Duncan Speakman

United Kingdom

Duncan Speakman (1976) was originally trained as a sound engineer at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. From initially developing interactive documentary projects and installations, since 2005 he has focused on mobile audio and locative media in works where the line between audience and performer becomes continually questioned. He creates socially relevant experiences that engage audiences emotionally and physically in uncontrolled spaces, in mass participation performances and intimate in-ear stories, books, installations and workshops.


It Must Have Been Dark by Then

Audio Walk

The Audio Walk is presented as a mobile app in combination with a printed book. Readers are invited to take a journey through their local environment, seeking out physical sites of specific experiences, materials and textures. At each of these locations, audiences are presented with sound and stories from remote places that are in process of change. While collecting these in January and February 2017, Speakman traveled across the swamps of Louisiana, the edge of the Tunisian Sahara and through empty Latvian villages, collecting sounds and stories from disappearing places – all places that are rapidly changing. The Audio Walk makes connections between these distant stories and locations in the reader’s immediate physical environment. This method of loci preserves the testimonies of how places were while simultaneously inviting you to reflect on the transience of your own surroundings.

The work is a hybrid combination of a geo-located audio walk and a printed book and consists of two distinct parts. In the first half of the work, you are invited to seek out types of places, e.g. a building people live in, or a source of water. At each of these locations, you are invited to read a specific chapter in the book. The chapter details an experience in an isomorphic location. The voice in you ear offers instructional guidance for your physical journey but also provokes reflection on your immediate surroundings. As you seek out and select locations, your mobile device stores the geographic position of each one. In the second half of the piece, you are invited to return to each of the places, at which point you hear interview material from the people you read about in the book.

Commissioned by the Ambient Literature Research Project.

Written and conceived by Duncan Speakman
Concept development and dramaturgy: Tineke De Meyer
Music: Sarah Anderson, Duncan Speakman, Sean McGhee and Djamila Skoglund-Voss
Location research and production: Katharina Smets, Sara Zaltash and Elina Ventere
Book design: Krysztoff Dorion
Producer: Tom Abba
Application development: Calvium
Interface design: Tom Metcalfe
Printing: Taylor Brothers Bristol


Download the It Must Have Been Dark By Then app for experiencing the work.
Free on Google Play or Apple App store.


Begin the Audio Walk from MS Sandnes.

Image: Duncan Speakman, It Must Have Been Dark By Then (2017). Audio Walk along the Vågen harbor area, Stavanger. Courtesy of the artist.