‘ The swamp that was ’ 

 – a bicycle opera from the ground of Ganda. [Ganda old name for Ghent]

an ELECTRIFIED III.  A timelab, Vooruit , SMAK production.



Do these soils, these layers of stones beneath our feet still hold some resonance of the lives that lived here?  That shouted and bred and wept and toiled here?  These streets and pavements cover land that was water marsh. Land that ebbed and flowed with the tides,  that was drained, that was lived and built on. That fed the flocks of sheep and took the shafts of invading stone for home and workplace. That succumbed to the draining and became owned and controlled. The sheep were replaced by exotic animals in cages for only the wealthy to gaze upon. Did you know there was a zoo here? This handsome city has seen wealth and war and heard millions of lives. What has happened to those voices?


The swamp that was was a project to find these hidden traces. To reveal their sounds and bring them out onto the street with the sounds of you now. Ghent. Handsome contemporary city of people from all over the world. With your architectural history so evident, your waters now channeled. What happened to all that sound? Those voices?  Did it dissolve or could these waters, these rocks have absorbed and still hold your traces?


Directed by Kaffe Matthews, The swamp that was  is a multi-layered audio work made throughout 2012 in collaboration with timelab and local Ghent communities, developer Dave Griffiths/FoAM, Flemish sound artist Els Viaene and mapman Peter Edwards.  To be performed by you as you pedal the streets on a satellite linked audio bicycle. A work of sonic archaeology that knits together the spirits of the living and the dead and will hover invisible over the streets until you cycle through to trigger and reveal its shifting strands and harmonies. Enveloped by the music that will change as you move,  you can find your own narrative. Electronic and acoustic, real and processed, an enveloping cloud of sonic newness.  Action, reflection, adventure, accompaniment. Rediscover your city. Was that a swarm of bees passing as the trumpets sounded and a kitchen sung Turkish song appeared round the corner? Did you find the last elephant?

Made with and special thanks to:

Hardware: Kurt Van Houtte, Dimitri Van Brandt, Mobiliteitsbedrijf Stad Gent.  Software development: Dave Griffiths/FoAM, Peter Edwards

Coordination, production  : Eva De Groote, Evi Swinnen, Reinholt Hiel and all at timelab and Vooruit.

Sound and Music: Els Viaene, Mattias Laga, The Ledebirds , Louis De Meester archive – IPEM, L.Domskoy, El Grillo  – Jens Van Durme, World Choir-Ghent with Frank Bombeke and Anna Pardocane.

Local Histories: Adrien Brysse, Cecile Vanooteghem, Erna De Meester, Nathalie Desmet, Martine – Huis Reginal,  Blanka Olahova, Kezban Capa, Emine Capa, Kader Capa, Gul Bahar Capa,
Maarten Michels/Roomer