Clay and Woods
of Certain Flutes
is a transmedia art project initiated during the Covid 19 pandemic. Carmen Troncoso | Richard Kearns
Here are the profiles of Carmen and Richard, followed by the story of how we developed the project.
In my artistic projects, I have explored ways of dealing creatively with my instruments (recorders/flutes), perceiving them not as mere tools but as independent entities, actors, artefacts, or even creatures: inhabitants of the world that, like us, transform themselves, carry stories and anecdotes. Objects, like musical instruments, have the potential to unfold. This project looks for ways to express this through artistic practice. With this expanded understanding of the instruments' history, agency, and affordance, a creative installation was developed to explore their potential both visually and acoustically—Carmen Troncoso – Creative practitioner, recorder performer.
Through my practice as a visual artist, I investigate human interaction and user experience by creating environments using audio-visual technologies. I explore how visitors generate narratives through embodied interaction (physically or virtually moving through a space). When elements of the natural world are re-organised or displaced to create a sense of the uncanny, new relationships are required to make those experiences meaningful. New narrative connections within my artworks often emerge through interactor play. I am particularly interested in how the information generated through physical or virtual activity crystalises into encounters whose meaning is shared amongst visitors. Richard Kearns – Transmedia Artist
Installing at the Norman Rea Gallery, January 2021, the second day. Richard Kearns (right) and Carlos Zamora (left).
Installation allows us to explore unknown territories, form links between imagination and reality, and generate immersive experiences that shape the content into a new ecology of material bodies intertwined with unique forms of interaction and response.
Fifteen collaborators contributed to the project: composers, musicians, and sound and visual artists.
Of course, the content and the space needed to adapt to these uncertain and vulnerable pandemic times. The initial explorative assemblage took place in a house garage during the lockdown in 2021. Circumstances of life led to the families of Richard and Carmen sharing the same house during the lockdown months. This was the starting engine for a long-term collaboration at a time when the domestic imposed routine and isolation—a fortunate encounter of friendship and creativity in adverse times.
Initial workshops in the garage.
Recorders were merged with trees to create a sort of dream forest Recorders were merged with trees to create a sort of dream forest where the instruments became transformed inhabitants of that place
Recorder Forest: Richard Kearns
Alongside those spatial explorations, we blended environmental sound from new electroacoustic pieces connecting flute with nature and digital audio, including new collaboratively devised works for a Mayan triple flute.
Carmen: Being a Chilean performing an instrument that belongs to European culture – although rooted in daily practice and personal artistic expression over many years – has always triggered a need to connect my South American roots with my adopted European musical tradition. In the music I play, improvise and co-create, I usually evoke with my recorders sonorities of South American wind instruments, such as tarka, zampoña or panflute, quena, ocarina, caramillo, etc.
European and pre-Columbian flutes: layers of cultural identity.
The electroacoustic works for the installation are not embedded in traditional cultures in the recorder: the captured sounds do not carry sound aesthetics or specific styles, “they do not belong”. Instead, they act as perennial sounds, like certain tree foliage.
We assembled the first fully realised version of the installation at the end of January 2021 in the Norman Rea Gallery, replicating the layout that we had in the garage. Based on our development in the garage, we continued perceiving the installation as a narrow, cornered assemblage, which produced the effect of an “object”.
The first shape of the installation is an “object” in the middle of the gallery.
We decided then to open it, to broaden it, using all of the space, to allow a more immersive experience. We hung more layers of Japanese paper, veil and sheer, exploring the most effective places to add it, which enabled reflection and blending. With aisles to walk through, visitors can interact with the materials and projections. As defined by a visitor: “a dream-like experience and space.”
The second shape of the installation occupies the whole space.
Communication with the collaborators took place in Zoom meetings, not only due to the pandemic but also because the team was international.
Zoom meeting January 2021.
Forest footage from Chile, Guatemala and England was utilised within the installation.
Hag Wood, east of Dunnington, York, England.
We also use documentation from workshops with recorder makers, who, through a violent-but-beautiful intervention of matter, craft nature to give life to these flutes, beings of air and sound.
Only a few selected visitors could attend the exhibition in the Norman Rea Gallery following COVID regulations. Nevertheless, those who went stayed for over an hour, captured by a 'mesmerising' effect triggered by the combination of entwined elements (visitor quote described in the installation booklet).
We wanted to share this experience with a broader audience but keep it immersive and interactive. So, we decided to make a digital version where people can see and play with the same content in a safe environment, transforming the installation into a transmedia project. The project was awarded an Ibermusicas Grant 2021 for creating a digital art game, drawing on the material and experience from the installation.
The art game Between Air, Clay and Woods of Certain Flutes was developed by Richard Kearns in 2021.
Since those early days of developing the project, the garage has been quiet - until recently. Today we share the joy of inventing realities again that broaden our perception of the materials surrounding us.