Tuesday, 24 May 2011

artist in residence in Antartica

Cheryl Leonard is a composer and instrument maker whose work features live performances with natural and constructed objects and field recordings. Most recently she spent a month as an artist in residence at Palmer Station in Antarctica, already yielding material for an album of field recordings and a still-evolving series of composed recordings and live performances. Sounds from this residency, and blog entries chronicling her experiences, can be found at Music From the Ice.

Sonic Terrain spent a rainy autumn evening in her San Francisco studio talking about her work, the frozen lands of the furthest South, and the sonic surprises that surround us in the natural world.

Sonic Terrain: You clearly spend a lot of time outdoors, with stated interests in mountaineering, climbing, and skiing. What captures your composer’s ear when you are in a certain environment?

Cheryl Leonard: It depends on the context in which I’m outdoors. If I’m climbing a mountain I will notice the sounds, but I’m not going to stop to compose, because it’ll be likely to be an avalanche or something! [laughs] When I’m outdoors in a more relaxed context, like an extra day at basecamp, or we’re already down from the mountain and we’re just hanging out, [is] where I actually have the time to look for objects that would be good to use [for instruments and sound].

But it’s hard to not notice sounds, especially when you’re climbing. The ice axe is making a certain sound, and the crampons, or you get the good ice sound, or the bad ice sound, ice falls down and hits the other ice…it all sounds very musical. In the context of ice climbing, you’re listening for what is solid so you won’t fall off! But in a musical context, when ice is falling, it has different pitches, depending on the size and density of the ice, or what it’s hitting.

ST: To what degree do you rely on serendipity in finding natural materials that are sonically rich? Do you pre-auralize or predict what sounds that found objects or materials will make, or do you collect first and explore when you’re back from the field?

Leonard makes custom instruments for use in live performance, mixed with field recordings. These instruments are made of driftwood, penguin vertebrae and bones, and limpet shells.

CL: I think that it’s a combination of the two. First you have to find what might be interesting. As you walk on talus, you might think it’s really kind of neat. Then you can go and pick out specific pieces of rock you like, or sets of shells that will sound good in a set, so then you have a set of pitches from your objects. Sometimes it totally is serendipity: You’re just walking along and you kick something, and it’s great!

I’ve got to admit that sometimes I pick stuff up because it looks cool, visually. I’ll take it back to the studio, and maybe it’ll make a cool sound. You can find something [sonically] interesting in almost any object if you just figure out the right way to play it, or the right way to amplify it.

ST: Do the themes in your work evolve from the spaces you explore, or do you head out into the field to collect sounds and artifacts with a theme initially in mind?

CL: I can work both ways. Sometimes I just find sounds that are interesting and the piece develops organically from the sound, like a windy sound just evolves into a certain kind of piece based on the nature of that sound, and then at the end, you realize, “Oh, ok, that was kind of a piece about flying,” but I didn’t start with that. It just ended up that way. I’ve also done a set of pieces based on Chinese wilderness poetry from the Tang Dynasty, and so I had a very specific theme for each piece, based on a specific poem. So then I’d say, “OK, this poem is about rocks and wind, so I’m going to find and play rocks and make windy sounds with them.”

ST: It sounds like you embrace constraints as you work.

CL: You have to. One of the fun things about being a composer right now [is that] you have so many options. You could use any kind of material, you could use all this of processing, you could use any kind of theme, you can draw on music from all kinds of different cultures…it’s almost too many options to deal with. I have to give myself constraints just so I don’t drive myself crazy.

It’s a really exciting time to work with sound, because you have seemingly infinite options, and then it’s up to us to define the constraints that we want to work within for a specific project or piece. That said, I think you do need to keep yourself open to finding something that you weren’t planning to do originally, and maybe that’s going to take you into a different direction. You have to be fluid and go with that sometimes.

An elderly woman I knew about ten years ago gave me this great piece of advice: When you’re having that moment when you’re looking at the blank canvas and you’re not sure what to do, it doesn’t really matter what you do…just do something. Don’t be the deer in the headlights. Just pick anything and try it, and that’s a way through that problem.

ST: Let’s talk about your residency at Palmer Station in the Antarctic. What enticed you to the far south in the first place? How did it capture your imagination without having been there before?

CL: Doesn’t everybody want to go to Antarctica? [laughs] I’ve always liked remote places. I started hiking and I was like, “Where can we go where there aren’t other people?” And then I started climbing, and I could get to even more places that normal people don’t go to. That’s always been interesting to me throughout my entire life, so it’s like the Holy Grail to go to Antarctica, unless you go into space, maybe.

