geomorphology of the north coast

Geomorphology and auditory agency, Crown Shyness residency

This entry highlights my experiences at the La Timidité des Cîmes (Crown Shyness) residency project curated by Eric Mattson. The residency took place at Pointe de Moisie, in coastal Quebec just north of Sept Iles in August 2023.

Live mixing session on the Moisie river

Sentience and site signification through sound…

It has been a long standing interest of mine to integrate sonic analysis, representation and listening practices into the natural geomorphological processes that shape landscapes and define terrestrial habitats. With my work for Crown Shyness I used this project as an opportunity to continue my work in immersive listening, given not only the local context of the post-military coastal estuary biome but also the larger climactic conditions that influence the geomorphological processes that influence the shaping of the land and the inhabited spaces within it. In contrast to the visual artefacts of deep-time processes, sound and listening engages one in the immediacy of real-time processes of place making. Land-forming processes constitute intersubjective experience of the unfolding non-human world interwoven with earthly, living environments. As I have long believed, there is a potential multiplicity of significations here, a language if you will, of terrestrial life, exchanging signals to and from the organic and inorganic resonant realms.

Given the unprecedented conditions of the anthropocene (or whatever you prefer to call it), it is essential to redefine and enrich human relations well beyond the utilitarianism of modernist industrial extraction. As anthropologist Tim Inglod writes in the abstract of “Rethinking the Animate”, In animic ontology, beings do not propel themselves across a ready-made world but rather issue forth through a world-in-formation, along the lines of their relationships. To this I would add… Should we not base our logics on mere self-referential reasoning of human exceptionalism but entwine ourselves in  the continually shifting strata of sensory otherness contained within the morpho- geo- bio- cosmo- logics that we are immersed in?

‘Water harp’ played with the currents of the Moisie river

The ‘forces of nature’; water, wind, tectonic, biophysical etc continually affect the living processes that contribute to the ever changing dynamic character of any place. While many of these processes remain abstract to anthropocentric culture due to the extended time and spatial scales in which they happen, real-time experience confines yet fosters our realm of perception. If we start to question what we are sensing in a particular environment, each sensory realm allows us to ‘‘tune in’ to resonate with a specific niche of broader complex processes at hand. For example, our visual analysis tends to dwell on the deep-time effects of geomorphologies of slopes of hills and mountains, patterns in rock formations, shapes of rivers etc.

Mobile aeolian wind harps on the St Lawrence shore

The Pointe de Moisie sits in a unique geography between the mouth of the Moisie river and the St Lawrence estuary. As this sandy peninsula is surrounded by water, I found myself becoming synchronised by the tides, which can change as much as 3 meters a day. Between the wind and the tides there was much to work with to instigate some of the custom objects I created on site. For the river I constructed a water harp that gives off a wavy tonal sound when placed in the moving currents. The river currents are only accessible during low tide so the playing sessions had to be timed accordingly. In order to share the experience of listening to wind harps, I built to portable instruments that could be carried around and used at different locations. The portability of these harps allowed other people to try and ‘tune’ to the air currents to get the instruments to sound. It turned out to be a great way for people to learn how to understand air movement in relation to sounds that were generated (or not).

Walking with wind harps by the waves

For those who understand French, you can listen to a report about the Crown Shyness residency on Radio Canada.

Special thanks to Eric Mattson and the welcoming residents of Moisie for all their help, and to the other artists-in-residence in August 2023 for sharing their ideas and support; Nicole Gringas, Elico Suzuki, Francois Quevillon and Sarah Maloney.

Public presentation in Pointe de Moise on August 25th
Generous travel support provided by Eesti Kultuurkapital

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