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Insights of an Eco Artist

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07: Contemporary Currents - Common Grounds: The Sonic Landscape of 20 Springs

Welcome to this episode where we delve into the inspiring project Common Grounds, an innovative artistic-scientific research initiative exploring strategies for sonifying environmental data. Led by Julia Boike and the Sono-Choreographic Collective, this groundbreaking project bridges climate science and sonic arts, aiming to create public experiences that connect us on a sensory level to our planet's intricate systems.

Welcome to this episode where we delve into the inspiring project "Common Grounds, an artistic-scientific research exploring strategies for sonifying environmental data. Initiated in 2020 by the Sono-Choreographic Collective and led by Julia Boike, head of the Energy- and Water fluxes research group at the Alfred-Wegener-Institut Potsdam, this project is a groundbreaking exploration of strategies for sonifying environmental data. 

Lasting until 2025, it seeks to answer a profound question: How can a long-term collaboration between climate science and sonic arts be transformed into public experiences that connect us on a sensory level to the intricate web of our planetary systems?

“It is the common that we want to address - as a society, as a polis, as demos plural, as what is still left from the ideas of global citizens and as members to the species that must move away from the center of the stage if it wishes to survive as a civilisation. This common refers also to the commonality shared between artistic and scientific ways of engaging with the world. Working with time based media that foregrounds sound, our offering hopes to be a welcoming host, a gastgeber to all, initiated specialists and non-specialists alike “

Twenty Springs

This installation uses a detailed set of hourly environmental data points recorded since 1998 at the meteorological station set and maintained by the permafrost Research Group at the Alfred Vena Institute in Potsdam at the Arctic Circle in the Svalbard Archipelago in North Norway.

At the Geophysical Lab of the Institute, there is a climate chamber where the temperature, humidity, and rate of freeze are controllable, giving accurate access to the highly complex weather phenomena of freezing grounds and waters.

Through custom software developed by the collective in collaboration with Tobias Grewenig, the 33 parameters of the dataset are translated and fed into an array of multi-channel sounding sculptures. Compressed into a single hour, it sonifies the first twenty springs of the current millenium as a navigable, storied, sound-light environment. 

Spread in space three-dimensionally, they establish relations with the visitors' moving and listening bodies on both horizontal and vertical planes. In addition, a CO2 sensor measures the local atmosphere and includes the effect of the visitors’ breath, incorporating the installation space and the visitors into the sounding data stream.

About the materials used:

Combining various sound sources, they utilize electro-acoustic methods, focusing on transmitting sound to stretched paper and foam boards. These surfaces are stimulated by custom-made instruments like bone-conductors, exciters, and bass shakers. Additionally, they incorporate an active subwoofer, a circle of nearby audio monitors, and ambient lights controlled via DMX technology.


When all these voices come together in the installation, they create a shifting chord. The pitch of the chord corresponds to where the sensors are placed in the station. High-pitched sounds represent changes in the air, lower sounds depict the ground, and the bass reflects conditions underground. Additionally, the tuning of this drone gradually rises over a 60-minute loop, similar to how the sound mirrors a 1.92°C temperature increase measured at the Bayelva site over the past 20 years.


That's a wrap for this episode. We hope you've enjoyed our deep dive into this fascinating project 

If you want to learn more about this project or explore other similar initiatives, be sure to check out the provided link. Remember, it's the connections we build and the understanding we foster that can truly make a difference in our world.

Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast to stay updated on inspiring stories of unity and collaboration. We look forward to having you back for more. Thank you for joining us!

Share your work and opinion with us on social media @insightsofanecoartist and use the #IOAEAcommongrounds


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