There are very few places on the earth anymore that haven’t been pretty well explored; even Antarctica has, although it’s one of the least explored. I’ve always liked icy, snowy, cold places, so The Land of Ice is just inherently exciting to me.

ST: “Chattermarks,” your album of field recordings from the Antarctic, captures a sonic richness that that many listeners don’t expect from such a remote place. What were the biggest surprises for you in the Antarctic, aesthetically, and how did they influence your later compositions?

Penguins and ice are among many of the voices that Leonard recorded in Antarctica. Photographs by Cheryl Leonard.

CL: I was there in the middle of summer, and that is the most lively time in Antarctica. [The animals are] like, “Whoo! We’ve got to breed and reproduce before the snow comes…in a month!” I found that part of Antarctica in that time period to be be very full of life. It wasn’t desolate. There were not a lot of colors, but there was some green, and the lichens would be vivid oranges and yellows. It wasn’t just this land of ice where everything was gray and black and white. There were these brilliant splashes in color. There were a lot of birds, seals, and whales.

I tried to not have really concrete expectations, although I did a lot of research. There were things that surprised me, but they weren’t that dramatic. I was mostly surprised about how bad things smelled than what they sounded like. [laughs] I was surprised that I did not hear an interesting sound from glaciers calving [when recorded] underwater. It’s a sound that you hear in the air, maybe it just clunks a bunch when it hits the water. The brash ice was always different [sounding]; I was amazed by the spectrum of sounds they would create. Some icebergs have a lot of air in the ice, so it sounded like amplified Rice Krispies even to the open ear. You’d be a hundred feet away and hear snapping and crackling. In some icebergs you wouldn’t hear that at all; you’d get up close and you’d just hear the water sloshing into cavities and things.

ST: Did you require special permission to bring back Antarctic artifacts for use in the construction of instruments?

CL: Yes, absolutely. You need two permits, actually: you need one permit for removing things from Antarctica, and you also need a permit to bring things into the United States. The continent of Antarctica is protected through the Antarctic Treaty. I had a long conversation with the head of permits at the National Science Foundation about this; it’s interesting what you do, and don’t, need a permit for. I don’t think tourists should be allowed to take home rocks and stuff, but technically you don’t need a permit to bring back rocks from Antarctica. You do need a permit for animal parts of any kind. You don’t need a permit for fossils, shockingly. You do need a permit for meteorites. You can’t take any land based plants.

[My permits] listed all the objects that I was going to bring back: Rocks, limpet shells, and penguin bones. You have to apply for the permits four or six months before you go there. I did some research to figure out what I would maybe want to bring back before I went there…there are not that many materials there to bring back, really, if you think about it. [laughs]

ST: In such a cold and remote environment, what equipment did you use to record with in the field? Did you have any weather-related issues or problems?

CL: I used the Sound Devices 702 field recorder, and I had a MS setup which was the Sennheiser MKH 40 and 30, which I had in a Sennheiser windshield and dead cat…which pretty much depleted my life’s savings. [laughs] I also used hydrophones from Aquarian Audio. [Leonard also uses these hydrophones as contact microphones to amplify her hand-made instruments. -Ed.] I also had some other microphones and backup field recorders, but I mostly didn’t use them. I had a parabolic dish and it was pretty cool, but [it] just wasn’t that interesting to me. If it had been in stereo, I would have liked it more. So I didn’t wind up using it that much.

I also had a little Edirol R-09HR as a pocket recorder. When I went down inside a crevasse, I’d use that, because the first time I went down I took the Sennheisers and they kind of got wet, and I was a little freaked out about that, so I was like, “Screw it, I’m taking the Edirol and keeping it inside my GoreTex jacket.”

I didn’t have any problems from the wet and cold. We did have precipitation, but it wasn’t that steady, or it was raining and the winds were blowing at forty knots, you really weren’t going to be making a recording anyway. Once I got used to the idea that I could carry five thousand dollars of equipment in a boat every day, jumping in and out to land on islands – I was like, “Don’t fall into the ocean, the salt water will destroy everything!” – aside from that, wind was really the problem.

I had to learn some techniques the hard way to deal with the wind. Learning to use the topography, you could duck down behind rocks to block the wind but not block what you were recording. Learning to understand what was happening with the weather was a really big thing. You could be like, “OK, so the barometric pressure is changing, so if I leave in the boat now, maybe the wind will drop in an hour.” Even if you duck out of the wind, though, there’s still a lot of background noise, because we’d be on boats and on small islands. It’s really hard to get away from that. In a month there were only a few days where the waves and wind were calm.

