Baltic Sea Residency 2011

Baltic Sea Residency 2011

Marin Association will organize a Baltic Sea research residenciy with series of workshops in the Summer of 2011 (June-September).
Call for proposals will be sent out in December 2010. Meanwhile, please join our Facebook group (link on the right).

M.A.R.I.N. on return journey

Isle of Man Big thanks to AND Festival; such a great start for a new event series. M.A.R.I.N. residency vessel departed Liverpool on Sunday morning after 6 am and set path to Isle of Man, Fort William, Inverness, Copenhagen. This jourey is mostly transit, and time to reflect, and work on writing. The two past months of residency was full of extremely interesting encounters with local marine scientists, artists, and folks from different communities. Besides, it was full on work with authoring, yet we also got to enjoy the festivals, ISEA2009 and AND.

M.A.R.I.N. residency can be developed a lot, of course, but what is exciting is that even with a year’s lead to production this Irish Sea residency was a great success. I would like to thank the participating artists, sailors and collaborators on shore, and not least, all the funders who made the work possible.

Image of Isle of Man before sunset.

Abandon unsustainable residencies

M.A.R.I.N. vessel at Tate Liverpool M.A.R.I.N. is an investigation in how an art and science residency itself can be sustainable and mobile at the same time. Our main area of research are marine biological and cultural ecosystems. For the AND festival, we abandoned flights for a 11-week residency at the Irish Sea. We sailed an equivalent of 4 hours of flight distance, from North of Germany to Scotland, onto Northern Ireland, and arriving to the coast of Cumbria. Hosted by Folly (Lancaster) we did workshops with SoundWave (Workington), The Dock Museum & Dropzone (Barrow-in-Furness) and Tate & Fact (Liverpool).

Workshop participants have contributed with sound, video and stills, some of which you can listen to at Ecolocated Pool group page. For example, youth from DropZone at Barrow-in-Furness did an hour long rap with their own rhymes, and Tate Youth contributed interviews with friends and family of the changing maritime culture of Liverpool. Some fragments are also uploaded to the Ecolocated map based interface, which includes arrival ship blog to Belfast, and audio and water quality data sonifications around the Albert Dock. An experimental stage version of this interface can also be viewed on 3G mobile phones using your browser, and the URL

IMG_1292 You can read blog entries by the resident artists Tapio Mäkelä (FI), Nigel Helyer (AU) and Andreas Siagian (ID), who have collaborated on the project Ecolocated – Littoral Lives.

In Belfast, the Ecolocated team was joined by Michael Lake and Daniel Woo, with whom we authored a major 12-channel surround sound, locative installation, presented at Catalyst Arts gallery, as part of ISEA2009, The International Symposium on Electronic Art. In this work we worked with local marine scientists, historians, ex dock workers and other collaborators. We also measured water quality in the Belfast Lough, map of which was the interface for our project. The end result was a collage where users could navigate through several layers of audio, sonified and visualized data.

Also part of the exhibit here at FACT, The CDPDU (Common Data Processing and Display Unit, M.A.R.I.N. Alpha) by Marko Peljhan, Nejc Trost, and Matthew Biederman, draws satellite marine ecology data and environmental sensor data from a field unit in Santa Barbara, CA, as well as some data from a sister project’s (Arctic Perspective Initiative) expedition to Baffin Bay last month.
In Liverpool, M.A.R.I.N. had a very interesting visit to the British Oceanographic Data Centre, and The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. We participated to a Shelf sea workshop, where scientists (and electronic engineers really) discussed latest sea bed velocity sensors, HF radar for wave detection. In the basement of BODC we saw a sonde that makes our water measurement equipment seem like kids play: a gliding torpedo shaped UAV, which uses ballast to zigsaw through the ocean. At the end of an inspiring tour, a discussion with 7 researchers opened up real possibilities for future collaboration ranging from semantic, cartographic, visual and haptic interfaces to environmental data.

