David Cunningham

The Listening Room

Every Day, The 11th Biennale of Sydney
Goat Island

18 September - 8 November 1998

installation image

This installation was created in the Queen's Powder Magazine on Goat Island, a nature reserve in Sydney Bay.  The building is an enormous former munitions warehouse with very thick sandstone walls and an arched roof, built around 100 years ago.

Two sets of scaffolding at each end of the space held speakers bouncing the sound off the arch, source was a single PZM microphone situated around head height half way along one side wall.  A nearby boatyard on the island contributed metallic crashes and grinding noises which inspired the system to respond, not always predictably.

This particular Listening Room presented two specific problems:

Scale - a combination of scale and volume of the building and the available permutations of positioning the system was slightly too large to enable the presence of human bodies in the space to modulate the feedback notes - this did not prevent visitors becoming part of the experience by making noise - footsteps, speaking or singing.
installation site
Damp - heavy overnight rain tended to soak into the sandstone fabric of the building causing extremely high humidity first thing in the mornings.  This made the system over-sensitive causing a very high level of feedback for the first hour or so until the building warmed up in the daytime sunshine and the system stabilised. (usually by the time it was open to the public).

A documentary fragment of a moment within the installation, recorded on 23 September 1998
click on the speaker image

Video documentation is here

audio fragment

installation site
Goat Island was made available courtesy of New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Services