ST: Your Antarctic journey seems to have brought you closer to exotic animals than many of your previous excursions, from elephant seals to many kinds of penguins. What lessons did you take away from these wildlife encounters?

Leonard plays penguin bones, amplified with a hydrophone, with a feather

CL: Stay away from birds’ nests! The penguins don’t really care; they’re not used to having predators on land, so they’re just kind of curious about you. They’ll squawk at you, but they’re not really going attack you. But the other birds…

The skuas could be very territorial. If you were even vaguely close to their nests, they would divebomb at your head. It was really scary. They’d make this call, and you’d be like, “Oh, crap.” The station manager had been hit a few times and almost knocked over. It is really terrifying. It made me really think about how birds and dinosaurs are supposedly related. [laughs] There are parts of islands that are blocked off during the breeding season, so at first you’re like, “That’s to protect the birds.” But it’s also to protect you. If you go there, they will attack you.

Leonard plays penguin bones, amplified with a hydrophone, with a feather.

The elephant seals were pretty docile, which is not true of the northern elephant seals. if you’re up here in Northern California, you should not approach an elephant seal. If you’re in Antarctica, they don’t really care. But the leopard seals were kind of scary; beautiful, beautiful animals, but so big! They’d be as long as the Zodiac, and they’re the top predator in the ecosystem there. We saw leopard seals almost every day, which is really great until the seal would slide off their ice platforms and get into the water and start coming for your boat. Anytime you’re that close to an animal that strong and powerful, you have to be really humble. They didn’t make any sounds when they’re on land. Doug Quinn has some underwater recordings of them, though.

ST: Are you planning to integrate your field recordings into live performances?

CL: I’m working on a series of compositions that use the instruments made form Antarctic objects together with field recordings from Antarctica. I am planning to release those in less than a year from now. I have one piece that uses recordings of sleeping elephant seals with kelp flutes. I think of it as a lullaby; I call it for “Lullaby for E. Seals.” I have other pieces that use penguin sounds, sounds from underwater ice… I’ve been fabricating icicles that I have have onstage that can drip, that can simulate what it’s like to be in a crevasse in antarctica. There was a recording I made in a melting glacial face, which didn’t end up being a good recording, but what I heard in the recording was that the ice almost sounded like a gamelan. There are these repeating cycles and a little bit of rhythmic variation. The recording was useful for inspiration for a piece. Sometimes it’s nice to know that even your failed field recordings a can be useful in some other way.

ST: You’ve journeyed into your own local environment, and one of the very ends of the planet. What will you be exploring next?

CL: Well, if you’ve really gone really far south, where would you go next?

ST: Oh, gee, I don’t know, maybe really far north?

CL: [laughs] My next really big project is a collaboration with the visual artist that I was in Antarctica with, Oona Stern. We were doing separate projects, but we shared a boat, and we were roommates, and we got along really well. Later on we decided that we should do a collaboration sometime. So we have conspired to go to the Arctic together and do some collaborative works mixing visuals and sound in site-specific installations. Our idea is to do daily projects outside to emphasize some essence of each location. We’re going to be going on the Arctic Circle, a residency expedition for artists on a schooner around the island of Spitsbergen, which is north of of Norway, where you make daily landings on the island. [Oona] was like, “Wow, we’ll be bi-polar!” [laughs]


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Ancient bones those of brown bear - BBC News 1st May 2009

An almost complete skeleton recovered after years of work from a cave in the Scottish Highlands has been confirmed as that of a male brown bear.

The pieces of bone were recovered by cavers exploring a network of caves at Inchnadamph in Sutherland.

Previously the remains of a polar bear were found at the site.

The National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh said tests have established the most recent bones found were those from a brown bear.

The first pieces were discovered in 1995 by cavers exploring a network of caves at Inchnadamph in Sutherland.

But it was only last year that caving club, Grampian Speleological Group, reached some of the final fragments.

Cave divers spent 12 years crawling through narrow spaces and moving soil to unblock entrances in their effort to recover all that they could of the bear.

The Edinburgh-based club's Ivan Young said last year the operation had taken hard work and intense effort.

The remains found included the skull, the second lower mandible, fragments of upper mandible, vertebrae, ribs, most of the long bones, the main elements making up the pelvis, and several elements from the feet.

About 70 to 80% of the animal's remains were retrieved from the caves.

It was previously thought the bear may have died 11,000 years ago.

In February, a sample taken from what are believed to be the only polar bear remains to have been found in Britain has defied DNA analysis, it has emerged.