Fishing for Water

The Albert Dock, Salthouse Dock, Canning Dock, Princes Dock, Wapping Dock, Queens Dock and the Coburg Dock – today it’s time to go fishing for water! Andreas armed with the Sonde portable water quality sampling equipment and I with camera and clipboard – save for the want of white lab-coats we would look quite official. So we think but not so to the ever vigilant Port security officials – we are quizzed by a burly buzz-cut fellow with a tell-tail spiral cable falling from his ear. Asked if we have permission we smile and say no, asked what we would do if Andre fell in with all the gear, we say we would take a great photo! At least the guy had a sense of humour!

We move off but resume our sampling work as soon as the official disappears, we must look more convincing to the next chap as he is very pleased to see us and wishes us luck with our research! If it was ten degrees warmer I would fancy a dip in the Albert Dock, the water looks surprisingly clear and the dock walls support a profusion of marine life, principally large Mussels much favoured by immature Herring Gulls who pluck them off and litter the pontoons with the empty shells. Later I discover that the Dock water is tested every two weeks and is of Swimmable quality.


We sample along the narrow-boat pontoons in the Salthouse dock and chat with the barge owners, proud of their craft and the heritage of industrial revolution waterways. They are a direct and friendly bunch who unanimously agree that the waterways are radically improved over the past twenty years. It is clearly evident that Britain’s post-industrial condition and the transition from primary industry to a service economy has bought tangible environmental benefits. One could say that Thatcher’s confrontation with the Mining unions that destroyed a major part of working class culture and an entire industry in one fell swoop has ironically set the pre-conditions allowing country to move away from a Carbon based economy!

Sound Waves

DSC02060.JPG As part of the collaboration with the AND Festival, M.A.R.I.N. artists in residence did a 2-day workshop with sound artists from SoundWave, a music and sound art organization from Workington. We met first on the catamaran docked in Whitehaven for informal discussion and dinner, introductions, and telling about our work and journey so far. In between several days of gushy winds, we enjoyed a cool and crisp, calmer evening.

We joined SoundWave at their offices in Workington for a show and tell, first myself, Nigel Helyer and Andreas Siagian discussed sound art in contexts of public space, locative work, and ecology. SoundWave coordinates programming for a nice 8-speaker rig in the town centre called The Hub, originally designed by BASE Structutes for the Allerdale Borough Council, and including work by Illustrious Company (Martyn Ware and Vince Clarke).

DSC02081.JPG The Hub’s soundscape was quite beautiful, giving a sensation of for example sea birds hovering above you. Emma Foxall presented a community project called Sonic Picnic that they had realized at The Hub, from which one got a real sense of building community ownership through participation.

Also Steven Pearson, Dave Camlin, Mark Newport, and Dave Roberts discussed their work, in particular in the context of The Hub, 3D recording and authoring. Soundwave had also realized an interesting project called Slate Song at the Honister Slate Mine last Spring. Performed in the mine, a 1.5 tonne “Musical Stones of Skiddaw” instrument had been performed together by a mezzo-soprano and fiddler (Mike Newport).

In Sailor Town

ecolocated_141A tough, tight community, well it was once, now half way through a ‘re-generation’ project where the angular structures of new apartments elbow stone churches and brick terraces, not that anyone has cash to buy them for the foreseeable future. “Welcome to Sailortown” proclaims the razorwire adorned wall in a pre-view of what once was real-life and is destined to be a Disneyfication of History.

ecolocated_192Now that looked like a closed-shop, heartland of the Maritime Union, Hard men and good commies all I bet ~ but not to worry, my own father had been a ship yard worker on Tyneside. A riviter, his back a palimpsest of lunar pock-mark scars delivered by stray white-hot rivets ~ so I go in. Dead friendly, informal and warm, I’m taken up into the boxing Gym (funny my dad trained boxers too) and shown around the Dockers Club photo archive ~ lots of these blokes are dead I’m told, some industrial accidents, but more shot during the troubles. Later in the bar a warm working class glow of beer, Sunday best and a band bashing out C&W standards ~ think I’ve discovered the original workers paradise!

