Image: Ghosts in the Machine/ Anthropocene in C Major
Co-founded by journalist Leah Borromeo, composer Jamie Perera and myself, the early idea behind Climate Symphony was to find a way to “tell stories” through sound. As we worked together, new ideas, themes and approaches emerged and the project developed into a space to explore a range of individual and co-created artistic responses (sound, visual and both) to the idea of “symphonies” from data.
At the start, I was personally less interested in a representational approach than the idea of what happens when we transform something usually experienced in one form into something completely different. So I will focus on how this manifested in my specific contributions to the project. Transforming “data” into sound alters our relationship to it and provokes a more visceral and emotional response. You can see (and hear) more about composer Jamie Perera’s work on this here.
The concept of a symphony also has a dual meaning in film, as some of the earliest moving image works – the “city symphonies” - associate images and ideas, create new ideas from disparate elements and in essence weave a story from our world. The amassed fragments of recorded life we have gathered since the birth of the moving image is itself data. That said, a film response to the idea was not immediately forthcoming to me. I struggled with the notion of bringing a visual work into the project, as it could too easily become a fairly crass attempt to “illustrate” or “explain” the sound work. The early co-created works therefore primarily explored the situational element, placing the sound (and the audience) inside a fishtank, a gallery space, or with live performers.
We were supported in our early work together by Serpentine Galleries, Sheffield Doc/Fest, the Global Health Film Festival, Forma Arts, and Arts Council England. In 2018-9 we were selected for CPH:LAB, part of CPH:DOX, designed to “support visionaries that push the existing boundaries of documentary filmmaking” by working alongside other artists in a physical residency to develop the practice and interrogate practical and theoretical principles.
These collaborative and co-directed hybrid works include:
Serpentine Transformation Marathon (2015) – discussion with Leah Borromeo, Katharine Round and Jamie Perera on the early concept
If The Oceans Could Speak (2016) – Toronto EDIT Festival. Sound by Jamie Perera, installation concept by Leah Borromeo and Katharine Round. Produced by Disobedient Films for We Are The Oceans.
Flatline (2017) – Barbican Galleries, curated by Gerri McHugh as part of Global Health Film Festival. Sound by Jamie Perera. Film Directed by Leah Borromeo and Katharine Round for Disobedient Films. Edited by Leah Borromeo with additional editing by Alex Baró Cayetano
Labs (2017) – A series of day-long events led by Katharine Round, Leah Borromeo and Jamie Perera to investigate the concept of “sound as a conduit for narrative” with a range of artists and scientists. The events included performances by Jez riley French, Kate Carr and Lee Patterson. Co-produced by Disobedient Films and Forma Arts with support from Arts Council England.
Oil Coal and Gas for Three Cellos (2020) - Composed by Jamie Perera. Commissioned by Serpentine Galleries. Performed by Alice Eldridge, James Douglas, Roxanne Albayati. Concept devised by Katharine Round, Jamie Perera, and Leah Borromeo.
The two larger works I contributed to the project as individual films, Twelve Thousand Years in Fragments and a prototype version of Ghosts in the Machine, can be exhibited in parallel with the standalone sound piece Anthropocene in C Major (composed by Jamie Perera) that sonifies 12000 years of data relating to climate change over 40 minutes.
These films attempt to find meaning from the pieces of our lives recorded and left behind: the visual detritus left in the largest online archive and repository of human knowledge. They provoke a conversation with the “truth” heard in the sound, inviting us to consider the imperfect, fragmentary nature of “data”: what is hidden and inadvertently revealed in these surreal visions.
Twelve Thousand Years in Fragments
Ghosts in the Machine (first exhibited as part of a hybrid sound/film version of Anthropocene in C Major)
London Symphony combines a film directed by Alex Barrett and a score composed by James McWilliam to create a poetic journey through the city of London. I acted as producer for the film and devised a series of Arts Council England supported performances, placing the film and a live orchestra (the Covent Garden Sinfonia) into three of the sites featured in the piece in order to provoke a dialogue between “reality” and its artistic representation.