The Hark Project

The Hark Project – David Chapman & David Cottridge

The Hark Project consists of two audio-visual installations, Hark 1 and Hark 2, which combine photographic images and audio recordings made primarily in Gunpowder Park and other sites locally. To complement the audio visual aspect of the project the Salix installation consisting of four 3 meter long photographs were placed in the woodland, in order to connect some of the imagery created back to its source of inspiration out in the park. This project is our first collaborative work, and has evolved from previous sound and image projects we have undertaken within the Park.

The majority of the images were taken in Gunpowder Park in the woodlands known as the ‘Salix’ the name of which was taken from the generic scientific name for the family of Willows, some of which grow in the woodland. The images are taken from the trunks or branches of Silver Birch (Betula pendulata), Grey Poplar (Populus canescens) and Crack Willow (Salix fragilis). Individual trees were selected on the aesthetics of the various mosses and lichens growing on the branches and the peeling and patterning of their bark. Some photographs show living trees whilst others show dead trunks, some still standing, others that have fallen to the ground. Much of the woodland is flooded during the winter and the early spring. This creates a damp atmosphere that mosses and lichens thrive on, promoting a process of growth and decay which has continued unchecked for over 100 years. As the images were taken in a woodland setting, the transition of light into shadow was a prominent feature produced by either the natural roundness of the tree trunk itself or by the play of shadows from the leaf canopy. Another important element was the peeling of bark from the Silver Birch, a process which revealed new and surprising colours.

Each image is a CDI (Composite Digital Image) and constructed from either 6, 8 or 12 separate photographs obtained using digital capture on a 12.4 million pixel camera (Nikon D2X) and then put together in Adobe Photoshop and animated in Adobe After Effects. Once the images have been downloaded into a computer they are worked on in Adobe Photoshop without reference to the original source to create a unity of material that is transformed away from its origins whilst still retaining its formal elements. The composite images are assembled in the order in which they exist in the woodland during which the clone tool is used to make the joins appear seamless. When each image has been assembled further work is done, mainly that of colour and tonal adjustments, and finally sharpness.

The sound element of Hark, is based entirely on field recordings made in Gunpowder Park, with some additional material from the Fisher’s Green area of the Lee Valley Park. The sounds have been recorded over the last few years, capturing where possible the often elusive audio traces of the park’s wildlife and seasonal changes in the landscape. These recordings have been digitally recorded and processed and arranged into a series of soundscapes, utilizing 5:1 surround sound technology. The sound material has been gathered via a range of recording technology, including, hydrophones, ultrasonic recorders, binaural microphones, alongside more standard equipment, to explore the extended audio sensorium provided by digital recording, processing and reproduction technologies. Many of the sounds used are primarily ‘as recorded’, although others have been digitally processed through granular synthesis and a range of other effects software. However, some sense of the unique quality of the original sound source always remains, often revealing different facets through these manipulations.

Each sound work is a personal response to the textures, tones and forms within the original image and the resulting transformations and animation. They operate as a form of ‘graphic score’, a loose structuring methodology for the composition of the soundscapes. This is alongside the wider parameters set for the sound material – that it is captured in the same geographical space as the images – which provides a concrete, if flexible, point of reference for the collaboration. The animations suggest an exploration across unknown landscapes creating an atmosphere of uneasiness at times which is triggered by unfamiliar, and sometimes aggressive sounds, which in turn are counter-balanced by pockets of familiarity, such as bird song, that provide a more benign atmosphere.