photograph by Christopher Williams
Christina Kubisch was born in Bremen, DE and has received the Award of the German Industrial Association (BDI) 1998, the Carl Djerassi Honorary Fellowship 2000 and the German Sound Art Prize 2008. Since the late 1970s she has worked with electromagnetic induction. For Electrical Walks, her work for Cut & Splice, she will spend 2 research days in Manchester to create a route, then lead a series of guided public walks in which audiences wear custom wireless headphones through which the sounds of electromagnetic fields – wireless communication systems, radar systems, surveillance cameras, cell phones, cash machines and more – become audible.
Since the late 1970s Christina Kubisch has worked with electromagnetic induction, which she has developed from a basic technique to an artistic tool. In 2003 she began research on a new series of works in public space, which trace the electromagnetic fields of urban environments in the form of city walks. The first Electrical Walk took place in Cologne in 2004.
Electrical Walks is a work in progress. It is a public walk with special, sensitive wireless headphones in which the acoustic qualities of aboveground and underground electromagnetic fields become amplified and audible. The transmission of sound is achieved by built-in coils which respond to the electromagnetic waves in the environment. The palette of these noises, their timbre and volume vary from site to site and from country to country. They have one thing in common: they are ubiquitous, even where one would not expect them. Light systems, wireless comunication systems, radar systems, anti-theft security devices, surveillance cameras, cell phones, computers, streetcar cables, antennae, navigation systemes, automated teller machines, wireless internet, neon advertising, public transportation networks and more all create electrical fields that are effectively hidden under cloaks of invisibility, but of incredible presence.
The sounds are much more musical than one would expect. There are complex layers of high and low frequencies, loops of rhythmic sequences, groups of tiny signals, long drones and many things which change constantly and are hard to describe. Some sounds are much alike all over the world. Others are specific for a city or country and cannot be found anywhere else. Electrical Walks is an an invitation to a special kind of investigation of city centres (or elsewhere). With the magnetic headphone and a map of the area, on which the possible routes and particularly interesting electrical fields are marked, the visitor can set off on her own or in a group. The perception of everyday reality changes when one listens to the electromagnetic fields; what is usually normal appears in a different context. Nothing looks the way it sounds. And nothing sounds the way it looks.