TRAVESSIAS E ENCONTROS – SUSANA ESCUTA EDUARDO DEPOIS EDUARDO ESCUTA SUSANA (Lisboa, Portugal – Copenhagen, Denmark, 2016)

A collaborative exploration on distance, audio correspondence and psycho-geographic mapping, together with artist and researcher Susana Mouzinho (PT). In Travessias e Encontros (Crossings & Encounters) – a sound piece commissioned by the interdisciplinary online platform ESC:ALA, the full curated piece being accessible here – Susana listens to a Copenhagen that Eduardo has cycled through, then Eduardo listens to Lisbon as it has been walked by Susana. A hybrid sound map results from this mutual curiosity, every now and then intersected by short voiced introspections. A dialogue with distance.

(photo credit: Eduardo Abrantes)

SOUND PORTRAIT SESSIONS (Copenhagen, Denmark, 2016)

Sound fascinates me in many ways. It is both tangible and immaterial – like human relationships.

It is vibration – our shaking body among other shaking bodies – it can animate the inanimate, it can be felt in the gut, in the hand flat against a wall, or barely perceived by the ear as a distant signal in the limits of space – above, below, behind and all around. It is complex as process yet immediate in our response – again, just like human relationships.

As a sound artist, one of the main driving forces in my work is the radical physicality and subtle tangibility of the sonic encounter with the other, as well as the multiplicity of the situations in which it might occur.

My practice is built around site-specificity, situation and curiosity. Therefore, it deals with the concrete circumstances where a meeting takes place; with the choreography of intentions as a collaborative aspect; with the intimacy, the awareness of the other, the awareness of the “we”, and the grasping of the unique encounter.

The Sound Portrait Sessions are seven compositions gathered from the sonic material recorded and exchanged during seven individual encounters, which took place at Projektrum Vera during June 2016. In each of these encounters – with Kamilla A., Cecilie O., Ingrid V., Johanne A., Louisa Y., Peter V., and Lucía M. – we talked, listened, hummed, breathed, walked, moved, in short, engaged with each other sonically. A list of some of our shared sound actions can be found here. The sounds collected via mono, stereo, and binaural microphones became the raw material used to create seven individual soundscapes, between 6 to 10 minutes each.

The initial idea was spun from wondering about the specific kind of encounter which is the portrait situation. One of the broadest categories of artistic production, the portrait has, over the centuries, been thoroughly re-invented, from painting through to sculpture, from photography to video-art, from performance to post-dance and beyond.

In our mind’s eye we might see the painter sitting half-hidden behind his or her easel. The model stands in front, on the other side of the canvas, in the spotlight – sitting or standing as still as can be, nude or propped with an ellaborate costume. The subject-object relationship in this ideal…

However, how could/should the setting be if a sound portrait was to be attempted. Which methods? Which situation? Which kind of encounter would this be?

HEAVEN : HAVEN : HAVN (Læsø, Denmark, 2016)

1. heaven : haven : havn – introduction as afterthought 

In Læsø, a small island of less than 2000 inhabitants off the northeast coast of the Jutland Peninsula, in Denmark, I was told that some stones have their own names. As an afterthought, that detail sparked the play between body, perspective and landscape in heaven : haven : havn.

heaven : haven : havn (previously known by the working title “salt of the earth / salt of the sea”) was the result from an invitation to do a collaborative artistic residency aiming towards a site specific intervention. The invitation came initially from Jon Eirik Lundberg, director of the Læsø Kunsthal (established in 2012), via Eja Rhea Due and Camilla Calundann, respectively director/performer and scenographer/visual artist of the Copenhagen-based collective Teater Bæst.

After a previous shorter trip in February, for two weeks in May 2016, me, Eja, and Camilla, stayed in Læsø and researched the different strands of inspiration that the island afforded, while exploring how best to bring our individual practices and strategies to combine into a coherent artistic intervention.

Our collective process developed across three intermingling levels. These three levels followed three main elements of site specificity as immersive practice: the local landscape, the life rhythms and the social fabric of the inhabitants, the awareness of the implications of our own presence as short-term nomadic visitors with an aesthetic agenda.

2. Site specificity as an exercise in self-awareness, and heaven : haven : havn as an outcome

A short note about these three levels of site specificity.

Læsø’s landscape is dominated by flatness and by the slow shifting texture of the ground below the horizon. From the thick forest areas, to the hybrid farm lands, from the pelt like smoothness of the low coastal vegetation, to the sandy beaches sprinkled with white sun-bleached shells and bird bone fragments, to the low pulse of the tide changing green to blue according to the depth – it is a landscape to be experienced underfoot and above eye level, an horizontal reach with a panoramic sensibility.

With so much space and such a sparse population, people tend either to be very close together, or far apart. The life rhythms of the fishing folk, for example those we shortly met at the “Universitet”, a fishermen’s shack converted into a temporary hangout for storytelling and drinking, are marked by a deliberate slowness at land. Carlsens Hotel, at Vesterø, close to where the ferry docks, is another hub of slow burning conversation and raspy voices surrounded by a halo of boredom. Freedom and boredom, the prize and the sacrifice, seem to deeply mark Læsø’s life rhythms.

Also the scope of individuals and their dreams, like those of “Amerikaner Pete”, a well established farmer dreaming of building a Læsø mythology theme park in his land, an island within the island. Or the calm assurance and reticent perspective of the single policeman of the island, navigating a discreet mental map of neighbours and their natural frictions, or of outsiders and their occasionally dubious intentions.

One of the most inspiring elements: the ferry between Fredrikshavn and Læsø, part geographical extension of the island’s territory, part social network – with its shuttle pulse mimicking almost something like the inhaling/exhaling flow of life into and off the island.

