Brief Encounters/By the Meter

Taxi drivers write the grammar of the city in a way that is unique to their profession. Through knowing a city's streets and back-passages as intimately as they get to know some of their customers, they have a peculiar connection to what's going on in a city. They collect the stories of a place, tales of personal drama, of historic events, of journeys and of the shifting geographies - both physical and psychological - of the city. They know the city from the ground up, know its intimate secrets, its underside.

Films like Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth (1991) or Michael Mann's Collateral (2004) contain stories played out in the confines of a taxi cab and the brief yet at times bizarre encounters that can happen there. While in the build-up to the spring 2011 revolution in Egypt, Cairo’s taxi drivers became unwitting messengers for the coming uprising when activists took advantage of the drivers’ habit to continually talk to their passengers. Hints of upcoming demonstrations dropped during mobile phone conversations were promptly picked up and spread across town by the drivers, reaching the parts of the population without internet access.

D-Fuse's ongoing project Brief Encounters/By the Meter is skirting along the line between fact and fiction in a series of open-ended impromptu interviews with taxi drivers from different cities. Recorded en route, the drivers are invited to talk about their personal history, their home town, the memorable rides they have experienced, and the poignant tales that emerge from this range from the lighthearted to the profound. Brief Encounters/By the Meter was started in 2012 during the Sound Development City summer expeditions, a series of residencies in Berlin, London and Zürich, and we are continually expanding the project and collecting new material wherever our work takes us.