Immersive Installation

Notes from
the Sea Floor

The audiovisual installation brings the unknown soundscapes of the world's oceans to life in the Gasometer Oberhausen, one of the most extraordinary exhibition venues in Europe.
The new exhibition "Planet Ocean" opened there on 15 March 2024, shedding light on the beauty, significance but also the threat posed to the oceans by humans. This vast, diverse, beautiful and often alien world can be discovered until 30 December 2024.

Right in the centre, at the heart of the gasometer, awaits the light and sound installation 'Notes from the Sea Floor'. A cylindrical spatial sculpture, inside which visitors are taken on a sound journey across the oceans: from the mouth of the Rhine through the Atlantic and Pacific to the Antarctic. A journey into the unknown and multi-layered world of sound: the calls of seals, the songs of whales, the whistles and clicks of hunting dolphins and the crackling, popping and popping of tiny crustaceans can be heard from the largest and most sonorous habitat on earth, as can the sounds of ocean currents and the cracking and creaking of ice.

It's loud under the surface of the ocean. And has been for millions of years. Almost all sea creatures contribute to the polyphonic chorus of the underwater world with their sound signatures. Sound dominates underwater. It is the light of the oceans. It illuminates the depths of the seas for the animals. They use sound in the same way that humans use light to visualise their surroundings. Sound is vital for marine life. The rapidly increasing noise pollution of the oceans by humans poses an existential threat to their habitat. A habitat that needs to be discovered acoustically and protected before it falls silent.

„Oceans are the largest and most sound-rich habitat on the planet.“
Chris Watson, sound recordist, artist & composer
"The sea is as near as we come to another world."
Anne Stevenson, poet and writer
„..the installation is one of the very few ways that people can really engage with full three-dimensional sound.“
Tony Myatt, sound artist, engineer & academic
"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when clearly it is Ocean."
Arthur C. Clarke, Author

Sound artist Chris Watson, one of the world's leading specialists in wildlife recording, has fished for sounds everywhere, on land, in the ice and under water. He is fascinated by the richness of sound in the oceans, which he captures with hydrophones. Chris Watson uses these special recordings to compose an acoustic journey from the Rhine to Antarctica. Tony Myatt's staging of the sound as three-dimensional 24-channel Ambisonic surround sound especially for this location contributes to the immersive experience. The sound artist and expert in spatial sound brings the multi-layered, dynamic soundscape of the ocean to life with such natural spatiality, differentiation and clarity that it is as if you were underwater and right in the middle of it. Together, Watson and Myatt create a fascinating, sensual experience that transports visitors into the midst of thousands of dolphins or between singing seals under metres of ice. You can't get any closer or more natural to the animals acoustically.

Sculptural soundroom

Like an underwater spaceship in the heart of Gasometer

Inspired by water soundscapes and wave movements created by the resonance of sound, the glistening of water and the coolness of polar ice, artist Theresa Baumgartner designed the surface of the installation's physical sound space: a cylindrical spatial sculpture at the centre of the exhibition. An abstract interplay of amorphous surfaces and reflective light scenarios connects the surroundings and visitors, inviting them to immerse themselves in the Gesamtkunstwerk 'Notes from the Sea Floor'. A total of 120 mirror modules lend the spatial object its glistening, amorphous surface. Each individual module is unique, moulded, built and hung by hand by Theresa Baumgartner and Verena Bachl.

Once the largest gas storage facility in Europe, the Gasometer Oberhausen now provides a unique setting for extraordinary exhibitions with great appeal. It also presents some acoustic challenges. In order to realise an immersive sound installation, a soundproof room had to be created that met the high acoustic and technical requirements and was artistically and visually convincing.

A team of artists, designers, acoustics experts and builders created the cylindrical spatial object, which now appears to have landed in the centre of the Gasometer like an underwater spaceship.


Artists and team

For 'Notes from the Sea Floor' we were once again able to collaborate with our excellent team of award-winning artists, field recordists, sound designers and composers.

Field recording and composition: Chris Watson
Spatial sound design and programming: Tony Myatt
Visual concept and design: Theresa Baumgartner
Artistic production and development: Verena Bachl
Technical design and planning: Karsten Schuhl
Executive Producers: Diana Schniedermeier, Ina Krüger

Images: Michael Krautter

A production of OCEANS21 gGmbH
Commissioned by Gasometer Oberhausen GmbH

Find out more about the 'Planet Ocean' exhibition on the Gasometer Oberhausen website.

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