A third version of my wind harp installation “Powerless Flight” was exhibited at the Sonic Acts Biennial in Amsterdam in October 2022.
In this site-specific iteration of the piece, aeolian harps and weather-responsive instruments have been designed to make air movement audible, attuning to the climate conditions around Het HEM. Powerless Flight was originally conceived as a response to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, where keen listeners witnessed a brief eco-acoustic ‘return of nature’ due to the historic reduction of industrial noise during the global lockdowns. Reorienting our perception towards other-than-human worlds, the installation aims to give a voice to the often unseen and unheard forces of the geophysical, allowing us to listen and hear the more subtle aspects of earthly processes. ‘Powerless’ refers not to a sense of helplessness, but to an act of release from the systematic control over the multiplicity of chaotic orders of life beyond the anthropos.
Powerless Flight was a co-commission with STUK Leuven 2022
Additional activity included conducting two ‘field walks’ in collaboration with the Soundcamp radio project that was happening during the ‘Sound Art’ weekend program. The focus of the field walks was on turning our collective attention toward the air and wind currents at Het Hem as forces that generate and modulate sound. Let us consider it an ecologically engaged practice for that specific time and context. Starting at the wind harps we will slowly go mobile and investigate the current conditions for various aeolian phenomena in relation to how the local fauna, transportation routes, architecture etc shape and affect the larger climactic air patterns. These elements, in turn, will feed our auditory responses from which our attention is directed. In essence, our movements and actions will create an ensemble of actions and sounds that lie somewhere between composition and improvisation for the duration of field walk to be potentially broadcast.
The site around the venue was the Hembrug originally belonging to a state owned artillery company which has since been decommissioned. Many of the various buildings are now occupied by museums, clubs and cultural organizations including Het Hem, the main venue for this festival weekend. Being adjacent to the main North Sea Canal (and the sea itself), there was almost constant shifting winds. This allowed a range of conditions for the Harps to respond to including storm force winds that would even tilt the structures off centre due to the soft ground underneath. The field walks also differed on the first and second day because the general wind direction change entirely. Beside offering me a challenge, this highlighted the chaotic nature of the wind and reminded me of how improvisatory such a site responsive action needs to be.
Special thanks to Maud, Anne, Mark, CheeYee for their curatorial and organizational efforts, to Dawn and Grant from Soundcamp and to the participants who joined the Field Walks for making this an engaging and enjoyable event.