Mama, “Ge, bi ei kaptasiemi see weisiteize.
Ulile wendei, ulini bagdiiti, uli, bäsa edelegeini.
Grandmother (replied): Well, I have wrapped up my shin bone. I scraped it and wrapped it up into various parcels.
Throw them around.
Throw them in the water, so rivers and creeks appear.
When you throw in a pool, a lake will appear.
(from Udeghe folk tales (Siberian tungus))
siguŋaiqtaaga naguatun manna.
From out at sea there, they went westward,
and the ice had stopped forming.
(from “Ugiuvangmiut Quliapyuit / King Island Tales”)
I’ve expanded my understanding of climate change data and of data in general with respect to environmental knowledge and adaptation strategies. My new perspective considers knowledge about climate change partly in terms of scientific data, partly as understood through historically validated oral narrative and myth and partly as a field subject to speculation, assumption and prejudice. This ‘porosity of approaches to knowledge’ (Julie Cruikshank) and the possible incommensurability of scientific and oral narrative sees the latter as open-ended, a model for opposing authoritarian speech (Mikhail Bakhtin), a form of knowledge which constrains and hold things together, a counterweight to the quantitative pressure of modern knowledge. I’m interested the kinds of knowledge that we find embedded in oral narratives and how this knowledge contrasts or conflicts with scientific data.
In June 2017 I delivered a paper and installed a climate change sonification model at the Sound + Environment 2017 conference at the University of Hull. The conference was a gathering of many of the leading figures in the field of sound art research and practice, with a particular focus on art and science collaborations. With excellent technical support from some of the students and technical staff, I installed a first test and evaluation model of if we do nothing in their very new and shiny state-of-the-art studio.
I set up pairs of loudspeakers at three stations around the room, with chairs facing, then created a social space in the middle. This offered visitors some variety in how they might listen to the work and created a space for discussion. This first model, a mapping of rising CO2 and glacier ablation (falling ice mass/area) from 1880- 2050, runs for approximately 30 minutes. I looped the piece every hour, leaving time for reflection and debate.
The conference was running paper sessions in parallel, along with multiple simultaneous installations, concerts, keynotes and other events, so the pattern of visitors was erratic. At one point I had about 20 people in the space, probably near capacity, then most people had to dash to some other event. Although this was a testing and evaluation event and obviously subject to the conditions of a very busy conference, in production I’ll need to think very carefully and consult with partners on programming, duration, managing the public engagement and so forth. Nonetheless I had a good number of visitors, many of whom stayed around to give feedback and talk through the many issues around climate change and adaptation.
On the creative side creative I need to make some decisions on the synthesis of the two glissandi (sliding tones). I kept the volume very low throughout and this worked very well as it drew people in and suited the atmosphere of the room. But I’d have been hesitant to boost the volume because it’s clear that creating a sound which will remain reasonably pleasant in the region of 15kHz will be a challenge. I had some interesting feedback on this and will make some adjustments overt the summer.
My paper, which I was constantly reviewing in the light of new research, was well received and I wait to hear if there are intentions to publish.
I’m now working on a second model which involves a study of the oral histories of indigenous Arctic communities, comparing and contrasting their environmental values and adaptation strategies, expressed through song, myth and stories, with the methodologies and findings of climate change scientists and regulatory bodies such as governments. My idea is to synthesise selected recorded texts spoken in the native languages (by me – I have a specialist on board to assist me with the pronunciation), then digitally transform the sounds, mapping the transformations to data, drawn either from climate change science or from the social sciences. I’m aiming to test and evaluate this new model at the forthcoming conference Balance-Unbalance 2017 A Sense of Place (http://balanceunbalance2017. org) to be held in Plymouth from 21-23 August. I’ll also be presenting a poster at the conference and will take advantage of whatever publication options become available. Opportunities are being explored through the Balance-Unbalance relationship with the Leonardo journal, published by The MIT Press and Ubiquity: The Journal of Pervasive Media, published by Intellect Ltd.
Finally I’ve been invited to realise a headphone installation of one of the models at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (COP23, November 2017). For this I’ll need to establish a technical or support partner in Bonn or nearby so if anyone out there has any connections in West Central Germany please let me know.