnesota, USA: Northfield, Lanesboro, and Red Wing.

As an immigrant from Chile living in Northfield, a small college town in the American Midwest, in making this project Cecilia was guided by one main question: what does it mean to be home? She launched the project in Northfield in the summer of 2019, took the project to Lanesboro in the fall of that same year and, after an obligatory pause prompted by the pandemic, implemented the project in Red Wing in the fall of 2022.

The Wandering House is also a physical structure: a former ice-fishing house retrofitted as a mobile audio-recording studio into which Cecilia invited community members to record their thoughts on “home,” along with their vision for their respective towns. The recordings were not set up as interviews; instead, people had the space to themselves for as long as they desired. Like a modern-day confessional, The Wandering House provided a non-judgmental space for people to speak freely. Through the project, the artist worked with farmers, youths in high school and in college, people with disabilities, families with young children, indigenous youths and adults, immigrants from Central and South America, and older adults living in retirement communities.

With hundreds of audio recordings to sift through, Cecilia collaborated with Kakare Interactive to create an archive that could provide an experience of connection and discovery to any visitor. The result is a constellation of testimonials and ambient sounds through which people can get to know these places while their residents get to know themselves. Each recording is represented by an icon geolocated on the interactive map and marked with themes on cue-point level. Visitors can also filter/browse the archive by the themes and jump to the cue-point in the testimonials where the desired theme is related. Interactive map, player and theme interfaces are designed to reflect the interconnectedness of the entities on the abstract plane. For a period, the archive will remain open so residents can submit additional testimonials and ambient sounds, this time via the website with the embedded recording tool using any mobile or desktop device.

Cecilia finds inspiration in the words of Jane Jacobs who writes that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” By offering instances to examine and reimagine the places we call home, in collaboration with the people who live in these places, she aims to create spaces where everyone is heard, seen, and valued.

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