Jana Winderen: Listening Through The Dead Zones soutustadionilla Töölössä kesällä 2021, kuva: Veikko Somerpuro.
Jana Winderen: Listening Through the Dead Zones
IHME Helsinki 2020 commission Listening Through the Dead Zones was a site-specific sound installation by the Norwegian artist Jana Winderen, in collaboration with Tony Myatt.
On the shore of the Baltic Sea, at the Rowing Stadium in Helsinki, the audience was be able to listen to different species of mammals, including humans, and to various species of fish and crustacea inhabiting the Ocean. Winderen has been investigating how human activity is influencing the dead zones in the Baltic Sea and similar environments close to shores and in lakes.
Winderen is an artist who is exploring the way human beings interact with and live in their environment with other creatures and plants, and in particular our shared sound environments underwater.
The commission was postponed from 2020 until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
IHME’s expert team has chosen the Norwegian artist Jana Winderen to make the first IHME Helsinki Commission in 2020. Winderen is a sound artist who is interested in various sound environments and ecosystems. She explores places in water systems and uses tools for her research that represent the latest technology.
Jana Winderen (b. 1965) has a degree in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London, having previously studied mathematics, chemistry and fish ecology at the University of Oslo. Her works frequently take the form of multi-channel sound installations or concerts, but she has also created sound worlds for films, dance works and radio, and published material on CD, vinyl and cassette. Her works have been experienced in art institutions and public spaces in the USA, Europe and Asia. Winderen lives and works in Oslo.
Listening with Carp, Now is the Time was composed in Wuzhen, China. In the material that Winderen has recorded we hear the sound produced by the various fish living in canals. The work combines this local sound material with recordings made in the world’s oceans, which has a sound frequency that both carp and humans can hear. The work is on display as part of the Wuzhen Contemporary Art Exhibition March 31–June 30, 2019. Read more here.
Through the bones, 2018
For thousands of years, fishermen have been locating fish and other sea creatures in the water by listening through the surface with a wooden oar. This ancient technique has been practised in various communities around the world and, for instance, in Greenland they use oars to detect whale songs. This listening is possible because the sound created by the creatures living under the water is transmitted through the wooden oar and into the human skull, and via the bone directly into the inner ear. Marine mammals and fish use an equivalent listening mechanism.
Jana Winderen found this way of listening on her field trip to Thailand for the Biennale, and has since made several visits to Thailand to learn more about this listening mechanism and about the way that villages that practise sustainable fishing maintain a healthy, viable community by caring for both environment and people. Through the bones combines the mechanics of listening using oars with new technology and hydrophone recording techniques. Visitors to the 2018 Thailand Biennale also had a chance to listen to underwater life through oars in the River Pali under the guidance of local fishermen. Read more here.
Rats – secret soundscapes of the city, 2017
Rat colonies live in mutual coexistence with humans. Some communication between rats is in the ultrasound frequency range – above 20,000 Hz, which is inaudible to the human ear. Jana Winderen wanted to discover whether the stories of rats serenading each other with love songs are true. She recorded the ultrasonic soundscape of Bjørvika in Oslo, which is only detectable at ultrasound frequencies and then slowed and deepened it to create her own composition that is perceptible to human ears. In the research and recordings for the work Winderen employed new technology and collaborated with a researcher at the University of Surrey. In autumn 2017, the multichannel work could be heard on loudspeakers in the urban riverscape around the Akerselva (Aker River) in Oslo. Rats – secret soundscapes of the city was realized in collaboration with the Munchmuseet on the Move 2017 project and the nyMusikk centre for experimental music. Read more here.
The Chair of IHME’s expert team, Tuula Arkio, explains the selection of Jana Winderen to make the 2020 IHME commissioned artwork as follows: “Right now, the oceans and glaciers are also in the grip of climate change. Jana Winderen’s art and its underwater sound worlds are a reminer of what will be destroyed if we do nothing.” Also curator Timo Valjakka talks about the value of the oceans: “Life comes from the ocean. The future of life on Earth also relies on the wellbeing of the ocean.”
IHME’s Executive Director Paula Toppila adds: “Jana Winderen’s production combines art’s capacity for envisioning possible worlds, alternative narratives, in what we hear, at the same time as her choice of materials reminds us of the existence, value and vulnerability of other species. In Winderen’s works we are faced with incomprehensible otherness, an untranslated and often vanishing sound world, which we would not get to experience without her. We might call them vanitas works for the age of climate change.”
Professor Hanna Johansson talks about the experimental nature of the works: “Jana Winderen’s art sensitizes my hearing and makes the ocean world present in an amazingly intense way. Everything to do with the oceanic and the aquatic; the thawing, the freezing, the rain, the gurgling, the wetness, the freshness touch me with their sounds alone and make me feel the water as if for the very first time.”
The first IHME Helsinki Commission, the site-specific sound installation Listening Through the Dead Zones by the Norwegian artist Jana Winderen will be at the Rowing Stadium in Helsinki.
The Rowing Stadium
Jana Winderen came to Helsinki for her first background-research visit in early August, 2019. On the second day of her visit, she did a boat tour with the water team from the City of Helsinki’s Environment Services. While waiting for the team in Rajasaari, she noticed a deserted-looking white building on the opposite side of the bay. That building, the Rowing Stadium designed by the architect Hilding Ekelund, was built in 1937 for the 1940 Olympic Games, which were postponed until 1952 because of the Second World War. The Stadium has seats facing the sea, which seemed perfect for an artist who wants to draw our attention to life underwater. She went there the next day and made her decision: this would be the venue for the commission.
Hilding Ekelund (1893-1984)
“To serve as a basis for advanced technology and social life we should create architecture in which the main characteristics are natural logics, lightness of construction, a human feel, spiritual sensitivity, and even a sense of humour,” the architect Hilding Ekelund said. He continued: “We must first of all take a look at nature, at its abundance of strictly logical, harmonious elements. We must create room for our constructive imagination, but also restrain it. We must seek inspiration in the properties of different materials and structures, and in their as yet unknown possibilities: We can also learn from our society, climate and national character.”
Riitta Nikula, “Hilding Ekelundin arkkitehtuurista ja ajattelusta.” In Katujen kertomaa. Ragnar ja Hilding Ekelundin maalauksellinen kaupunki. Ed. Susanna Luojus and Itha O’Neill. SKS. 2011.
Listening Through the Dead Zones [excerpt]
An online version of Jana Winderen’s IHME Helsinki commission has been published as part of the World Weather Network. The piece can be listened to on the network’s website between June 24, 2022 and June 24, 2023.
Jana Winderen & Tony Myatt talk about the commission
Very peaceful, I felt that I wanted to dive into the unknown world of the sea. Very inspiring.
Jana Winderen’s online lecture for the Art, Science, Ecology course
Jana Winderen talks about Listening Through the Dead Zones, with examples of her earlier work and methods of working. The lecture is part of the Art, Science, Ecology course initiated by IHME Helsinki in collaboration with the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS at the University of Helsinki and Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts.