The Lights Which Can Be Heard
The sound of the Aurora Borealis has been witnessed for centuries amongst many Indigenous communities living in the Arctic. Despite the many accounts of Aurora sounds, most of the Western scientific community completely denied their existence for decades until some hypotheses about their origin began to re-emerge in the 1950s, which are still being debated 70 years later.

Some believe that the sounds originate in the minds of people who watch the Aurora Borealis. Their brains associate different colours and movements with the sounds: this is synaesthesia, an intimate sensorial experience. Others believe that when auroras are strong enough, they cause electrical discharges in the lowest part of the atmosphere that can be heard directly from the ground. Others believe that the natural VLF (Very Low Frequency) radio waves they produce can be perceived in the witnesser’s surroundings: some natural elements would act as receivers and transform the incoming radio waves (electromagnetic) in the audible spectrum (acoustic).

Without rejecting any hypothesis, it is this last one that caught Sébastien’s attention for his project.Equipped with a VLF receiver, Sébastien spent three weeks exploring the topography of the island of Andøya in Norway to find the best place to listen to the sound of the Aurora Borealis. Despite some successful recordings, Sébastien was generally shocked by the various military telecommunication systems audible in the spectrum. He realised that natural VLFs are becoming increasingly difficult to receive because they are drowned by man-made signals. 

Inspired by this unique context, Sebastien is currently developing an installation that will allow the audience to perceive the sound of Aurora Borealis while preserving them into light. 

_
Commissioned by STRP Festival
With the financial support of Dispositif pour la Création Artistique Multimédia et Numérique (DICRéAM), Mondriaan Fund, and Stroom Den Haag. 
Initiated during the Arctic Wave residency programme
Under the artistic supervision of Jean-Emmanuel Rosnet
With the support of Njål Gulbrandsen (Tromsø Geophysical Observatory), Fiona Armery (University of Cambridge), Rob Stammes (Polarlightcenter), Harald Gaski (The Arctic University of Norway), Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Matti Aikio.