Theresa Baumgartner presents: Seaphony


Theresa Baumgartner and field recorder Chris Watson immerse us in the sounds of ocean noise pollution.

For Seaphony, artist Theresa Baumgartner brought together Chris Watson, field recorder, sound designer and Cabaret Voltaire founder David Attenborough to create an immersive audiovisual representation of alien soundscapes from the ocean floor. “Chris was approached by Oceans 21, an NGO that tries to raise awareness about noise pollution in the oceans, which is a huge problem that kills sea creatures,” says Baumgartner. “Maritime traffic, oil drilling, military radars are all very stressful for animals, because after about 100 meters deep in the ocean, darkness is total, hearing is the main form of communication. On an expedition to record blue whales in the Sea of ​​Cortez in Baja, California, Watson and his fellow field recorder Tony Myatt captured an astonishing collection of recordings not only of marine life, but also of the breaking up of these natural environments by human hands. Describing the earth’s oceans as “the largest and soundest habitat on our planet,” Watson assembles the recordings captured with Myatt into an hour-long audio piece, simulating the sounds of the deep.

This composition will form the sonic backbone of Seaphony, an installation that will feature three-dimensional ambisonics, courtesy of Tony Myatt, as well as lighting and sculpture by Baumgartner. “The visual effects we see in the teaser are just a zoom in on the custom fixtures I built, which are four meter tall columns with an LED core,” she describes. “They create this really beautiful glacier effect, melting the ice. I will have eight in the room, then the whole room will be covered with a mirror sheet. I wanted to try to disrupt the feeling of space as much as possible by having a mirrored floor, you don’t really know when the piece ends and where it begins. The dimensions create this oceanic immensity. Condensed into a single channel, Seaphony takes on a painterly appearance, translating the light, shadow and color of the ocean seen underwater into a slightly distorted image that refers as much to Watson and Myatt’s fieldwork as it does Baumgartner’s experience in painting.

In both iterations, Seaphony serves as both an aesthetic experience and a sobering warning about the poor health of Earth’s oceans, or as Baumgartner describes it, “one more thing to add to the list of many. ways the planet is dying. “Oceans 21 funds a number of commissions and projects that raise awareness of how industrialization and the incomprehensible scale of the planet’s supply chains are affecting the oceans.” Sound travels very differently and for a long time under the water, “Baumgartner continues.” It stresses out ocean life and they get disoriented. This is one of the main reasons schools of dolphins end up on the shores, they get into the wrong stream, and then they lose track and they all die.While in itself disturbing, it is not so much the complex relationship between man and nature that disappoints the artist, but rather ignorance and complacency.

“It’s something that can be adjusted quite easily,” she emphasizes. “You can build noise walls that would make the ocean quieter. You could put up noise barriers around oil rigs or have sea lanes with high populations of fish and marine mammals. There are ways to solve this problem that would not be so difficult to achieve. Immersing your audience in an audiovisual representation of these conditions is a natural extension of Baumgartner’s democratic approach in his artistic practice. Instead of keeping its meaning and message hidden by concept and aesthetics, Baumgartner, Watson, and Myatt allow us to experience the problem instinctively, providing us with the space to be overwhelmed by sound.

For more information on the project and Oceans 21, visit their website. For more information on Chris Watson and his work, visit his website.

For more information on Theresa Baumgartner and her work, you can visit her website and follow her on Instagram.

Then take a look: Theresa Baumgartner Presents – Vandals (excerpt)



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