Gunhild Mathea Olaussen
Sculptural sound installation in a 10 m diameter circular landscape of resonant speaker membranes made from copper
centred around a core of 12 sensor-activated string columns.
Part of the solo exhibition Sounding Matter at Galleri F 15 (01.02–15.03.20), curated by Maria C. Havstam
Solo exhibition and concerts at the Henie Onstad Art Centre during the Ultima festival (14.09–15.09.19), curated by Thorbjørn Tønder Hansen and Svein Terje Torvik
Exhibition of preliminary project at the Norwegian Theatre Academy (23.04–24.04.16).
Link to exhibition catalogue, Gallery F15 (2020)
Some rooms are like magnetic poles, it vibrates in the voids,
between the materials, between the relationships.
In practice this is conspicuously concrete – a sound fits into my hand, a string between two chairs.
Are not sound and space created from voids just as sound contrasts with silence?
Is it not in the voids between the specific that we can become intimate with entities such as
silence, vibration, realisation and mass?
I can feel another body, let us say sound waves, as bodies in the air, between sender and recipient.
They become a memory in my flesh.
I want to rest my forehead against it.
Resonance is a sensor-driven instrument which is activated when the audience move around inside it. The installation comprises a circle of vibrating speaker membranes made from copper with a core of sensor-activated string columns. Together they make up a tactile space in which the interaction between resonance, air and sound waves makes it possible to actively take part in a sonic experience.
During the Ultima festival in 2019 the work was exhibited as an independent installation and as an extended instrument performed by and in dialogue with the musicians Bernt Isak Wærstad, Kristine Tjøgersen, Jan Martin Smørdal and dancer Magnus Myhr. The hourly concerts lasted 20 minutes with no announced beginning or end. Between the concerts the installation would be activated for audience interaction. Visitors could come and go as they pleased.
Central to the work is the physical experience of material, space and resonance. The installation’s encircling copper panels act both as an object in the space and as a backdrop into which the audience can step. In sculptural terms, the installation shares a kinship with minimalist sculpture whereby the content is focused on the situation, the experience and the time it takes to explore the work. The installation’s copper panels encircle a void where resonance, sound waves, air, light and human bodies come together in a sensory experience.
The floor of the space is divided into zones observed by a camera. The activity inside these zones – that is the presence of the audience and the duration of their presence and movements – is used as moments to trigger different arbitrary chains in an aleatory composition programmed in MaxMSP. The programme sends commands to twelve string columns forming a core in the middle of the space. The sound of the string columns is then sent back to three transducer speakers within each of the copper panels (six panels and 18 transducers in total). The transducers excite the copper panels, which resonate like speaker membranes and colour the sonic quality with their own resonance. At certain frequencies the resonance triggers a physical vibration in the material so that the copper sounds almost like a cymbal and reflects the light in the room like the sun shining on the water’s surface during a blood red sunset.
The string columns are made from hollow metal pipes, cast into a narrow foundation made from concrete and Giloform brilliant white. The columns have been varnished in a matt black finish. Each column has been fitted with three strings all facing in different directions where the pipe has been trisected. Each string is equipped with a hand-wound pickup which records the sound of the string.
The columns have been divided into two groups: electromagnetic columns and solenoid columns. Each solenoid column has a small hammer which, on cue, plucks the string, creating a pizzicato. The electromagnetic columns are equipped with two electromagnets which, responding to alternate and varying electric currents, take turns to be the dominant exciter, i.e. they “fight” over which overtones should sound. In this alternation between overtones there is a transitional phase between the dominant tones in which the entire register of overtones chimes in.
While developing the project I began to take an interest in Pythagoras’ string theory. Pythagoras believed that the inner being of things could be represented by figures, such as in the relationship between the length and pitch of a string. Once you start to make these connections, it is fascinating to discover how closely interwoven all of physics is, such as how the ratio between length, depth and width determines acoustics in architecture.
