Oscillations is a body of work that exists in several forms and is still evolving. The work emerged as a result of my collaborations with computer scientist Jamie Ferguson from Glasgow University, Colin Bell from the National Oceanographic Centre and curator/producer Javier Aregger.
Oscillations is inspired by the way distant or invisible phenomena, such as tidal cycles and the orbits of the planets, can have a tangible effect on our day-to-day lives. It is also the beginnings of an attempt to speculate on what an alternative, feminist, or non-capitalist aesthetic of time might sound or feel like. The phases of the moon have been long associated with the patterns of women’s menstruation, and I am interested in what insights or perspectives this embodied, very physical experience of time – as something that links the internal and the external, and that is cyclical and repetitive rather than teleological – might offer. What are the implications if we were to reject the predominant idea of time as a unidirectional arrow, and instead begin to experience it as a looping ebb and flow? Might this lead to a new kind of awareness? What if we saw ourselves ‘afloat’ in time and space rather than travelling through it? Rather than being mindful of the economic-induced anxiety around ‘spending’ or ‘wasting’ time, what if we instead allowed ourselves to be immersed or suspended within it? Might this allow for a deeper sense of interconnectedness, or entanglement, with each other and with the environment?
I am using a process of data sonification (using non-speech audio to convey information or perceptualise data) to translate tidal information from coastal locations into musical notes. The tone and rhythm of these notes is programmed to correspond to the time and level of high and low tide. Given that every coastal location has a unique topography and position in relation to the lunar and solar forces that are acting upon its waters, this means that the data from each location, when sonified, can be heard as its own distinctive ‘song’.
A year’s worth of tidal data is compressed into a twelve-minute soundtrack so that the looping, rhythmic nature of the location’s tidal oscillations can be perceived. These tracks are then layered over others composed from corresponding details of lunar and solar orbits. Combined in turn with audio recordings of waves breaking against the beach, a complex and sometimes dissonant soundtrack emerges.
A multichannel, multi-media installation of Oscillations was first showcased at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow in August 2019. An Edinburgh-specific version will be presented by Ascus Art and Science and Summerhall as part of their Edinburgh Science Festival exhibition Syncrasy from 3rd April to 26th June 2020.
You can hear the Glasgow stereo audio version of Oscillations here. (Headphones recommended.) The tidal data used for this iteration of the work is from the river Clyde. Despite its central location, running right through the middle of the city, the river’s ebb and flow is perhaps rarely brought to mind. You are invited to step into the water and let yourself float.
Victoria Evans is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. She graduated with a Masters Degree in Fine Art Practice from Glasgow School of Art in 2015 and she has been awarded a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council studentship by the Scottish Graduate School to conduct practice-based PhD research at Edinburgh College of Art until 2023.