The third level, us, our own engagement with the island by walking, running, gathering materials, recording sounds and taking photos, building up our own mind-maps, our own temporary territories. Trying to participate as active listeners in the storytelling rituals of the island’s inhabitants. Also, struggling with the specific languages of our practices, sometimes their incommunicability, sometimes their apparent consonance, even more surprising. The friction between our own expectations and ambitions, between the kinds of access we projected into our stay in the island, and the access we actually had to built, or sometimes to find, by sheer accident.

Out of this complex dynamics of artistic research, heaven : haven : havn manifested – as a temporary audio-visual installation at the Læsø Kunsthal, in a room where a model/texture map of the island’s materials was also crafted.

As a video art piece, heaven : haven : havn connected different levels of reality. The subtle exploration of the landscape by the presence of the body; the reference to the mythologically charged identity of the island, where ancient stones appear as worthy of having a name; and the focus on a manipulated horizon inspired by the radical flatness of the island, where the underfoot is brought closer to eye level.

The soundscape of heaven : haven : havn was composed mostly of binaural recordings taken during the ferry trip between Fredrikshavn and Læsø. In a exercise in acoustic embodiment, I walked deliberately on the empty upper deck, drawn by the lull of the sea, its contrast with the intense volume of the pitched frequencies of the exhaust grids, and together with the low rumbling of the ferry’s motors a few levels below. Also part of the soundscape was a discreet electronic improvised composition, produced exactly in the context of the long hours of freedom and boredom provided by Læsø’s sparse and meditative environment. (Some of the other sound compositions done while at the island were brought together in a piece called Spiritual Soliciting, which can be found here as 7# in the “Some Days Series” or listened to individually here.)

3. Læsø : view into a process

This project and artistic residency were made possible by a grant from the Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture attributed by the  Nordic Culture Point / Nordic Council of Ministers.

mobility_programme_horizontal-1 kopi

SUPERNATURAL SOLICITING (Copenhagen, Denmark, 2016)

Supernatural Soliciting – 7# in “Some Days Series” – a series of short situated sound experiments. Copenhagen, June 2016.

A gathering of sonic digressions through the flat landscape of the remote island of Læsø, in the northeast coast of Jutland peninsula, Denmark. Supernatural Soliciting borrows its title from a line in Macbeth, where friction between omens and expectations leads to crisis. It exudes longing, instants of playfulness and a sense of mystery manifest in improvised synchronicity.

(photo credit: Eduardo Abrantes)

HOLLY ROLLERS (Copenhagen, Denmark, 2016)

Holly Rollers – 6# in “Some Days Series” – a series of short situated sound experiments. Copenhagen, April 2016.

A series of every day actions and sound impressions gathered from the place called neighbourhood. Holly Rollers brings almost-melodies into contact with a deep-layered awareness of the surrounding rhythms, and the strange closeness of anonymity between those inhabiting them. It explores eavesdropping as a creative strategy.

(photo credit: Eduardo Abrantes)

UNPAIRED GLOVES (Stockholm, Sweden, 2016)

Unpaired Gloves – 5# in “Some Days Series” – a series of short situated sound experiments. Stockholm, March 2016. (headphones required for full binaural experience)

Gloves unpaired at the edge of the woods. Left behind by someone. Picked up by someone else and propped on low tree branches, waiting in plain sight. Like second skins, from metamorphosed distracted wanderers. Also, a song from a memory of a song heard – Portishead’s “It’s A Fire” – layering vocal rituals with the deep binaural situation of body becoming surface and friction.

(photo credit: Eduardo Abrantes)

SISTER BROTHER AGATHA DARKNESS (Stockholm, Sweden, 2016)

photo by Eduardo Abrantes - Kärrtorp, Stockholm, 2015

Sister Brother Agatha Darkness – 4# in “Some Days Series” – a series of short situated sound experiments. Stockholm, March 2016.

Faux-goth sensibilities fractured by 4am introspection. Sister Brother Agatha Darkness moves between dense social atmospheres and the off-beat suspenseful instinct for interruption. As a sound body it lurks, ritually gasping in tangible shyness and awkward self-awareness, while basking in cinematic associations. It is about subtle exhibitionism and wearing proudly one’s garland of imperfections.

(photo credit: Eduardo Abrantes)

LAVA AND DISHWATER (Stockholm, Sweden, 2016)

Lava And Dishwater – 3# in “Some Days Series” – a series of short situated sound experiments. Stockholm, March 2016.

A meditation on the shattering of domesticity through the need to create. Lava and Dishwater experiments with spoken/sung word as sheer acoustic physicality. Two vocal samples – Sylvia Plath reading “Fever 103” and Etta James warming up to “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” – combine with a heavy, moist rainy weather drone. Entwined, they bring up the dual potential of voice for both disembodiment and self-revelation.

(photo credit: Eduardo Abrantes)

OUTSIDE IN – INSPLAB III (Næstved, Denmark, 2016)

OUTSIDE IN – INSPLAB III (Næstved, Denmark, 2016)

Participation in Cantabile2’s Inspirationslaboratorium III – a collective exploration of creativity in the hybrid context of theatre, performance and live art. Outside In is a soundscape composed by the play between voice and the acoustic site-specificity of the landscape. It features vocal improvisation by Christine Borch (DK), poetic fragments gathered from Mary Elizabeth Frye’s 1932 piece “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”, and the binaural wanderings through the Grønnegade Teater surrounding area, with its life rhythms of farm animals and rich textures of the land. It was performed together with live sound improvisation, in both group explorations and intimate sensorial refocusing for a small audience.