ecolocated_312 Sailors don’t always have good reputations, Whalers never do, so even getting into church was a difficult feat (in a ‘lock up your daughters’ reflex I imagine!). Mr Sinclair rose to the challenge by establishing a unique church just for Sailors, in Corporation Street, Sailortown, Belfast. Ironically it’s still hard to get into church, The Sinclair Seamans Church is a closely guarded secret it seems, but we did get lucky on one of out four attempted visits. It was worth it, the Church contains a planoply of maritime artifacts, a ships prow as a pulpit with matching post and starbord navigation lamps to keep the nautical congregation ‘on course’. The old gaffers who man the deck of the church are frail but sharp as tacks and have an ocean of knowledge under their grey pates! As Wilde said “Youth is wasted on the young” ~ why do we habitually ignore the elderly?

Docking in Belfast

M.A.R.I.N. residency catamaran arrives in Belfast for ISEA2009 and exhibition at Catalyst Arts

We arrive in Carrickfergus around 2.30 am and sleep in the marina for a few hours and take lovely warm showers. The weather gets worse, we VHF Belfast harbour master and head to our mooring on Lagan river in the morning, surrounded by mist and rain. We are also doing water quality readings along the way to the Lagan, yet aware that we need to come back for more concentrated sensing later on.

It is great feeling to set foot on Belfast. It took us 4 days longer than expected to make the journey; partly because I expected the boat to be quicker, but mostly because of winds facing us. At the same time, it could have taken even much longer. We are met by a friendly harbour master. The new mooring is very good. Paul Muhlbach, who has been assisting with local production, working for ISEA2009, greets us and we have a meeting over coffee. Then, to Catalyst Arts gallery (great artist run venue, very nice people running it) where we meet with Aideen Doran, and Duncan who helps out with construction work of the exhibition. Our sea legs sway us a bit, terra firma and first cappucino feel spot on.

One strategic notion for this residency, and future planning is to balance staying in harbours at sea carefully. Even though this was our longest stretch by far, one always needs to give a day or two extra for rain check. Even though sea was rough, our bodies are quite strong and momentum to work on our exhibition is really good.

Monday 3rd August

Another early morning departure into the mists of the Belfast Loch.  We remain in Radio contact with the Belfast Harbour Master as we drive up the Fairway counting up the beacons into the commercial port.   We all struggle to catch his drift ~ a mixture of Irish brogue and static.  The port is full of beaten up cargo ships and RoRo’s, cranes and old industrial sites.  We come to the head of the Loch and into the Lagan river to find our berth alongside the new Odyssey centre ~ this will be our working base for the next few weeks.


Isle of Jura region So far maybe the most sceninc area, passing through the Sound of Jura and heading alongside of Islay, besides reminding of the skillfully made single malts, the landscape is both harsh and serene. Tidal currents between the islands are strong, but they also form an excellent protected area from the open seas for sailing. This day is to be the most comfortable sailing day to the record, and we are able to work while sailing too. Again here the paradox, when you could most enjoy the sail, you head indoors to work and pop out to the deck every now and then to take a picture or two and breathe in, and go back in.

Some intense winds is ahead, so we go straight across over night to Belfast. At sunset, we see a beautiful sunray emboss the coast of North Ireland. Nigel sees a whale!

No monster under water

Datalogger of the YSI600XL Sonde Loch Ness and the joining town of Fort Augusta are surprisingly open spaces; I was expecting tourism to dominate the environment more. Instead, mostly there’d be cyclists and kayakers, besides people on boats. All in all it is fairly quiet – until extremely loud jets roam over the lake, and a tourist speed boat shoots out onto it. From the perspective of aquatic life, I become increasingly aware of acoustic ecology in its environmental sense; how does the noise pollution impact different organisms, has it been studied?

This study suggests that marine mammals suffer from, besides changes in orientation, also direct tissue damage. The monster does not live under water, it always turns out to be the human practices that do not consider the bigger picture.

Nigel Helyer, hydrophone recordings Nigel and I do a test run with the sonde on a little dinghy to the lake, also taking hydrophonic sound samples. We head onwards on the canal – the surrounding landscapes are beautiful. Spruce, pine and birch trees seem familiar from back home. Mountain ranges resemble Norway in their former volcanic shapes and worn surfaces.