Ireland-based genetics expert Ceiridwen Edwards had hoped to compare the DNA of the animal found in a cave in Scotland with that of modern polar bears.

However, she said there was not enough DNA left in the sample for an analysis to be done.

The sample was taken from a skull found in the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph.

It was thought the bear was washed into the caves 18,000 years ago.

The skull was found in 1927 and is held in the collections of the National Museums of Scotland.


Monday, 16 May 2011

Lise Bjorne Linnert - artist

Although I often use my own body as a startingpoint, my concerns are not of a private character but directed to experiences we all share as living beings.

I spit on, scream at, whisper through materials like ashes made from my earlier works. I let my pulse trace its imprint onto paper . I do voice performances or sound installations bringing presence forward.

My projects are abstract but literal. Initially they are esthetical and inviting but looking closer reveals uncomfortable and intrusive layers.

In Fences, my focus is on boundaries. With a very quiet, yet intrusive, action I embroider with silk thread around a broken part of a fence. This action, stitching around wires of a fence, is the essence of the project. The stitched trace is modest in size. On one hand it is a trace of care informed by the manner of stitches and the labor of doing it. Simultaneously it is an intrusive performance done on private or official properties without any permission.

Fences, archival card presentation
photo documentation, public intervention
2009- ongoing
Dimensions variable

Fences,Folke BernadottesAvenue,Copenhagen.09.07.09
Public intervention, silk thread on fence, photodocumentation
2008, ongoing
2,7 " x 3,9 "

Fences, Embassy
photo documentation, public intervention, embroidery fence
Dimensions variable


Heike Weber - marker on vinyl floor artist amongst other things


kilimbim, 2008, permanentmarker on wall, carpet, 160 x 150 cm, kilimbim, Martina Detterer Gallery, Frankfurt, GER, photo: Axel Schneider, Frankfurt, GER

Bodenlos, 2009, permanentmarker on vinyl floor, hall of the Villa Wachholtz, Verführung & Ordnung, Gerisch-Stiftung, Neumünster, GER, photo: Marianne Obst

Glück, 2010, plastic cord on pins, 340 x 760 cm, Viel Glück und Erfolg, Städtische Galerie Nordhorn, GER, photo: Heike Weber

Glück, 2010, plastic cord on pins, 340 x 760 cm, Viel Glück und Erfolg, Städtische Galerie Nordhorn, GER, photo: Heike Weber

Glück, 2010, plastic cord on pins, 340 x 760 cm, Viel Glück und Erfolg, Städtische Galerie Nordhorn, GER, photo: Helmut Claus, Nordhorn, GER



1989, artificial fur on styrofoam
photo: Heike Weber

1962 born in Siegen, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
1981-86 studies at the FH Aachen (graphic-design), GER
1993 artist in residence, Glasgow School of Art, GB
1994 lectureship in the Department of Environmental Art,
Glasgow School of Art, GB
2008 lecture for the academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart, GER
2008 winner of the public Art Competition for the entrancehall of the University Hospital of Düsseldorf (realisation spring 2011)

In her work Heike Weber tests drawing processes beyond the usual format, sounding the depths of their dynamic potential in different dimensions and media. She creates installation-interventions in the form of expansive murals and drawings on the floor, as well as interventions that take over spaces and surfaces, using diverse industrial prefabricated materials such as carpet pieces, clothesline, and pieces of mobile, textural silicon. They all have a kind of double reality in common, which is the result of the intense relationship between placement and limitation, or between the specific drawing and the optical illusion. This also makes them physically effective, since her works disturb and alter the usual parameters of spatial perception.

Weber has also employed this expanded principle of three-dimensional drawing in her video works, most of which are loops featuring sequences of everyday observations, whose circular motion seems to obey its own set of non-functional rules. In another sense, this is also true of her figural drawings, whose motifs translate states of floating and weightlessness.

Whether with pencil, thread, scalpel, or camera, whether as an ornamental pattern or as a projected figure: Weber’s works permit viewers to recognize a decided interest in the processes of exploration and transformation in drawing, specifically passing on to them a sense of their own motion and perspective. This creates open areas and situations that subjectively explore (both physically and mentally) the phenomena of time and motion in the construction of space.


CLARA URSITTI - Glasgow artist



Site Specific Intervention: Sound, actress, mask

Part of the Communication Suite, Site specific exhibition curated by Christine Borland in the Communications suite of Glasgow University Medical Building. Artists included: Douglas Gordon, Mark Dion, Cornelia Parker, Abramovich and Ulay, and Alistair McLennan

The communications suite is a series of paired rooms where medical students are trained in patient/doctor scenarios such as breaking bad news and so on. A pair consists of one room with a mock GP surgery with a hidden video camera and microphone , and another with a classroom where students can observe each other interacting with actresses who play patients via the live video link between the two rooms. For the exhibition, each artist was given a set of paired rooms to work with.

