The summer flurries

looking south from the science gallery (the summer flurries map)

track 1 track 2 track 3 track 4 location 5 location 8 location 7 location 6 location 9 location 10 location 11 location 12 location 16 location 13 location 14 location 15
The summer flurries 2011 GPS based spatial sound walk sound
as part of The Sixth Shore residency Artwork, image and photography © Perdita Phillips to walk
GPS, computer, 200+ sound files, headphones
Project: The Sixth Shore 20092012 Lake Clifton, Western Australia
Exhibition: Visceral: the living art experiment 2011 Science Gallery, Dublin

The summer flurries was an outdoor site-specific spatial sound art walk utilising high resolution GPS as part of The Sixth Shore project, hosted by SymbioticA 2009-2010. It presented a landscape of droughts, dry lakes and wildfires from Lake Clifton in Western Australia, the City’s antipodean alter ego. A postcolonial invasion from somewhere else inverts the deep history of Dublin’s spoken and scribed streets with sounds of wattlebirds and Australian Shelduck. It is a folding up of the space in between and an interdigitation or involution of the two places. Participants experienced the meshing of two very different locations as they hunted for invisible feathers and tracked the movement of water. The piece aimed to create linkages at different scales across human and nonhuman worlds.

The artwork used technology currently under development which aims to give a spatial sound experience down to a resolution of +- 2 metres. Using GPS technology, where participants walk determines what they hear: one can stay and listen or move on further to hear different stories depending upon one’s own interests and inclinations.

The walk began at the exit tunnel from the Science Gallery under the railway viaduct into the grounds of Trinity College, walking between the Lloyd and O’Reilly institutes before turning right and following the alley between Physiology and SNIAMS before exiting onto the lawn opposite the Zoology building. With the use of more than 200 separate sound files a rich, layered experience was developed with background ambient recordings from Lake Clifton and sorties of directional sound weaving themselves through stories situated at each of the benches around the lawn. Finally a quick-moving forest fire travels from the southwest to northwest before the landscape recovers to the sound of Robert Gifford’s dragons of inaction.

Reproducing this experience online is imperfect at best. You can listen to a 12 minute long edited approximation of what it might be like to walk along the route or you can sample some of the point source sounds associated with different locations by moving your cursor over the image above and clicking on the active areas of the map or by following the links below to additional web pages.

Version 2: 11 minutes 59 second linear soundtrack

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Version 3: 16 tracks from a limited selection of locations

Part 1: The troubling case of invasive species

Location 1 next to the railway viaduct

Grey Squirrels by Dr John Rochford (Zoology, Trinity College) (3 minutes 24 second extract)

Location 2 opposite the O’Reilly Institute

American Mink by Adjunct Professor Peter Wilson (Zoology, Trinity College) (6 minutes 6 second extract)

Location 3 closer to the meeting point of four buildings

Zebra Mussels by Associate Professor Jim Wilson (Zoology, Trinity College) (10 minutes 30 second extract)

Part 2: Ocean transition and deep geological time (Shores 1 and 2 of The Sixth Shore)

Location 4 — traversing the narrow alley between Physiology, the Lloyd Institute and SNIAMS

Increasingly stormy waters invade your senses from the buildings on either sides. Upon exiting the alleyway Dr Katherine Grey (then Chief Palaeontologist, Geological Survey WA, Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum) lectures on the length of geological time as compared to the length of your arm before you arrive at the shallow shores of Lake Clifton (3 minutes 40 second medley).

Part 3: A tour of the outside bounds of the lawn area following the 10 benches around in a clockwise direction

Location 5 (bench 1)

Dr Katherine Grey rejoins us to explain the thrombolites of Lake Clifton (2 minutes 5 second extract).

Location 6 (bench 2)

Standing on the thrombolite viewing platform (jetty) Dr Jeffrey Turner from CSIRO Australia explains the groundwater hydrology of the Yangebup lakes (2 minutes 36 second extract).

Location 7 (bench 3)

35 seconds of male musk duck territorial mating display.

Location 8 (bench 4)

A bus load of tourists visit the thrombolite viewing platform (jetty) at Lake Clifton (2 minutes 59 seconds extract).

Location 9 (bench 5)

Dr Jeffrey Turner continues discussing the reasons behind the hypersaline waters of the southern lakes such as Hayward and Newnham (2 minutes 7 second extract).

Location 10 (bench 6)

Here we are searching for Hooded Plovers (Shore 4 of The Sixth Shore) along the north west edge of the Lake (2 minutes 41 seconds extract).

Location 11 (bench 7)

Australian Shelducks fly overhead (49 seconds, directional track in original piece).

Location 12 (bench 8)

The waters of the Lake along with the distorted fluting calls of a Black Swan (3 minutes).

Location 13 (bench 9)

Ah! Now we have the rare hooded plover in the ‘scope (2 minutes 18 second extract).

Location 14 (bench 10)

“Do they bite you? They don’t bite me.” (2 minutes 42 second extract).

Part 4: A host of sounds from across the main lawn area

Sounds of the nonhuman worlds

A medley of sounds recorded at the Lake and surrounding woodland: birds, crickets, flies, midges (2 minutes 29 second compilation). There were many stationary and directional files in this area of the soundscape.

Part 5: The fire

The fire

In an 18 minute cycle, fire comes consuming everything in its path before the landscape is reset again following Robert Gifford’s dragons of inaction. Stand facing the entrance to the Zoology building to the southwest to hear the path of the fire over the lawn area and out past the rugby grounds (3 minutes 38 second medley).

Background statement (catalogue)

We chart our cities, so we chart ourselves
. Peter Turchi

It is natural to assume that we would not be willing to compromise the environment if the conveniences and luxuries thereby gained did not have a substantial positive impact on our happiness. But there is room for scepticism and, in particular, for the thesis that we are compromising the environment to no avail in that our conveniences and luxuries are not having a significant impact on our happiness, making the costs incurred for them a waste.

Chrisoula Andreou (‘No avail’ thesis)

Life is not in things; rather, things are in life, caught up in a current of continual generation Tim Ingold

It seems that we can no longer have an everyday exchange with strangers about the weather on our morning walks — we vacillate between understanding our observations as weather or climate change, or the uneasy feeling apparent dissolves instead into a fumbling disquiet. Unseasonal phenomena alert us to the renewed complexity of life. Timothy Morton uses the concept of the mesh, as “a situation or series of events in which a person is entangled; a concatenation of constraining or restricting forces or circumstances, a snare,” to describe the challenge of the increasing ‘field’ of worldwide knowledge:

Our situation is fascinatingly contradictory, On the one hand, we know more. On the other hand, this very knowledge means we lose touch with reality as we thought we knew it… If everything is interconnected, there is less of everything. Nothing is complete in itself
. Timothy Morton

Andreou, C. (2010). A Shallow Route to Environmentally Friendly Happiness: Why Evidence That We Are Shallow Materialists Need Not Be Bad News for the Environment(alist). Ethics, Place & Environment: A Journal of Philosophy & Geography, 13(1), 1-10.

Ingold, T. (2007). Earth, Sky, Wind, and Weather. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 13(s1), S19-S38.

Morton, T. (2010). The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Turchi, P. (2007). Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer. San Antonio, Texas: Trinity University Press.