Landmass is a sonic and visual portrait of the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, created by sound art collective SONA and exhibiting at Sidney & Matilda this March.
In May last year SONA explored Orkney, collecting visual and audio data. The result combines analogue and digital production tools – using photography, field recordings, data visualisation and sonification techniques to create a unique portrait of this archipelago of 70 islands.
Orkney has a history and future unlike anywhere else in the British Isles. It's been inhabited for at least 8,500 years and boasts some of the finest visible remains of Neolithic settlements in Europe. Alongside this rich history sits its reputation as a leading world research centre, at the vanguard of the marine renewables technology revolution. In Landmass, SONA examine the living Orcadian landscape, from the archaeological remains of its human past to its future at the forefront of renewable energy.
SONA is Amy Beeston, Lucy Cheesman and Deborah Egan – a collective of audio writers/producers. Since 2016 they've built a network of female and non-binary sound creators in Sheffield through a series of workshops and concerts, and in 2019 focussed on creative work triggered by place – which also included Sonic Intrigues, an installation at the David Mellor cutlery factory as part of Sheffield Modern 2019, marking the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus art school.
Here SONA's members explain what drew them to Orkney.
Lucy Cheesman: Why Orkney? Our first contact was when Amy relocated here with her family in 2018. As a group we were determined to continue working together, despite the physical distance, so we lent on our familiarity with digital comms and software to bridge the gap and build this long distance collaborative project. Resident on the island for a week we collected geo-physical data and live experiences, talked to people, walked and watched. We used 35mm and digital photography, collected live sound, made drawings listened to Orkney Library’s archives, and ran an Open Studio for residents to create the content to make this piece.
Amy Beeston: I’m a relatively new recruit to Orkney island life, but my family have got connections here that stretch back over 900 years. I’ve been visiting the islands my whole life, but since moving here I’ve found that the raw, elemental aspects of the environment have become much more inspirational and important in my work, especially the effects of the wind and waves along the shoreline. I’ve been thinking a lot and experimenting with different ways of presenting sound in small art spaces, and am really enjoying living and working among islanders who value art and music so deeply in their daily lives.
Deborah Egan: Orkney is an extraordinary and often forgotten part of the country – but ignored at our peril! 5000 years ago the people of these islands were at the epicentre of innovation in the British Isles. Henges, with all their Stone Age civil engineering challenges, were first made here, only then spreading to mainland Britain and the rest of Europe. As producers we were inspired to see this ability for problem solving thriving and still happening today. The breakthroughs made in Orkney over the last decade have positioned it as a global leader in marine technology and energy capture – creating a quiet revolution at the edge of the World.
6th March, 7pm, free – no need to book.
Sound art workshop
2 March, 6-9pm, pay as you feel (suggested: £10 student/unwaged, £20 waged, £30 supporter) – see full details and book in advance.
SONA will share some of their techniques and guide attendees to create a short soundscape from scratch. All welcome, no experience necessary.
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