I worked with one of the actresses, Fiona Ormiston. She was in the GP surgery room, and the viewer might stumble upon her if they opened the door of the room. I asked her to learn the lines from an audio tape of a 1960s US military experiment where it was attempted to teach a dolphin to speak English.

She wore a latex dolphin mask that was constructed so that the mouth moved when she spoke. She spoke the lines of the trainer, Margaret Howe in the same North American accent as the original. She asks " How are you? " If you respond, she is instructed to not understand you and to continue repeating the sentence until you repeat her words in the same accent. Eventually she might say " English Peter, pronounce ". If you do finally do repeat her words, she says " Good Peter, take a fish ".

In the adjacent room, the original audio recording of 1960s experiment can be heard, whilst, the live video feed shows a blurred image of the actress with the dolphin mask next door, making it ambiguous as to whether the sound is a live feed or not.


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Exhibition Review

Rosemary Trockel

Drawings, Collages and Book Drafts

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh

29 January to 30 April 2011

Rosemary Trockel was born in Schwerz, Germany in 1952, and studied sociology, anthropology and maths before becoming the artist we know of in contemporary art history and present.

I knew that this exhibition was an extensive collection of 200 drawings, collages & book drafts but had no idea of the range of mixed media work that Rosemary Trockel created over her career. In a similar vein to Beuys, drawings are produced on already used paper and discarded newspaper and scraps - from pages in books, to jotters and post.

Very interesting compositions and use of fabrics interweave in work that is akin to scrapbook mentality but with a more purposeful message attached. Best known for her knitted compositions, this exhibition focuses on the processes Trockel uses in her work. In recent years collage has become a tool for her to combine aspects of her multifaceted practice, which includes photography, film, sculpture and installation. Her book drafts declare works-in-progress, rather than finished objects, they collect future ideas.

A source of great influence on her work is Trockel's own experience of opposition in a male-dominated environment in the 1970s. This drives her to create a varied and at times personal almost diary expression approach to her drawings. Trockel does not follow a prescribed route of producing drawings that then lead to finished works - her drawings are finished works. She also places drawings and photographs of her own into collages which commonly are years in their creation as the artist continues to create and then use.

However, her work is often awkward and challenging. 'Vorstudie (Preliminary Study), 1989' is a work on squared paper using gouche and ink, and depicts a policeman upon which white paint has been splattered. This seems to convey an anger and a comedy to how an authoritory figure is portrayed, and is an example of Trockel's unease at following rules and formality.

'Vorstudie (Preliminary Study), 1989'

'Hals, Nase, Ohr, und Bein (Throat, Nose, Ear, and Leg), 2009' comprises of four images of woman. The leg appears gestural and grounded, stands apart from the vocal and auditory qualities of the throat, nose and ear. The combination of these textual and visual elements provokes thoughts pertaining to the nature of the presence, and absence, of female representations and voices.

'Hals, Nase, Ohr, und Bein (Throat, Nose, Ear, and Leg), 2009'

In one collage titled 'Unintended Sculpture 1986/2010' is a photograph half hidden with a veil of fabric, alongside the extension of a drawing outside its paper and onto fabric and wood that surrounds it. I liked that Trockel had included the starting year and the finishing year of this collage in the title (1986/2010) as it interestingly points to Trockel's interest in playing about with imagery and ideas for a while rather than exhaust them and move on.

The book drafts in this exhibition were displayed on shallow shelving and as if journals in a library but with one difference here, we were not allowed to handle them, nor thumb through their pages. We could only see their front covers and be intrigued as to what contents lay beneath. This was an interesting element of the exhibition and one where I gained enormous respect for Trockel's desire to hold something back, and herself keep her private mind exactly that.

Trockel was involved in the curating of this exhibition and its a really nice touch to know that she decided to leave some of her works in an exhibition but limit their access - and making a statement about the process of her art too. Her thoughts are noted down but not all revealed, and that is perhaps how these drawings and collages come to fruition, out of a collection of thoughts over a period of time.

I'm lucky enough to have seen some of Trockel's thoughts on paper, and she seems pretty grounded to me, and is someone who likes to be in charge of how her work is seen, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that - in fact it sometimes doesn't happen enough.

