The ecological disruptions of the environment are only the visible part of a deeper and larger problem, concerning ways of living and being in society on this planet. The environmental ecology should be thought of as one piece with a social ecology and mental ecology, through an ecosophy of ethical-political nature. It is not to unify arbitrarily under an ideology of replacement of areas fundamentally heterogeneous, but to be underpinned by some other innovative practices for the restructuring of individual and collective subjectivities within new technical-scientific contexts and new geopolitical coordinates.
Felix Guattari 1989

Environmental sound

In my research and practice I seek to contribute to a creative transformation of human sensibilities and awareness of our interconnection and interdependence with non-human, to foster empathy and care for life and our planet.

Biodiversity loss due to human agency disturbances is one of the major challenges of today. Sound is a powerful indicator of this environmental degradation and reveals to what extend ecosystems are affected. While the environment is becoming increasingly contaminated with unwanted noise, it has a detrimental effect in many species well being, including ourselves, highly affecting the quality of acoustic communication. The acoustic cues orientate navigation but also provide sensory stimulus which define a space’s aural specificity, the atmospheres, which influence all kinds of relationships. Addressing the issue of environmental sound pollution with only acoustic insulation techniques does not solve the origin of the problem, as it tends to separate beings from their primary sensory environment. This separation reflects in landscape and territory, with an increasing homogenisation of the built environment and the sensory qualities of space, and a consequent lack of diversity (natural, cultural). These are evident signs of degradation of territories and life. As a response, the mobilisation of site-specific art and the nomadism of site-oriented practices are efforts to retrieve lost differences due to the deterritorialisation of the ever-expanding capitalist order, which tends towards homogeneity and elimination of existing differences (Kwon 2002, 157). This is the context where I situate my research and practice.

 

To face these challenges, environmental sound is an important resource in design as it allows to tackle patterns of cyclical change in time (day, night, seasons), to apprehend a place’s dynamics and resonate with its potentials. It is sound and unfocused, omni-directional experiences that makes us insiders and participants (Pallasmaa 2017). For these reasons, I have been experimenting creatively with environmental sound. My aim is to contribute to an ecological approach in spatial practices, based on the qualities of the sensory experience of atmospheres and the performance of soundscapes.

Aural activism

Micropolitics, affective politics, seeks the degrees of openness of any situation, in hopes of priming an alter-accomplishment. Just modulating a situation in a way that amplifies a previously unfelt potential to the point of perceptibility is an alter-accomplishment.
Brian Massumi 2008

Working as an artist and a researcher, with a background in architecture and acoustics, I have been experimenting with the creative potentials of environmental sound, space and geometry as creative tools to foster an acoustic sensibilisation, towards the restoration of the sensory-sensual, and as a way to contribute for the integral development of our species in balance with all other species. I have been engaged in some kind of aural activism through micro-interventions in public space. By aural activism I understand the act of reclaiming the aural qualities and diversity of everyday life experiences. In this process, artistic research becomes useful to unfold vital materialities and open its experience, to decolonise perceptual spectra, detox bodies and minds, in order to engage ways of entanglement, embodiment and creation in cooperation with ecosystems. As my practice is site-relational, the interventions result in diverse aural experiences to relocate our sensory experience and awareness. Underlying my creative process there is a common ground: an experimentation with environmental sound through a spatial approach, into the architectural design of athmospheres, as encounters between humans, non-humans and phenomena. My aim is to create places for conscious listening, to engage with active ways of communicating with other-than-human. The purpose is to reconnect to our primary sensory environment, to value biodiversity, and to understand how different sound qualities shape our behaviour and affect our well being. Thus, I have been experimenting ways to open up the experience and transduction of environmental sounds which are usually imperceptible, masked or ignored, to move spatial practices beyond an anthropocentric spectrum, and towards an ecology of symbiotic relations.

A symbiotic approach

Trivially speaking, ecological awareness means realising that beings are interconnected in some way, but then we have to figure out what this interconnection actually means. At the moment, the phrase I’m using for the thing that ecological awareness names is “the symbiotic real”. What do I mean by that? I mean that ecological relationships are best described in terms of symbiosis, and symbiosis is a very interesting thing because it’s always a sort of fragile, contingent, uneasy relationship in which it’s impossible to determine which entity is the top entity. …There’s a sort of dynamic system there.
Timothy Morton 2016

I’ve been experimenting with an approach based on the term symbiosis (from the Greek: living together), which can be broadly defined by any interspecies interaction. All living beings, including humans, establish some kind of symbiotic relationship, with different degrees of cooperation. And this is how I approach artistic creation, with its infinite possibilities of innovation through cooperation. Thus I seek to engage a process of creative collaboration with different ecosystems and their communities (human and non-human), with the purpose of being receptive and offer new sensory experiences, towards ecological and artistic ways to inhabit humanised spaces. My intention is to create experiences to engage awareness of usually unperceived symbiotic processes. My approach is to enable more intimate relationships between human and non-human beings and their interconnection in space. This is a way to encourage the experimentation and valorisation of our sensory interaction with the environment, and the potential of this creative relationship for the well being.

The experiments

The experiments shared here are site-oriented, involve location recording, soundscape design, architectural agency, installation, performance and workshops, alternating between moments of field work and studio work. Every work is specific to each place. However, there is a common approach underlying, which draws around three dynamics – experience, transformation and attunement – expanding as a creative process:

I. Experience
– open up potentials: the genius loci and sense of place
– the atmosphere dynamics
– co-creation of relational experiences

This first step is a process of being in a place listening and experiencing its changes in time. Then, a process of recordings of environmental sound takes place, usually with a multi-track recorder and different frequency range microphones, that allows to open up the perception of the rhythms and changes of a place, its micro and macro events, into a physical experience of usually imperceptible phenomena.

II. Transformation
– modulation of environmental sounds, forces and (im)materialities
– resonance and acoustic spatialisation, to enable a physical experience
– open up communication channels
– affecting multi-sensory variations, to decolonize senses, body and mind

This second step is a process of composition, agency, installation and performance. It varies according to each place specificity, but has a common purpose of enabling perceptual transformation through resonance and acoustic spatialisation (connected to archaeoacoustics and psychoacoustics findings).

III. Attunement
– intimate communicative ecologies
– encounters between humans, non-humans and phenomena

The final step is a process of experiencing the installation or performance, as a way to engage awareness of surrounding vital forces, multidimensional realities, interconnections and symbiotic processes, usually neglected by human beings.