I’d like to sign off on this project with a final blog entry. The funding from a.n has taken me on a very fulfilling journey of discovery as I identified and began to carry out the necessary research. It allowed me to spend time with a team of cryosphere scientists, an environmental artist/curator and a data and programming specialist. Were it not for this initial funding it’s unlikely that I would have been able to seek additional support and the project might well have slipped away. The face-to-face meetings and ongoing correspondence have set the project up more robustly than I could ever have imagined. I began with a simple concept – to map historical CO2 and glacier ablation data to rising and falling frequencies respectively. As this initial model took shape, I attracted further support from Creative Scotland, allowing me to establish new partnerships and extend the project’s depth and range. At this point I moved to a testing and evaluation phase. The first model was tested and evaluated at Sound + Environment 2017 hosted by The University of Hull in July.
I then changed tack and developed a second model based on an understanding of indigenous knowledge as data. With advice from Giancarlo Toniutti, a linguist specialising in Arctic rim languages, and from anthropologists at The University of Aberdeen, I learned how to pronounce short passages from longer stories and myths relating to environmental knowledge, broadly speaking. Four passages in the native languages, their English translations and four ‘authoritative texts’ from the UN climate change literature make up the core of the work. A short draft excerpt can be auditioned here: https://soundcloud.com/james_wyness/i-have-wrapped-up-my-shin-bone-draft-excerpt
A longer work is currently in-progress, to be realised with versions for quad (4-channel), stereo, headphone and live performance. This second model was tested and evaluated at Balance/Unbalance 2017 hosted by The University of Plymouth in August.
Overt he summer of 2017, in discussions with the scientific partners Matteo Spagnolo and Brice Rea, the disappearance of Arctic sea ice was identified as one of the clearest indicators of warming in the polar regions. My third model will therefore contrast data from 1980 (when records began) with projections looking forward to 2080. Two scaled and synthesised pitched sounds represent the levels at 1980 and 2080 respectively. A third sound, a falling glissando, creates a timescale by sweeping from high to low between the upper and lower data points.
The fourth model is at a very early stage and will look much closer to home by comparing pollution levels from semi-rural Southern Scotland with levels in Scottish cities. At the moment I’m looking at particulate matter, PM2.5, or possibly NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) as indicators. My aim here is to work with local and national data to create a near real-time permanent installation sited in the Scottish Borders or, given the more forthcoming collaborative potential, with partners in Dumfries and Galloway. The idea here is to rely less on the ‘big data’ of global phenomena and to look more closely at relatively clean environments wherever possible, at how such environments can be sustained through, for example, progressive transport, food production and housing policies. Another area of interest here is that of river levels, whose data, as with pollutants, is relatively accessible as a real time stream in various packets. I want this model to work both as a permanent and a travelling exhibition and have started on this with the assistance of Old School Fabrications in East Lothian who are currently designing a listening pavilion. The basic hybrid design will reference existing or imagined climate change research stations as well as the architectures of indigenous Arctic-rim communities. Inside will be a bench for up to six people, loudspeakers, headphones, acoustic treatment and interpretation. I want eventually to realise some versatility in the design of the structure so that it will adapt easily to a range of indoor and outdoor environments.
Finally, working closely with Dumfries and Galloway-based filmmaker/artist John Wallace I’m looking at how best to design public engagement. Over time I want the the project to serve as a catalyst or forum around which people can gather to share values and discuss matters relating to climate change and adaptation. Public or social engagement here is understood as a complex methodology (involving fresh or unorthodox insights, unruly truths, eclecticism, openness, collaboration) where knowledge from individual, collective and institutional bases is absorbed by the artist, then creatively reimagined, reframed and recontextualised to produce innovative work. I want to enable and facilitate new levels of awareness and understanding, new attitudes, emotions, values and behaviour towards climate change and adaptation, enlarging ecological and social contexts.
Regular updates on the project can be had at
Audio will be updated regularly at
Partnerships supported with Professional Development funding from The Artists Information Company, April 2017
Jan Hogarth, environmental artist and curator
Shelly Knotts, producer of live-coded and network music performances
Matteo Spagnolo (glaciologist, Reader in Physical Geography, University of Aberdeen, UK, Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, USA ) and the Cryosphere and Climate Change Group at the University of Aberdeen.