Exhibition Review

Jean Marc Bustamente

'Dead Calm' at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

9th Feb 2011

Jean-Marc Bustamante (born 1952) is a French artist, sculptor and photographer. He is noted as a conceptual and installation artist and has incorporated ornamental design and architectural space in his works.

The exhibition comprised of two groups of work: early photographs and sculptures produced between 1978 and 1997, and a selection of recent pieces made in the last three years. The difference between these two groupings is perhaps the most striking thing about the show; the vividness and plasticity of Bustamante’s contemporary practice eclipses the work from the beginning of his career.

This artist likes to change the way he shows his work with each exhibition space his uses - this is shown in the book that accompanies this exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

On the ground floor are three spaces to the gallery in which Busamente has placed large works, upon entering the space you are greeted by what at first appears to be a piece of furniture which I placed my bag upon and was asked by the exhibition guide to remove as it was sitting on a piece of the artist's work - oops this was unexpected. I've been in exhibitions where sculptural works look like furniture and honoured them as artworks by observing them at a distance, but this piece by Busamente does look very much like a large gallery table seat - the kind of ones you get in an old gallery, like the National Gallery of Scotland. Alas, I'd got off to a bad start in this exhibition, and this didn't improve much in this part of the exhibition. As a keen photographer I like it when photos are displayed in different ways, and it is always statement-courting to have largescale photographs in a small space. Busamente's photographs of a place (unidentified) drenched in sunlight are lost in the darkness of the Fruitmarket dim lighting, and it didn't help my understanding of his work by having two large sandpits at either side of the ground floor space, there was no relationship between these and the photographs that I could see, and believe me, I tried to establish a connection. I later read more about the artist and discovered that he chooses to exhibit his photographs without any information about specific locations or chronology, and that the photographs alone provide all the information to the viewer as they examine the minutiae of each.

However, the photographs did not entice me enough to feel much interest in them. And thus I felt apprehensive and filled with disinterest and disappointment as I ascended to the upper floor - and I'm glad to say the work upstairs should be the work Busamente exhibited alone for this show, as it really made up for the ground floor experience.

Several large scale works using ink on plexiglass both with and without steel frames adorned the brightly lit walls. Works I can single out for appreciation are 'Balbec 2010' and 'Landau 2010' , the latter of which is very like Japanese style (Hiroshige) printmaking as if printed on clear plastic as opposed to fragile white paper. The natural skylight windows of the gallery lent themselves nicely to these plexiglass pieces. These works made the show more of a success than a failure for me as a visitor. Looking back down at the ground floor work I think that the sandpits on their own would have worked better than being accompanied by the largescale c-print photographs, or less photographs and more light in the ground floor space would have made this whole exhibition work much better together.

Busamente's show I approached with excitment at seeing the gallery's flyer for it, but upon reflection the saying 'one should never judge a book by its cover' comes to mind when I remember this show.

Some of the works in this exhibition are in the images below.

Bac à sable I, by Jean Marc Bustamante (1990)

Dead Calm (installation view), 2011. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac and Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

One of the C-prints

Landau, 2010 Ink on Plexiglas,150x150cm Courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor Gallery

Saturday, 7 May 2011

newspaper article from January 2011 on a tracked polar bear's search for food and her loss of her cub on the journey

Polar bear swims 426 miles in nine days in search of food and scientists blame global warming
By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 9:26 AM on 26th January 2011

A polar bear swam continuously for over nine days, covering 426 miles, animal researchers were astonished to discover.

And the scientists studying bears around the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska and Canada, claim this endurance feat could be a result of climate change.

Polar bears are known to swim between land and sea ice floes to hunt seals.

But the researchers say that increased sea ice melts push polar bears to swim greater distances, risking their own health and the survival of the species.

In their findings, published in the journal Polar Biology, researchers from the US Geological Survey reveal the first evidence of long distance swimming by polar bears.
One of the bears they fitted with a tracking collar made an epic journey in search of food between an initial capture in late August and a recapture in late October 2008.

'This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C,' says research zoologist George M. Durner.

'We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold. It is truly an amazing feat.'
The study found that, in addition, the bear then intermittently swam and walked on the sea ice surface another 1200 miles.
Although bears have been observed in open water, this is the first time one's entire journey has been followed.

By fitting a GPS collar to a female bear, researchers were able to accurately plot its movements for two months as it sought out hunting grounds.

The scientists were able to determine when the bear was in the water by the collar data and a temperature logger implanted beneath the bear's skin.

