Close-up of reindeers circling during the annual corral. Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi
UK - In June, Wellcome Collection hosted the Land Body Ecologies Festival - a free, four-day event exploring environmental and mental health topics by incorporating elements of sound, touch, taste and vision. The festival, which included art installations, workshops, talks, films, and performances, focused on the connections between mental health and our ecosystem.
The Land Body Ecologies (LBE) research group is led by Yorkshire, UK-based multi-disciplinary arts studio Invisible Flock and other partners, who were recipients of the Wellcome Trust’s prestigious Hub Award. The festival was produced by Unbox Cultural Futures and Invisible Flock.
"The focus of all of our work looks specifically at the natural wild and the environment: the ways in which we interact with it and the ways we perceive it - or maybe don’t perceive it," explains Invisible Flock technical director and co-founder, Ben Eaton. "We are interested in how artists can raise awareness, but also how they can move beyond that stage and become active participants and generators in finding solutions, or contributing advanced research when it comes to climate considerations."
Boalno, a featured exhibit of the Land Body Ecologies Festival by Invisible Flock, utilised immersive audio as a sensory vehicle to transport museum guests to the Arctic landscape, atop Boalnotjåhkkå mountain when the Sámi people of Sweden corral some 3,000 circling reindeer each year. The exhibit was carried out in the Reading Room of the Wellcome Collection and featured 16 L-Acoustics X8 coaxial speakers configured in a 360° array on a horizontal plane.
Invisible Flock’s technical director Ben Eaton and creative director Victoria Pratt captured the sound of the reindeer corral over a two-day period using a combination of ambisonic and parabolic microphones, recording into a Sound Devices MixPre 6, and then spatially manipulating the audio files using L-Acoustics' L-ISA Studio software suite. The final runtime of the exhibit was condensed to approximately 20 minutes to provide visitors with a breathtakingly accurate sonic rendering of the annual herding event.
Surrey, UK-based DeltaLive provided a range of equipment and sound installation services during the LBE festival, including for Invisible Flock's exhibition, Boalno. Stephen Hughes, account director at DeltaLive, explains the interface and processor set up: "We had a Mac Mini running Reaper with the Boalno session and an RME MADIface AVB card, going into an L-ISA Processor. We only needed 16 outputs for the session, so the L-Acoustics LA7.16i amplified controller was perfect."
The Sámi, an Indigenous community from Northern Europe, have been herding the reindeer every year for centuries - well before the onset of modern technologies and the climate crisis. "The reindeer have been following the same migration routes for generations, so the Sámi know where they are going," Eaton explains. "They have this intertwined relationship with the reindeer and find them in the midst of their migration journeys and bring them together into the corral." The herding, which takes approximately two weeks, is carried out by several multi-generational families within the community, according to Eaton.
Eaton appreciates the broad feature set in L-ISA Studio, including the updated FX Engine and low frequency oscillator (LFO) control capabilities. "Our last major project, The Sleeping Tree, took place in the forest so it was very reverby. We used the FX Engine in L-ISA Studio for that, and this really helped gel the sounds together," he says.
In May this year, Invisible Flock presented The Sleeping Tree (Pohon Tidur) exhibition at the Brighton Dome as part of Brighton Festival. The Sleeping Tree, a longform, durational sound experience designed to connect audiences with a distant and fragile ecosystem, was developed from environmental data and more than 5,000 hours of data collected over the course of a three-month mapping process in the Indonesian forest.
The Sleeping Tree was also the first project on which Eaton used L-ISA Studio to map his recorded soundscape: "It wasn’t until we really started playing with the FX engine in L-ISA Studio that that show really felt like it gelled, and the sounds were able to coexist in a nice way," Eaton recalls.
For The Sleeping Tree, London-based Solotech supplied an L-Acoustics L-ISA immersive sound system and integration services.
While projects such as Boalno and The Sleeping Tree require enormous effort, including extended travel and many hours of recording and mixing, Eaton says he remains very attached to the work and finds the exhibits rewarding: "Each of these presentations are very moving and it's enlightening see how different audiences respond. The last one always hits home when that final reverb trail echoes out."

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