Developed as a collaboration between Anne Parouty, visual artist, and Scott Wilson, sound artist, Kelp Road is an ongoing multimedia project exploring and immersing the audience in the sights and sounds of the marine world, taking the form of sound and art installations and multimedia concert presentations.
Kelp Road began with a chance conversation between Wilson and Parouty, “What if we could create a bubble of sea-sound in which you could look up into a cyan kelp forest wafting in the air currents above you?” The idea developed and the stories uncovered of this little known marine environment wove their spell.
Kelp forests are one of the richest ecosystems on the planet, reaching back into Deep Time, and they provide a possible key to the earliest human migrations into the Americas. Colour was added to these stories when in the course of their research, the artists discovered a manuscript of original watercolours from one of the last great scientific voyages of discovery to the North West Pacific. Weaving together these threads led them on a journey to Kelp Road.
Documentation from the first installation in the Bramall Music Building, Birmingham, UK. February-April 2017. The central structure was surrounded by an immersive multichannel sound system.
Multimedia Concert Work
A multichannel electroacoustic concert work with accompanying projection
In the sub-tidal levels of Britain’s rocky shore are dense forests of North Atlantic Kelps. They like to be submerged and are only accessible at extreme low tides and even then conditions need to be right. So it is that my search for kelps has had me roaming our coasts with tide tables, wellies and a bucket, interrogating harbour masters, sailors, marine biologists, professional foragers and divers – who might point the way. Then back to Birmingham to prepare for printing.
Cyanotype – the process used to create these prints – uses the light sensitive properties of iron salts, exposed in daylight to create a Prussian blue image. The key factors in determining my palette are the quality of light used for exposures and the ongoing biochemistry of the materials I’m working with. My seaweeds aren’t dry, brittle specimens, they still have something of the sea in them, continuing to photosynthesise, to draw in light and to ooze chemicals such as iodine. Challenging and chancy, outcomes can’t be predicted, but then that’s all part of the fun.
The sounds used in the initial realisation of Kelp Road were captured on a series of recording trips to Wales, both in and around Barmouth, and on Anglesey. On these trips we made use of both conventional microphones and a specially developed ’surround’ hydrophone array, in order to capture sea sounds both above and below the water (at times simultaneously). In the installation and electroacoustic work this material (sometimes in altered form) is used to create a multidimensional aural picture of the sea. The level of sonic activity in the initial installation was in part determined by near real-time readings from the National Tidal and Sea Level Facility (provided by the British Oceanographic Data Centre and funded by the Environment Agency).