A polar bear is seen in the water during an aerial survey off the Alaska coast in August 2008

Unfortunately for the bear, the feat came at a high cost. Not only did the polar bear lose body mass, she also lost her yearling cub along the way.
The baby bear simply could not survive the swim across the increasingly perilous Beaufort Sea in Alaska.
Polar bears swim from ice floe to ice floe in search of their main prey, ringed seals, but the warming global temperature has made the journey a bit harder.

'This individual lost 22 per cent of her body fat in two months and her yearling cub,' said Mr Durner.

"It was simply more energetically costly for the yearling than the adult to make this long distance swim.'

Mr Durner told the BBC that conditions in the Beaufort sea have become increasingly difficult for polar bears.
'In prior decades, before 1995, low-concentration sea ice persisted during summers over the continental shelf in the Beaufort Sea.
'This means that the distances, and costs to bears, to swim between isolated ice floes or between sea ice and land was relatively small.
'The extensive summer melt that appears to be typical now in the Beaufort Sea has likely increased the cost of swimming by polar bears.'
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) live within the Arctic circle and eat a calorie-rich diet of ringed seals ( Pusa hispida ) to survive the frozen conditions.

The bears hunt their prey on frozen sea ice: a habitat that changes according to temperature.

'This dependency on sea ice potentially makes polar bears one of the most at-risk large mammals to climate change,' says Mr Durner.
His paper: 'Consequences of long-distance swimming and travel over deep-water pack ice for a female polar bear during a year of extreme sea ice retreat' is in the current issue of Polar Biology.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature identifies polar bears as a vulnerable species, citing global climate change as a 'substantial threat' to their habitat.

View of ice and the Prince Leopold Island cliffs in the Actic Ocean

Newspaper article from 2006 on polar bear search is becoming a long journey to find food

Polar bears' hunting season threatened by break-up of ice sheet

By Cahal Milmo

Friday, 15 September 2006

The retreat of sea ice in the Arctic is forcing the world's wild polar bear population into an unnatural fast which threatens the species with extinction.

Scientists said yesterday that the earlier annual break-up of sea ice caused by climate change is cutting short the spring hunting season for the bears, which rely on floating banks of ice to reach their prey.

The disappearance of the sea ice in summer months is forcing hungry polar bear populations to spend longer on land, giving a false impression that numbers are increasing as they encroach on human settlements in search of food.

Travel agencies in Canada and the US offering Arctic tours have begun boasting of the increased likelihood of spotting the bears.

But a joint study by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Nasa, published in the scientific journal Arctic this week, has found that, far from thriving, the polar bear is at potentially irreversible risk from global warming.

The research into bears in five Arctic regions found that sea ice has begun retreating progressively earlier each year when satellite images from 1979 to 2004 are compared.

Female bears rely on the spring hunting season to build the fat reserves needed to see them through the summer months. The retreating ice means they have not had time to build up normal levels of fat - which can reach a thickness of 12cm.

The study found the spring hunting season was being reduced by nearly three weeks in some places - reducing the fat levels by up to 80kg in each animal.

As females become thinner, they are more susceptible to disease. Their ability to reproduce and the survival chances of their cubs decline significantly.

Claire Parkinson, a Nasa scientist and co-author of the report, said: "Our research strongly suggests that climate warming is having a significant and negative effect on a primary species reliant on the sea ice for survival."

The sea ice provides a waterborne hunting ground for polar bears from which they can find their prey - seals and other marine mammals. The polar bear can detect a seal from 20 miles.

Ms Parkinson said: "Our concern is that if the length of the sea ice season continues to decrease, polar bears will have shorter periods on the ice to feed."

2005 newspaper article on polar bears drowning evidence

From The Sunday Times - December 18, 2005

Polar bears drown as ice shelf melts
article by Will Iredale

SCIENTISTS have for the first time found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.

The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart.

Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.

According to the new research, four bear carcases were found floating in one month in a single patch of sea off the north coast of Alaska, where average summer temperatures have increased by 2-3C degrees since 1950s.

The scientists believe such drownings are becoming widespread across the Arctic, an inevitable consequence of the doubling in the past 20 years of the proportion of polar bears having to swim in open seas.

“Mortalities due to offshore swimming may be a relatively important and unaccounted source of natural mortality given the energetic demands placed on individual bears engaged in long-distance swimming,” says the research led by Dr Charles Monnett, marine ecologist at the American government’s Minerals Management Service. “Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice continues.”

The research, presented to a conference on marine mammals in San Diego, California, last week, comes amid evidence of a decline in numbers of the 22,000 polar bears that live in about 20 sites across the Arctic circle.

