SOUND HORN | Wave Decay | SANCTUARY LAB 2017
by Katie Anderson
Can an artwork retain an essence of the site-specific whilst re-locating?
Can a temporary artwork be a tool for exploring, or re-examining a site?
The second installing of Wave Decay took place as part of Sanctuary Lab, a 24 hour experiment of sound, light and art in the Galloway Forest Park. The site I selected on recommendation, is the stunning and majestic McMoab Stones, for the most part solely used by Mountain Bikers with a taste for the adventurous, these beautiful granite rocks rise out of the landscape like huge stone whales. It is an awe-some location in all manner of meanings.
The work has been heavily redeveloped sculpturally, with a series of new speaker horns created as part of a VAACMA Award 2017, in sheet copper and aluminium. They were a joy to make and gave an interestingly alien shine on the place, like small space rockets that had landed in the landscape, reflecting the tones and colours of the granite, the trees, the sky.
The conditions for Wave Decay 2017 were extreme, with heavy rain and strong winds – the site became increasingly exposed and wild as the morning continued as wet as it began. Wave Decay became an opportunity to watch the sheet rain move across the valley, and hear and feel the very essence of the place as a seeping cold, pervasive damp against all waterproofs.
The all pervading sound of Wave Decay echoing out through the rain lingers long after everything has dried out.
With extreme conditions come a kind of extreme audience. Intrepid explorers intent on the destination appeared in twos and threes, wearing increasingly serious waterproofs and boots. We casually handed out transparent wedding brollies to hold back the rain from faces at least temporarily, and visitors moved cautiously at first, over the backs of whales – picking between the puddles and up to the ridges, as the sound moved over in a constant drone of sound.
The sound, whilst difficult to explain – even in situ – provides an opportunity to re-examine place through sound, as the everyday sounds are muted and replaced by constant tones that move with the visitor, the sound unique to each pair of ears, moving and waivering discreetly between the sculptures.
It became apparent during it’s latest outing that Wave Decay is no longer the appropriate title, it started out as an exploration of decay in space and sound in the ruins of Milkbank near Lockerbie, but as it moved location clearly the name could not accurately move with it. The sound horns are the constant, and everything else adjusts in response to the site.
As the work moves on, it looks for both new sites and places to test, a new name – (perhaps the work needs to be renamed for each site, but to still have a sense of consistency across the installations), and potentially a new addition to the current sound. I would love to bring the sound of each site to following iterations of the work, and allow the sites, or ghosts of sites to work with the current tonal sounds. I would like to better share the human essence of the work, the playful exploration and the vocal ranges. The sound might like to be more human, or more animal – and better be able to share it’s sense of place. It’s a growing experiment, and I’m looking for new site locations, indoors and out, that could play host to Wave Decay’s Sound Horns. If you have ideas, responses or general interest please get in touch.
Huge thank you to everyone who made the effort to join me out of the McMoab Stones in September on a dreich Sunday morning, to everyone I spoke to and those I did not, thank you. Also big thanks to Sanctuary Lab team, Robbie and Jo, to Michael, Matt, Colin, Mike and everyone who helped get the install up last minute, Justin for the international tech support help line, to the trusty Pick Up on it’s final mission, and to the funders for helping get this project off the ground.
This project has been supported by Sanctuary Lab 2017, and the South of Scotland Visual Artist and Craft Maker Awards funded by Creative Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Live Borders.