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Exposure: Understanding Living in Extreme Environments

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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.

Visual sources

  • 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.

Sound material

  • 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 Saga)
      • 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." (prymskvioa)
      • 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 cycle.

The software is written in Max/MSP and Jitter www.cycling74.com



Overview of

installation system:

© P.Adderley & M.Young: last updated 7.iv.08