Looking at the floor of the installation Resonans, it forms a permeable membrane, open for visitors to move through and towards the core, or around it and along the outside of the walls. In the technical drawings it looks like a perforated circle. The string columns also form a wedge-shaped entity which stretches from the middle of the space backwards and out of the circle.
The people inside the space, be they audience members or participating artists, determine with their presence and patterns of movement which sound waves should be launched in the space. People also serve as resonant materials as they block and absorb the sound waves, thus changing the direction and strength of the sound. If we visually superimpose these sound waves and movements onto the floor, we can clearly see how the floor plays the role of a graphic score of the event in which time, action and physics (the instrumentation) make up the composition. I discover Toru Takemitsu’s circular scores and think that I could have interpreted them as space, mass and time.
The musicians and the dancer who improvise during the concerts at the Henie Onstad Art Centre are endowed with these ideas, with the instrumentation and soundscape that the installation produces along with basic instructions such as calibrating towards one tone and processing different qualities such as velocity, duration, harmony, disharmony. They must respond to the sound that is already in the room (determined by the audience’s interaction in the intervals between the concerts) as they enter, to how many people are in the room and to how the audience acts during the concert and how the social dramaturgy develops. The musicians and dancer improvise on the basis of this premise, and it is their individual vocabularies that come to the fore as they interact with the work.
Thus, the work is also residing within the total sum of experiences of the setting we are sharing. The work exists within the individual experiences that each and every participant carries with them. The process of creating the work was always a balancing act, seeking to build a structure that can trigger an augmented use of our senses while still making room for different interpretations. It is that very sensory aspect that I wanted to home in on; not one specific meaning.
Concept, execution and production: Gunhild Mathea Husvik-Olaussen
Technology: Roar Sletteland, Jonas Barsten, Bernt Isak Wærstad and Gunhild Mathea Husvik-Olaussen
Sound composition: Aleatory composition in MaxMSP composed in a partnership between Bernt Isak Wærstad and Gunhild M. H.Olaussen.
Sound technician: Bernt Isak Wærstad
Woodwork: Nils Rickard Engström Thimgren
Lighting: Espen Hådi-Siverts
The concerts at the Henie Onstad Art Centre during the Ultima festival 2019 were developed in collaboration with dancer Magnus Myhr and musicians Bernt Isak Wærstad, Kristine Tjøgersen and Jan Martin Smørdal
Artist’s assistants: Therese Næss Diesen, Amber Ablett, Ingrid Solvik, Øystein Wyller Odden, Johan Husvik-Olaussen, Helena Bosdal,
Ane Marthe Sørlien Holen
PARTNERS ON THE PRELIMINARY PROJECT
Technology: Jonas Barsten
Blacksmith: Anne Sigrid Hveem
Artist’s assistants: Aleksander Nicolay Holtermann Østgaard and Johan Husvik-Olaussen
Dramaturgy consultant: Erik Dæhlin
Lighting consultant: Kyrre Heldal Karlsen
Produced in partnership with the Ultima festival, Henie Onstad Art Centre, Galleri F 15 and Østfold Internasjonale Teater
Supported by the Norwegian Theatre Academy at Østfold University College, the Programme for Artistic Research, the Arts Council Norway’s Audio and Visual Fund and Fri Scenekunst project, Contemporary Arts Centres in Norway´s regional project funding for visual art, the Norwegian Visual Artists’ Fund, Notam, BEK.
PHOTOS (from top):
Vegard Kleven © Galleri F 15
Paul J. Mckenna
Vegard Kleven © Galleri F 15
Vegard Kleven © Galleri F 15
Ingeborg Øien Thorsland © Galleri F 15
Photo: Ingeborg Øien Thorsland © Galleri F 15
Resonance at Henie Onstad Art Center 15.09.2019 Performance 3:
Video post production by Mikkis Recording Company:
Sound mastring and color grading: Bernt Isak Wærstad