The Lights Which Can Be Heard

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

The Lights Which Can Be Heard is an artistic research project about the sound of the aurora borealis, which has long been witnessed by various indigenous communities in the Arctic. Despite the many accounts, the Western scientific community denied their existence for decades until some hypotheses about their origin began to surface in the 1950s, but are still debated today.

Some believe that the natural VLF (Very Low Frequency) radio waves produced by the aurora borealis can be perceived in the observer/listener's environment. Some natural elements (minerals or crystals) would act as receivers and transform the radio waves (electromagnetic) into the audible spectrum (acoustic).

Without rejecting any hypothesis, it is this last one that caught Sébastien's attention for his project. Despite successful recordings following a three-week residence on Andøya in Norway, Sébastien realised that the VLF waves emitted by the aurora are increasingly difficult to perceive because they are more and more drowned out by artificial signals. They are therefore bound to disappear.

Inspired by this unique context, and in the continuity of his previous work, Sébastien developped four interconnected works around this research, which allow the audience to perceive the sounds of the aurora borealis while preserving them in light.

The Lights Which Can Be Heard
2021 — 2022

Co-produced by Plateforme CHRONIQUES CRÉATIONS, as part of the Biennale des Imaginaires Numériques 2022, 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.