In Hudson Bay, Canada, the site of the most southerly polar bears, a study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Canadian Wildlife Service to be published next year will show the population fell 22% from 1,194 in 1987 to 935 last year.

New evidence from field researchers working for the World Wildlife Fund in Yakutia, on the northeast coast of Russia, has also shown the region’s first evidence of cannibalism among bears competing for food supplies.

Polar bears live on ice all year round and use it as a platform from which to hunt food and rear their young. They hunt near the edge, where the ice is thinnest, catching seals when they make holes in the ice to breath. They typically eat one seal every four or five days and a single bear can consume 100lb of blubber at one sitting.

As the ice pack retreats north in the summer between June and October, the bears must travel between ice floes to continue hunting in areas such as the shallow water of the continental shelf off the Alaskan coast — one of the most food-rich areas in the Arctic.

However, last summer the ice cap receded about 200 miles further north than the average of two decades ago, forcing the bears to undertake far longer voyages between floes.

“We know short swims up to 15 miles are no problem, and we know that one or two may have swum up to 100 miles. But that is the extent of their ability, and if they are trying to make such a long swim and they encounter rough seas they could get into trouble,” said Steven Amstrup, a research wildlife biologist with the USGS.

The new study, carried out in part of the Beaufort Sea, shows that between 1986 and 2005 just 4% of the bears spotted off the north coast of Alaska were swimming in open waters. Not a single drowning had been documented in the area.

However, last September, when the ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of Alaska, 51 bears were spotted, of which 20% were seen in the open sea, swimming as far as 60 miles off shore.

The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days later after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. “We estimate that of the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds,” said the report.

In their search for food, polar bears are also having to roam further south, rummaging in the dustbins of Canadian homes. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer who has been to the North Pole seven times, said he had noticed a deterioration in the bears’ ice habitat since his first expedition in 1975.

“Each year there was more water than the time before,” he said. “We used amphibious sledges for the first time in 1986.”

His last expedition was in 2002, when he fell through the ice and lost some of his fingers to frostbite.

Studio practice - via photoshop Feb 2011

Friday, 6 May 2011

play dead real time (aka minnie the elephant) by douglas gordon

exploring the work of sound - artist Katie Paterson

performing Bruce McLean

psychoacoustics - the world of sound

Psychoacoustics is essentially the study of the perception of sound. This includes how we listen, our psychological responses, and the physiological impact of music and sound on the human nervous system. In the realm of psychoacoustics, the terms music, sound, frequency, and vibration are interchangeable, because they are different approximations of the same essence. The study of psychoacoustics dissects the listening experience.

Traditionally, psychoacoustics is broadly defined as "pertaining to the perception of sound and the production of speech." The abundant research that has been done in the field has focused primarily on the exploration of speech and of the psychological effects of music therapy. Currently, however, there is renewed interest in sound as vibration.

An important distinction is the difference between a psychological and a neurological perception. A song or melody associated with childhood, a teenage romance, or some peak emotional experience creates a memory-based psychological reaction. There is also a physiological response to sounds, however. Slightly detuned tones can cause brain waves to speed up or slow down, for instance. Additionally, soundtracks that are filtered and gated (this is a sophisticated engineering process) create a random sonic event. It triggers an active listening response and thus tonifies the auditory mechanism, including the tiny muscles of the middle ear. As a result, sounds are perceived more accurately, and speech and communication skills improve. While a psychological response may occur with filtered and gated sounds, or detuned tones, the primary effect is physiological, or neurological, in nature.

Research on the neurological component of sound is currently attracting many to the field of psychoacoustics. A growing school of thought - based on the teachings of the French doctor Alfred Tomatis - values the examination of both neurological and psychological effects of resonance and frequencies on the human body.

Thanks to the ground breaking findings of Dr. Tomatis, we have come to understand the extraordinary power of the ear. In addition to its critical functions of communication and balance, the ear's primary purpose is to recycle sound and so recharge our inner batteries. According to Tomatis, the ear's first function in utero is to govern the growth of the rest of the physical organism. After birth, sound is to the nervous system what food is to our physical bodies: Food provides nourishment at the cellular level of the organism, and sound feeds us the electrical impulses that charge the neocortex. Indeed, psychoacoustics cannot be described at all without reference to the man known as the "Einstein of the ear."

In the realm of application-specific music and sound, psychoacoustically-designed soundtracks revolve around the following concepts and techniques:
• Intentionality (focused application for specific benefit)
• Resonance (tone)
• Entrainment (rhythm)
• Pattern Identification (active listening or passive hearing)
• Sonic Neurotechnologies (highly specialized sound processing)