GroundWork: audible links between feet & ears.

What happens when we really start listening to the sounds that occur between our feet and the ground? How come walking patterns, speed, surfaces and weather conditions into play? Is there a sense of place that we can derive from listening to and composing environmental sounds? What does the world sound like to the ears of an ant?

event flyerConcept PDF 1.5MB

In November 2004 I was invited by Lehan W. Ramsay to organize a workshop that explored these questions with students of Future University in Hakodate and concluded in an in-house sound scape at the gallery premises of Art Harbour. Environmental sound can be understood as a type of language. Each sound or soundscape has its own meanings and expressions and is like a spoken word: it has something to say about all living beings' behaviours and their relationship to their surroundings, about listening and soundmaking habits.


Simple listening devices can help us bring the audible world of our feet closer to the ears

String-Phoned Feet: The participating students were asked to build foot-listening devices (foot sets) and to do a 24-hour sound sampling in their daily life using microphones of camcorders and cell phones. Tracing the emitted sounds we tried to map out the ground surfaces and lay out direct audible connections between feet and heads. We stayed pretty low-tech and used string-phones, funnels, pipes and any type of resonating container. In order to prevent spinal damage we were also looking into innovative methods for fastening recording devices to ground surfaces as close as possible.


Listening to the sounds emitted between heels and floors

3-Dimensional Sound Walk: In order to make our findings into an experience for outsiders we turned the entire two-story gallery of Art Harbour (formerly a barber shop in the center of Hakodate city) into a sound scape installation. Then we decided on intriguing sound-emitting materials which we designated to the different rooms of the gallery building. The entrance floor received a gravel stone filling, the restroom got stuffed with water pouches, the living room turned into a forest floor... The other spaces got a floor treatment with alu foil, plastic wrap and sand.

Video documentation of Sound Walk though the various audible floor surfaces of Art Harbour gallery (November 2004, 5:30min, 19.6MB)
videosClick below to watch.

Momentarium Movie.

The project concluded in an interactive gallery walk with the potential for a collective inpromto sound improvisations where the visitors in the galleries different rooms started to use the sound floors for audible exchanges.


Art Harbour
ART HARBOUR is an initiative founded by artist and educator Lehan W. Ramsay and evolved in an ongoing collaboration between Future University and Hakodate City.

In an effort to revive the downtown area of this small town in Hokkaido ART HARBOUR is an experimental platform for emergent learning and creative ways of exchange for the local community following the motto: "There's nothing that's perfect, we can't expect everything to be perfect... Because we should solve local problems. And we can share common problems".

Currently ART HARBOUR has set out to be a model for similiar initiatives called "hubs" in a number of cities world wide.