Topological Space

The installation “Topological Space”, is a collaboration with visual artist Katrina Sheena Smyth. It had its first showing at PS2 Paragon Studios in Belfast, Ireland on the 11th of March 2011 from 11am – 6pm.

The installation is a reflection on the changing topologies we experience in an ever evolving environment.

About the Sound Environment
The source materials for the sound environment created are from field recordings of Belfast city and the surrounding areas.  For sometime I have been interested in acoustic ecology and the continuously evolving sonic environment we inhabit and how it affects us, both physically and psychologically.   Through analysis of the field recordings I was hoping to discover Belfast’s unique sonic footprint.  What I found was that compared with other cityscapes I had recorded Belfast was no different.  This was interesting to me as it reveals how the sound world we live is becoming homogenised and this in itself is an important lesson.  In working with the sound material I wanted to emphasize the physicality the sounds around us have and to unearth the hidden sonic atoms contained within the everyday din of city life.  The experience of this sound world is not forcing any issue but hopes to encourage a reappraisal of the acoustic landscape and asks the audience to listen again to their everyday world and reflect.

This sound environment is based on the differences between hearing and listening.   One happens at a subconscious level and the other requires a higher level of engagement.  Which method we use depends on a lot of factors.  Sometimes the din of city traffic is just that, other times it’s a beast filling our heads, making it impossible to think.  Then other times it’s a rhythmic score that we can almost tap our foot to.

This sound environment created for this project plays with these ideas.  In working with the source material, derived from field recordings of the Belfast streets I have attempted to explore their inner details.  For the most part their original signature has been removed, although there are still traces left.   This allows a reinterpretation of the cityscape without any of the associations attached with these sounds.  It also helps to unlock the hidden detail within these sounds, to reveal a world within a world.

The work also attempts to reflect on the mainstream acceptance of the level of noise generated in city environments.  Is this the desired sonic backdrop to our daily lives?  As is a common belief most people are accepting of most types of noise with the view that overtime you can acclimatise to the sound.  Research shows that on a subconscious level this is not the case.  Exposure to certain types of sounds and frequencies can cause stress, anxiety, and tension, whose source is often not recognised.  There can be no doubting our knowledge of how therapeutic music can be, not to mention the peaceful sound of nature and the natural elements which become muted in these environments.  City planners include parks and green spaces as an escape from the concrete jungle of a city, why not a sonic green space?

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The Visual Environment
The visual element was created through a process of mark making (pencil, pen, pastel and charcoal) onto paper, in response to a sound environment. It sought to explore similar themes to the soundtrack, but in the visual domain.

The white walled project space (measuring x by y) was set up using two speakers placed diagonally in the room. A sub woofer speaker was centered to maximize the auditory quality of the sound and the experience for the listener.

The pages were mounted on the walls in no particular manner whilst the sound piece was playing. The visual element of the project was to create marks that reflected the sound environment. I embodied the space and this allowed the soundscape to subconsciously influence and naturally correspond with my marks.

The sound environment was initially quite intense but gradually over the space of time my attention became less aware of its unfamiliar and abstracted presence.

The monochrome drawings that I completed during the project have a primitive quality to them, which is interesting because they reflect the simplicity of the process I applied in creating them. The next stage of development will be to use the individual drawings as layers that will make up screen-prints – possibly reflecting on layers of the subconscious mind?

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