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navigating information by ear: 7 new environmental works

‘norths’ was open 10-5 Monday July 10th – Friday July 14th.

Ex Libris / XL Gallery at Newcastle University Fine Art Building.

This work is the product of several years of working with seismic and geomagnetic data from the far North to ask some questions about how and why we assign objectivity and centrality to 'standards' of all kinds, and any kind.

In the process of taking this exhibition down, I realised that it was not possible to document or attempt to reconstruct the experience of these pieces without being in them, with them, as a participant in the environment. Photographs only show a single and fixed perspective of an object that was also sounding. Sound examples make no sense by themselves and in this case are even misleading in conveying the presence of these pieces, so I have chosen not to present them. Video does a bad job of both and takes from the viewer thier own navigational ability. Text alone leaves too much to the imagination, espiecally my texts.

I don't necessarily mean that this is always the case, but it is certainly the case in my recently exhibited works. These media, these attempts at documenting, they actually harm the experience rather than allowing entry points to it. So I have had to really compromise with this, and to an extent, for these works, "you really have to be there". So I look forward to your invitation...and when it arrives I will make you something special.

Meanwhile, by way of documentation I include some photos, and my texts from the exhibition, which give some context around and some technical detail of each piece. For now, I have to leave it at that.

The pieces included are:

Constellation (Eskdalemuir 5)

As Above, So Below

Gate (Norths 5, Eskdalemuir 6)

Brraaap (Norths 4, Eskdalemuir 7)

Bird on a Wires (Norths 3)

Local Seis (Norths 2)

Trve Norths (Magnetic Declination Responder)

While invigilating the exhibition, I wrote this about the pieces in the show:

I am using this seismic and geomagnetic data in this exhibition to render the fallacy within objective standards like ‘northness’ something visceral, something felt, through sound. I want to return data to experience… to understand more about experience through this experience.. or at least to acknowledge experience and its role in being and what information is exchanged by beings in our environments…which we co-produce…

In sound we can some of what this data represents to be felt. The exhibition presents several sound and visual installation pieces which work together or against each other to create this environmental sound situation.

In a strange way the whole show represents a kind of chain reaction or feedback loop of materiality and embodiment: sound materializes data in gathered an landscape in the context of a new environment for embodied listeners.

note: I have not yet had a chance to attribute and reference these texts properly, in the meantime here is a list of works cited:

This work was conducted as a participant and research within Project Radical: A New Interdisciplinary Space for Sonification, a project funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant (number RPG-2020-113).

B. Mandelbrot, “How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension,” Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science), vol. 156, no. 3775, pp. 636–638, 1967, doi: 10.1126/science.156.3775.636.

G.Gould “The Idea of North”

Magali Billen

University of California, Davis


Magnetic Declination: Government of Canada

British Geological Survey



Andy Nowacki, Sjoerd de Ridder, & David Green. (2023). Leeds-Blacknest Eskdalemuir distributed acoustic sensing experiment February 2023 [Data set]. International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks.

All seismic data were downloaded through the IRIS Wilber 3 system ( or IRIS Web Services (, including the following seismic networks: (1) the ESK (Eskdalemuir, Scotland, Great British Seismic Network); (2) the EDMD (Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland, UK, Great British Seismic Network); (3) the KESW (Keswick, Cumbia, England, UK, Great British Seismic Network); (4) GDLE (Glaisdale, Yorkshire, Great British Seismic Network);

Geomagnetic data is from The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (Institutet för rymdfysik, IRF) at Kiruna (,in%20a%20manner%20to%20reduce

Mikkelson, Barbara (2006-06-10). "Bacteria in Sun Tea Risk". Retrieved 2010-04-17.


Memo on Bacterial Contamination of Iced Tea

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

F.Zotter, M. Zaunschirm, M.Frank, & M. Kronlachner, “A Beamformer to Play with Wall Reflections”, Computer Music Journal, 41(3), 50–68,, 2017.

Sonible: IKO,, accessed March 2023.

F.Wendt, G.K. Sharma, M. Frank, F. Zotter, & R. Höldrich, “Perception of Spatial Sound Phenomena Created by the Icosahedral Loudspeaker”,Computer Music Journal, 41(1), 76–88. 2017., 2017.

G.K. Sharma, F. Zotter, & M. Frank, “Orchestrating wall reflections in space by icosahedral loudspeaker: Findings from first artistic research exploration”,Proceedings - 40th International Computer Music Conference, ICMC 2014 and 11th Sound and Music Computing Conference, SMC 2014 - Music Technology Meets Philosophy: From Digital Echos to Virtual Ethos, 830–835. 2014.

Philip Glass/ Christopher Knowles used in the Robert Wilson/Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach (1976)

and (public domain or creative commons) images used:

The Milne seismograph no. 52 at Eskdalemuir Observatory, with part of its wooden cover removed to show the working parts. Albert Edgar Gendle, Clerk Assistant to the observatory, took this photograph c. 1910. The instrument was later acquired by the Science Museum: inventory number 1928-281 © The Royal Society

The recording drum (left) and the components of a single Golitsyn horizontal seismograph consisting of galvanometer (centre) and horizontal pendulum (right) © The Royal Society

The Milne seismograph no. 52 at Eskdalemuir Observatory, with part of its wooden cover removed to show the working parts. Albert Edgar Gendle, Clerk Assistant to the observatory, took this photograph c. 1910. The instrument was later acquired by the Science Museum: inventory number 1928-281 © The Royal Society

The office and library at Eskdalemuir, c. 1910, showing a slate globe that was used for earthquake epicentre determinations © The Royal Society

By © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Gerardus Mercator -, Public Domain,

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen - List of Koehler Images, Public Domain,

By Jacob van Es -, Public Domain,

By Fridtjof Nansen - From: Fridtjof Nansen, Farthest North (1897)., Public Domain,

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