The Matter of the Soul is an exploration into engendering empathy in humans with dispersal in the Arctic region through new media artwork combining sound art, haptics and installation.
The project began with the Artist in the Arctic residency, aboard the Akademik Sergei Vavilov, is supported by Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute (University of Cambridge, UK), Bonhams, and One Ocean Expeditions. Its continued development is the topic of my Cultural Fellowship at the Cultural Institute, University of Leeds. Scientific equipment has been donated to the project by the Chemistry Department, University College London, and hacked with initial support from Monoshop Berlin (Simon Schäfer).
Limited edition cassettes of the musical composition are available from Kat Austen’s Bandcamp.
Concentration is the first composition from The Matter of the Soul. It is an acid crystal immersion exploring changing acidity and salinity in our oceans as a consequence of climate change. It premièred at Spectrum, Berlin in March 2018.
In greater depth
The Matter of the Soul is a sound, sculpture and performance work. It focusses on the difficult problem of emotional engagement with climate change, and aims to engender empathy in humans with the process of dispersal and transformation in the Arctic region. The work draws an analogy between human migration, the movement of water from ice to ocean in the Arctic and changing identity online.
The musical compositions for The Matter of the Soul are based around field recordings of the different acidity and salinity of Arctic waters using hacked pH and conductivity meters. These properties of the waters vary depending on the melting of ice that increases the amount of fresh liquid water in the Arctic. Thus, measurement of these properties, and the taking of sounds from these measurements, captures the way that climate change is affecting this fragile region.
The focus on dispersal and transformation in the Arctic is not limited to ice and melting, however. Human activity is intrinsically linked with climate change and change in this region. As such, the compositions also include samples from interviews with visitors to and inhabitants of Baffin Island and Resolute, exploring the impact of human movement on the region’s culture and individuals’ identities, and reflecting on the environmental changes interwoven with this process. The raw material and compositions from the project will be released online under CC-BY-SA 4.0, with a call for others to remix the work’s identity as it travels the internet.
Fundamental to the project is the use of The Matter of the Soul media by others constituting its dispersal and changing identity online.
The raw sounds are available at The Matter of the Soul on Github
In the outside world
DIY Science podcast interview
Playlist The Matter of the Soul – interview and raw recordings preview on Datscha Radio, as part of Biotopes in Future Perfect, 27th August 2017
(files for raw recordings also on Github):
1) An interview with Nakinga Nakashuk Interview1_NukingaNakashuk_roughedit.mp3
2) A recording of sonified pH measurement from Frobisher Bay pH1_FrobisherBay.mp3
3) A recording of sonified pH measurement from Beechey Island pH2_BeecheyIsland_resolves.mp3
4) A recording of sonified conductivity measurement from open water Q_Conductivity2_OpenWater.mp3
5) An interview with Gyu Oh the curator at the Iqaluit’s Museum Interview2_Gyuaudiocrop.mp3
6) Smoke City – Underwater Love
7) dEUS – Disappointed in the Sun
8) Jesus Jones – The Right Decision
Datscha Radio blog on The Matter of the Soul (and other projects)