As a keen, but amateur field recordist, I was excited to see an exhibition advertised at Brooklyn Botanic Garden called Sonic Succulents. Created by Los Angeles–based Adrienne Adar it promised handmade sensors would amplify familiar plants so we could hear them through gentle touch and sound. So excited was I that I dragged my partner, my radio producer friend and his mum along.
About Francesca Panetta
Francesca Panetta is an Executive Editor of VR at the Guardian, and currently a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. She is an artist and journalist and works in the intersection of sound, story and technology. Ten years ago she pioneered a series of locative audio guides using the GPS on smartphones. She’s interested in the way sound changes your perception of the world, first the real world and now virtual worlds.
Entries by Francesca Panetta
The Deep Listener is the winner of an open call, put out to artists early this year, asking for projects which imagined city spaces in AR to be deployed on site at London’s Serpentine Art Gallery. The Serpentine is prestigious, with an extension from architect Zaha Hadid, and it hosts some of the major contemporary art exhibitions of the city, so when I heard the project was an audio AR project and involved field recordings (at least that is what I assumed “organic source material” that was mentioned on the site’s blurb meant), I was quite excited to check it out.
Hidden in a small part of the large east London forest are speakers placed up in trees or hidden in the undergrowth, each playing musical motifs representing different plants, animals and trees in the area. These motifs change based on the weather under the theory that the weather changes the behaviors of the represented flora and fauna. This is a “Living Symphony”, a musical composition and installation that is meant to grow in the same way as a forest ecosystem.
Beyond The Road transforms a music album into an immersive exhibition. As it says on the tin, it really does offer audiences “a chance to lose themselves in a multi-sensory world led by sound”.
The music is by Unkle, a British DJ, who has dissected his album into stems and samples, and placed them around the Saatchi gallery in multiple rooms layered with videos and sets created by a variety of artists.
I became interested in audio AR almost a decade ago, before “augmented reality” had become an everyday term. In fact, back then we couldn’t quite agree on a term. Some used “locative audio.” I used “GPS location-based apps.” None were very snappy. In essence, what we all meant was layering audio in space. And it appealed to me because it had the potential to change our relationship with the real world around us.