Barely Part 1 - 2007
Commissioned by Ultima Festivalen
Kanonhallen - 30th Sept - 14th Oct 2007
Composition and Sound Design: Dr. Natasha Barrett
Barely is an audio-visual installation that creates a just perceivable layer above the existing visual, sound and spatial environment. It plays with what exists, rather than introducing the new, highlighting what is already present in the individual’s temporal and spatial relationship to the subject rather than attempting to introduce the artificial. Barely can bee looked upon as our comment to the “noise–entropy” of modern society. By addressing the sensory level that is just above what is perceivable both when it comes to sound and visual stimuli, we turn the attention of the visitor to rediscover reality.
Natural and manmade environments consist of complex layers of audio and visual information. If we were to add some simple sound element, such as a sine tone, its volume would need to be tiny for it to verge on the threshold of perception. If we were to add a composed mix containing many layers of information, its ability to blend with and be part of that which already exists is far larger. Likewise in the visual and spatial domain, a single light shining from a set angle may change the space much more than a series of subtle projections. Barely therefore works on the principle of layers: barely perceptible changes in existing layers of the chosen space, layers of audio-visual techniques, layers of materials and results.
The increased complexity of the urbanised soundscape and landscape is ‘masking’ itself and tending to noise-entropy. The internet and our multi-media environment provide ample opportunity to escape from these everyday phenomena. Barely is intended to give the visitor an opportunity to rediscover and explore reality. It will encourage reflection, contemplation and create a detailed enough experience for lengthy visiting time.
The concept of Barely is such that it can be redesigned for different spaces. For the first versions of Barely indoor spaces are chosen. In Oslo our first choice of space is a section of Kanonhallen at Løren. In Kanonhallen there are interesting interior details, significant natural light, clear bright acoustic, a subtle low level background sound. Changes in daylight and background sound level interact with the composed visual-audio levels and information content of Barely.
To make a barely perceivable sound composition, in an already existing sound environment, hinges on an understanding of auditory perception and cognition. The experienced threshold of our auditory sense is directly connected to (a) the volume and (b) the content of the existing sound environment. In an anechoic room, the experienced threshold is that of the threshold of hearing. At a busy train station the experienced threshold is the sound to which we consciously listen to as information-gatherers, rather than as passive receivers where we cannot help hear the sound but have no intention to listen or interpret meaning. In most situations, carefully selected sound materials, frequency selection to avoid total environmental masking effects and low volume yet extreme detail, will draw people to stop, listen and reflect.
To make barely perceivable spatial modifications in an already existing environment relies on the principle of transparency. The space is created by over 1000 lines painted on polycarbonate film hanging from the ceiling. The lines are generated from sightlines shooting out from three potential view points, looking at particular points in the interior. The sightlines were projected onto the film from two sides, creating a not too easy to read interconnection between the film sheets and the space. The lines were painted with UV-reflective paint and lit by 20 Black lights. This created a highly dynamic space that changes dramatically during the fall of dusk. In full daylight the sheets and lines are hardly visible except from certain angles where multiple reflections of the exterior are mirrored into the space. Later when it is darker the lines start to glow while reflections decrease, in full darkness the lines are taking over the space, dematerialising it and creating a immersed and artificial sensation.
Fore more information see: Barely 1