Understanding Living in Extreme Environments
A computer generates a continuous narrative of images
and sounds sourced from Greenland. A library of
materials and data are compiled and modified in
real-time; the system invents fresh events that never
repeat in order or combination. During a cycle of c.30
minutes, the installation progresses through a thousand
years of environmental and human history:
early Inuit – Viking Settlement 'landnám' –
Norse polity – Abandonment – Peripatetic Visitors –
Modern Greenlandic Settlement.
These phases are reflected in the materials chosen and
their behaviour at any given time.
- Photomicrograph images of soil samples, relating to
the current historical period: four images for each
sample, with different lighting methods (reflected
light and transmitted/polarized light). These reveal
various characteristics of the soils. The installation
explores these images using cross-fades,
re-colourising effects, magnification, and by
navigating in close-up from one soil grain to another.
- Site context photographs are revealed occasionally,
interacting with the soil images.
- Environmental recordings from Greenland and
related sites. A collection of recent recordings of
Inuit life, songs and work.
- Saga readings (abridged translations)
- She has gone, with the glitter of ocean
gleaming on her wrist and her bosom, and my
heart follows on her footsteps. For the hall is
in darkness without her. I have gazed, but my
glances cannot pierce the gloom of this desolate
dwelling; and fierce is my longing to find her,
the fair one who only can heal me. (Kormàks
- Vingthor spake “Listen Loki, and heed my
words; nowhere on earth is it known to man, nor
in heaven above: our hammer is stolen”… "Freyja,
with your feather-dress, let me seek the hammer”
…“For you it should be bright silver, and I
would give it even as though it was gold."
- Ægir, or Hlér, lived on the island Hlér's
Isle and was well versed in dark magic. He
travelled to Ásgard: one evening at feast there,
Odin brought in brightly radiating swords that
shone so well no other illumination was needed.
There 12 judges of Æsir sat, in the high-seats;
they were Thor, Njördr, Freyr, Ty´r, Heimdallr,
Bragi, Vídarr, Váli, Ullr, Hœnir, Forseti, Loki;
and also sat the Ásynjur: Frigg, Freyja, Gefjun,
Idunn, Gerdr, Sigyn, Fulla, Nanna. It was
glorious to Ægir to see this hall with its
wooden panels and many fair shields. Seated next
to Ægir was Bragi, and as they drank he told
Ægir of many things that had come to pass among
the Æsir…. (Skáldskaparmal)
- Each image is associated with data about the
thousands of soil grains it contains; information used
to shape and modify visual and sound materials to
‘sonify’ the data and the history it connotes. E.g.
the surface area of soil grains is ‘mapped’ to the
duration and separation of all sound events; the
colour and shape of grains is reflected in the pitch
(colouration) of sonic grains.
- Sounds are modified in real-time using both
filtering (emphasizing part of the spectrum of the
sound to create a new timbre or colour) and granular
synthesis (fragmenting sound recordings into tiny
‘grains’ that are reiterated rapidly to create sound
textures of shifting density and complexity). The
behaviour and timing of all such events relies on data
extracted from the soil images themselves, as well as
stochastic methods that ensure variation on each
The software is written in Max/MSP and Jitter www.cycling74.com