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CROWDED

A sound art project proposal about nature and crowds for Wild Bits & Maajaam residency

ÖŐ OÜ:

Karl Kaisel

Regina Vitányi

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CROWDED

A sound art project proposal about nature and crowds for Wild Bits & Maajaam residency

ÖŐ OÜ:

Karl Kaisel

Regina Vitányi

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Covid-19 induced a new trend wave: moving back to the countryside. It’s less crowded, they say. During these long months of lockdowns and separation, it seems like a new sense starts to awaken in people, a new “third eye” which scans the streets for crowds. Sensing a crowd feels akin to irritation on the skin, a frowzy smell in the nose, or sudden bitterness on your tongue.

We come from different places: Karl grew up in an Estonian forest, no people in sight. Crowds were always somewhat of an abnormal phenomenon for him.

 

For me, it’s a different story. I grew up in a concrete block with 170 people around me, in a country with three times as much population density.

When I moved to Estonia, I expected to finally learn what it means to be alone with my thoughts. After a lengthy research about Estonian folklore and sharing life with an Estonian person,

I learned something different to what I expected: To be in nature doesn’t mean being alone with one’s thoughts, but to share them with a crowd which doesn’t consist of humans.

Folklore has long regarded engagement with nature as a social experience rather than a solitary one: trees would talk to you, beasts will bargain with you, ferns will bewitch you. You can be turned into a plant and your soul can manifest as an insect or a mouse — it’s a lot more fluid understanding of the border between human and nature.

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Our project aims to create an atmosphere which translates a piece of a forest into a crowd. One can enter this space alone as a human, yet feel surrounded by others, shifting the perception of whom/what we share our personal space with. The medium is sound installation, where sounds come from hidden sources (speakers designed to blend in with tree barks). We plan to install 5-6 recordings onto neighbouring trees. The recorded material consists of sounds which we humans understand as “the presence of others” — clearing a throat, swallowing, sighing, scoffing, off-key humming, breathing, scratching etc.

The nature of the sound recordings depends on the types of trees we find at Maajaam. In folklore, different kinds of trees had unique personalities, so we’d let an aged, rotting oak groan while a brash sapling could giggle.

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We hope the atmosphere we create will be a space of reinterpreting one’s role in nature, and results in a fluid nature-human crowd.

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Production plan

The installation contains 6 wireless weatherproof 5-6W speakers disguised as branch stumps and part of trees. The speakers use audio files from the SD cards and play on loop. Each speaker plays a different recording matching the chosen tree. Trees are in close proximity to each other and surround the listener with sounds from multiple directions. The sound would be edited to be playing in various intervals.

The speakers are put into containers molded from fiberglass or waterproof paper mache (a more environmentally sustainable option) to be durable and further weatherproof the electronics. Fiberglass can be shaped to take natural forms of parts of trees and covered with glued bark and other natural debris to blend in with the rest of the tree. The speakers would be accessible for charging overnight and leave open the possibility of changing the audio files.

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