The Lights Which Can Be Heard


The Lights Which Can Be Heard is an artistic research project on the sounds of the Northern Lights, long witnessed by various indigenous communities in the Arctic. Despite the numerous testimonies, the Western scientific community denied their existence for decades until some hypotheses about their origin began to surface in the 1950s, which are still subject to debate today.

Among the different theories, some think that the observer/listener can perceive in their environment the natural VLF (Very Low Frequency) radio waves produced by the Northern Lights. Some natural elements, such as minerals or crystals, would act as receivers and transform the electromagnetic radio waves into the audible, acoustic spectrum.




The Sun, My Father (2022)
Synaesthetic installation
Aluminium, Quartz, Custom-made LED light
Installation view
Biennale des Imaginaires Numériques
© Sébastien Robert


Without rejecting any of them, this is the one that caught Sébastien’s attention for his project. Despite successful recordings following a three-week residency in Andøya, Norway, Sébastien realised that the VLF waves emitted by the Northern Lights are becoming increasingly difficult to perceive due to anthropocentric activity. Drowned by artificial signals, these natural radio waves are bound to disappear from our perception.

Inspired by this unique context and in continuity with his previous work, Sébastien approached this ongoing debate from different angles: indigenous, poetic and scientific, giving voice to each stakeholder while incorporating his own vision. The result is four interconnected works at the intersection of visual and sound arts, technology, science and ethnography, which allow the audience to perceive the sounds of the Northern Lights while preserving them in the light.



Magnetic Fluctuations (2022)
Real-time generative sound installation
In collaboration with Rob Stammes (Polar Light Center)
Make Noise shared system + LED screen
Installation view
Biennale des Imaginaires Numériques
© Sébastien Robert


Credits

Co-produced by Plateforme CHRONIQUES CRÉATIONS with the support of Région Sud, the city of Marseille and the French Institute in Paris, coordinated by SECONDE NATURE and ZINC. In partnership with Les Méjanes - Bibliothèque et Archives Michel Vovelle
With the financial support of Stroom Den Haag, DICRéAM and Fonds [SCAN] Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
With the intellectual support of the Royal Library of the Netherlands, Tromsø Geophysical Observatory, Fiona Armery (University of Cambridge), Rob Stammes (Polar Light Center) and Harald Gaski (University of Tromsø)
With technical support from Tony Rolando (Make Noise), Lucien Nicou (design + production), Leandros Ntolas (light + optics), Pim Kerssemakers (metalwork) and Mark IJzerman (software)
Research commissioned by STRP Festival, initiated during the Arctic Wave residency (Andøya, NO) under the artistic supervision of Jean-Emmanuel Rosnet

Exhibitions

2023
Superluminal
Light Art Museum
Budapest
HU
Obsoletely New!
SIGN
Groningen
NL
Scopitone Festival
ESBANM
Nantes
FR
FIBER Festival
DOOR OPEN SPACE
Amsterdam
NL
2022
CNS
Arktikum
Rovaniemi
FI
Biennale Chroniques
Bibliothèque Méjanes
Aix-en-Provence
FR
STRP Festival
Pullman Hotel
Eindhoven
NL
Nordlyst Festival
Andenes Lighthouse
Andøya
NO
Terrestrial Voice
AyarKut Foundation
Yakutsk
RU