I am one of three individuals selected to be an artist in residence at the Zion National Park in 2022. I will be in living in the park for the month of February recording, interviewing and seeing where the location takes me. I am the first sound artist to be selected for the program which has existed since 2010. You can learn more about the residency program at Zion on their website.
I imagine that my project will take all kinds of twists and turns once I am there, but here is an excerpt from my proposal:
We often think of preservation and ecology as things that we can see, but as the world changes we also run the risk of losing the delicate soundscapes that surround us. In 2010 I was captivated by the sound of the Narrows. The chatter and caws of the ravens bounced between the steep red walls carved through the park and mingled with the wash of the river. The chasm seemed to speak with its own unique voice – a very particular environmental acoustic signature. In my artistic practice and my teaching at Parsons School of Design I am interested in the way that sound can communicate sensations and ideas that differ from or merge with our other sensory abilities like sight, touch and smell. I would like to spend my time at Zion exploring its acoustic ecology and creating sound-works that open up other possibilities for understanding the land and the park.
My multichannel sound projects, which have included as many as 12 speakers, weave together sounds and voices to tell immersive stories. For example, the project “Stone Cold Groove” explores the culture of marble quarrying in the town of Dorset Vermont. The work is a blend of interviews, field recordings, sound design and music that merges documentary with cinematic and abstract depictions of the place. At Zion I would work in this way, creating a portrait of various locations in a process that allows the compositions to grow from the recorded material that I have collected on site. The history of Zion is an important element, and I would interview experts, for example historians, geologists, archeologists, ecologists, park rangers, visitors, volunteers, and if appropriate, members of the Paiute Indian Tribe, to gather observations, words, and phrases that build a complex, layered portrait of Zion.
I propose two types of immersive storytelling projects that will blend documentary elements with dramatic and sonically textural soundscapes:
- Immersive gallery-based audio
- Locative augmented reality audio
Immersive gallery-based audio. The goal will be the creation of a multichannel surround sound work that can envelop a listener in a gallery or other exhibition site. This audio work will also be mixed down so it can be experienced in stereo speakers or as an immersive headphone experience.
Locative Augmented Reality Audio. I would like to use GPS and mobile devices (for example an iphone) to deliver audio works specifically for sites at Zion. The creation of these can follow some of the same logic of the immersive audio works described above, but can change in response to a listener’s movements. Imagine for example, turning in a circle and hearing the sounds shift around you, or moving down a path and hearing voices and other noises emerge along your route.
As an artist in residence I would use my experience as an educator and collaborative artist to lead listening-focused sessions that encourage visitors to connect to the park using their other senses. Because I have also led sound workshops for children, I could hold sessions for young visitors to listen to and make sounds.
A residency at Zion will be an opportunity to develop works that respond to, reveal, and preserve the park’s rich acoustic life and its history. The results will be immersive, sensory-rich experiences that open up new ways to understand the park as a unique place – an artistic sonic portrait, a sound walk and embodied engagements that activate the ears.