Marble Route

digital release
57 min., 2023

In October 2022 I stayed for a month at the Obras art residency, located in the Evora district in south-central Portugal. The landscape in this area was transformed by industrial mining over the last century. There are hundreds of marble quarries, most abandoned for over fifty years. The old railway which connected the area with ports of Lisbon permanently ceased operations in 1990. Rota do Mármore or Marble Route became history, but the towns and cities connected by it still shine with marble sidewalks and facades.

Wildlife affected by mining and urbanisation has adapted to the new normal. Ponds grew out of the bottom of mining pits, creating environments for frogs and snakes. Tawny owls which rely on sound for hunting, mating and claiming their territory, have lost much of their habitat to the ubiquitous noise pollution. They are on the move, busily adapting. Starlings, the great imitator of the bird kingdoms, turned the walls of abandoned quarries into nests and gathering places, and changed their songs to reflect the landscape. Meanwhile, in Lisbon, at the other end of the Marble Route, starlings sing in a different dialect, their calls strive to cut through the roar of airplanes and voices of tourists.

00:00 - 01:44 Starlings gathering at sunset in Alfama, Lisbon
01:29 - 04:09 Train arrives at the station, rain on umbrella and roof shingles, Belem, Lisbon
03:56 - 05:26 Football and boxing practice, park Estrela, Lisbon
05:17 - 06:30 Recycling pick up at Principe Real garden, Lisbon
06:22 - 08:11 Construction at Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon
07:59 - 10:56 Riding old streetcar #15, Lisbon
10:54 - 13:07 Breakfast at Apolo XI, family run cafe in Santos, Lisbon
12:58 - 14:42 Skate, suitcase, car, truck, streetcar screetch and going up the hill, Lisbon
14:30 - 16:54 Tejo Power Station, Lisbon
16:43 - 18:46 Ferry Terminal Cais do Sodré, Lisbon
18:33 - 20:36 River Tejo waterfront, Lisbon
20:24 - 21:37 Catfish making bubbles, pond of Gulbenkian Garden, Lisbon
21:24 - 23:21 Birds at the park of Necessidades (Roosters, Spotless Starling, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Graylag Goose, Mallard), Lisbon
23:05 - 25:35 Under the April 25th bridge, Lisbon; bees surrounding a flowering bush, Obras residency
25:03 - 28:45 Tawny owl, crickets, before sunrise; hydrophone recording in irrigation pond, unknown critters, Obras residency
28:33 - 31:29 Sheep pasture near Obras residency
31:26 - 31:55 Cat Frida meows in hallway, Obras residency
31:43 - 32:40 Moving marble pieces on a metal cart, Obras residency
32:16 - 35:42 Rain on wooden oak, cork trees, bushes, sound trap: shelter for the mics made of bark, branches and metal cans, near Obras residency
34:58 - 37:58 Ravens fly by, wind in leafy trees and palm trees, bed sheets flapping on the drying line, Obras residency
37:28 - 41:23 Sunset near dry river bed, birds (Eurasian Blackbird, European Robin, Common Chaffinch), rabbits run through bushes, near Obras residency
41:06 - 44:36 Piglets at the free run pig farm, near Obras residency
44:21 - 45:53 Swimming in the pool, Obras residency
45:47 - 49:30 Rossio Square, saturday market, Estremoz
49:19 - 51:19 Rossio Square, workers hammer marble tiles in the sidewalk, Estremoz
50:47 - 57:00 Starlings and pigeons gather at the sunset in the marble quarry; voice improvisation of Eki Shola recorded in the marble quarry, near Borba

Made with support of Canada Council for the Arts