Whale

Work / ,

Custom made stand alone headphones with audio player.

‘Whale (Dundee)’ (2017) is a sound walk where oceanic voices – bowhead and beluga whales, bearded seals and narwhals – speak directly into our ears from arctic waters. They become the agents, the guides, the voices of knowledge beyond our immediate experience. The cultural lives of cetacean and human species are complexly intertwined, from the history of Dundee’s whaling and jute industries to the current crisis of human induced environmental changes. The headphones are roped with local Dundee jute using a celtic 16-strand hollow braiding technique. Whale simultaneously invokes Dundee’s past as a centre for the whaling industry and increases our awareness of the new cultural industries replacing it there on the waterfront.

 

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Brandon LaBelle ‘Yolande Harris: Aesthetics of Intensity’ (2015):

“Relationships to animals and animal habitats appear as a strong thread throughout Harris’ works. She continually draws our attention to animal life by watching and listening, recording and amplifying winged creatures and underwater bodies. In her exhibition, such an approach is featured primarily through two works, “Whale Walk” and “Eagle/Eyrie.” Yet Harris is no straightforward ethnographer, nor does she aim for documentary capture only. In “Whale Walk” we are invited to listen to a series of audio recordings the artist collected from the archives at the University of Washington. Presented through headphones and a portable audio player, visitors are invited to walk through the gallery space, letting the sounds of Humpback whales envelope them in their watery, deep murmuring. These sounds are at once distant from our earthly territory, our terrestrial senses, while they in turn immerse us within their sudden proximity: the immensity of the sounds – the great depth and dimension of their sonority – are brought right up against our skin, delivering all this depth and resonance into our listening.”

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‘Whale’ (2015) is a sound walk using remote sounds from the ocean as a guide. Juxtaposing these oceanic voices with the desert or other land environments asks us to imagine connections to environments that are remote but nevertheless essentially connected via global climate systems and ancient imaginings. If we cannot bring ourselves to the ocean, what happens if we bring the ocean to us, and allow ourselves to be led by it, to listen to it? Perhaps these connections even lead us to places of increased awareness and expanded consciousness. Whale draws on stories of animal spirit guides and dolphin voices in the desert of the American Southwest.

The sound walk draws on my earlier works: Sun Run Sun: Satellite Sounders in which participants listened to sonified data from GPS satellites moving overhead as they walked; and the Displaced Sound Walks in which participants create a binaural sound recording of a short walk of their choice which they then listen to while retracing their steps. Both of these sound walks draw attention to our physical presence in space and the psychological effects of expanding our awareness through sound and listening.

With thanks to Kate Stafford, University of Washington, for the marine mammal audio recordings.