Translating Landscapes – Project Morse and Siting Translations
a research project / working presentation by Shi Pratt and Simen Korsmo Robertsen
– a part of Siting Landscapes – ALONE TOGETHER –
MA Choreography KHiO 2016
This collaborative project researches the translation process of found elements and the deconstruction of the components that create the landscape. Connecting to the historical aspect of the ever changing landscape of Oslo harbor, we primarily began working by regarding the Morse Code patterns displayed along the harbor walkway. While working on the project we developed a method of appropriating structures from another time to fit the digital media of today.
We looked into the littoral landscape we were working in, the meeting point of land and water, by observing the different public and historical spaces, both seen and unseen, by framing, zooming in and zooming out, through delicate investigation in sound and visual walks, recordings of sound and visuals and the perception of the ever flowing number of locals, workers and tourists.
These two videos encompasses a number of elements we encountered and researched during this process. Further bellow we will present insight into our process; working site-specific on location and site specific on this webpage. You will be presented with thoughts, sketches for choreographic scores, sound, video, quotes, historic facts and unsolvable tasks. Enjoy.
A little bit about Morse Code before we begin:
The coded communication system was created in 1836 by the American artist Samuel F. B. Morse. After his wife’s death he was frustrated with the slow communication systems of that era and set out to create a faster one with the help of American physicist Joseph Henry, and Alfred Vail – together they developed an electrical telegraph system. This system sent pulses of electric current along wires which controlled an electromagnet that was located at the receiving end of the telegraph system. A code was needed to transmit natural language using only these pulses, and the silence between them. This means that signals (sound or light pulses) can be communicated audibly by telegraph or visually at night with the blink of a light from a lamp. Morse therefore developed the forerunner to modern International Morse code.
The Morse Poem
Inspired by the landscape around SKUR 28, we went up to Akershus Festning which overlooks the area. We wrote down the morse code patterns that surround the area and generated a new script out of the found codes. This scripture was put into the form of a poem, which in morse code looks like this:
and sounds like this:
This poem was transcribed and interpreted through a variety of digital mediums. As the human brain encodes information to meaning, we challenged different technological tools to find new meaning out of the original morse pattern. The words were translated into sonic morse-signal (above), to midi-signals, to rythm-patterns, to visual effects on video documentation, to cross word puzzles and more. By this process we could interact with the poem without being able to predict the auditive and visual outcome, and in this way comment on the everyday findings in the harbor area.
These short clips are auditive results based on the morse code poem adapted and progressed digitally:
After working on the translation of the Morse Poem into new forms and mediums, we considered what other borrowed structures could we apply this poem into? We came up with the idea of using another form of literal encryption in the form of a word game – the crossword puzzle. The first crossword puzzle came out in 1913 and was created by journalist named Arthur Wynne from Liverpool. This picture is part of our adaptation process of Wynnes structure.
Seen and Unseen, Heard and Unheard
On one of our visual walks we specifically explored spaces that are seen and unseen, hidden and revealed around the Oslo Harbor.
Such as in the meeting between land and sea:
During this particular visual walk we had a waterproof camera in our possession and by using it as a probe we could explore spaces that are otherwise hidden from us on our everyday encounters with these spaces.
We used our underwater/overwater video recordings to present another translation of our Morse Code poem, this time both visual and sonic. In this video we implemented our underwater findings with our morse code poem:
We worked on another translation this time adding dance, choreography and composition to our underwater morse code research:
And a final adaptation:
A visit to Christian Radich docked at Oslo Harbor
We were incredibly eager to learn more about the Morse Code communication system; is it still in use today? What did the apparatus onboard a ship look like? Would we be able to see it in action? So we set off to explore the beautiful 1937 full-rigged three-masted steel hull sailing ship, known as Christian Radich. After a short introduction on the boat with Svein, we were shown into the dining area where we met the communications officer of the boat. There were rumors amongst the skippers that they had the old morse code box locked away, once used for communication but now discarded and considered outdated. Currently they use a specialized morse lamp which allows for short and long flashes of light using the same Morse Code system of dashes and dots to produce light signals.
Bellow is an example of morse code using a lamp from an Anime movie:
Our meeting with Bengt Malm
While on the Christian Radich we were informed about Bengt Malm, an ex Swedish military man who has worked with maritime communication, which includes morse code, for over 35 years. We got in touch with him and he invited us to the Maritime Museum, where he now volunteers. We had an incredible meeting with this extremely knowledgeable and charming man.
Bellow is a short documentation film of our time with him:
Bengt Malm reading part from the poem at SS “Christian Radich” with a signal lamp:
A sound walk is all about listening. Take a walk, listen and experience the sonic environment around you. According to sound artist Hildegar Westerkamp, soundwalking is “… any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are.” Questions you can ask yourself during a sound walk: Which sound source is closest to you? How does your body sound? Which ambient sounds can you hear? Any rhythmical sounds? Moving sound sources? How does the sounds effect each other?
During our sound walk on Gressholmen we recorded underwater and overwater sounds on the island. We later compiled them, restructured and manipulated the sound to create a new soundscape for the island. We presented them at SKUR 28 through different speakers and directional arrangements in the space. Bellow are two of our compilations.
This recording was done using a field recorder as well as an underwater mic. Recordings were taken under and above water, as well as inside of an anthill.
Visual walks in and around Oslo Harbor
A visual walk is a walk in which you take in your surroundings, identify the structures and spaces around you. Similar to a sound walk, begin to identify the qualities of the visual spaces surrounding you.
During our visual walks around Oslo Harbor we identified the different qualities of spaces created by landmarks, architecture, monuments and the meeting between land and sea. We discovered and explored the aspects of seen and unseen, over and under, heard and unheard in relation to the spaces we visited, mostly staying along the waterline along the harbor area.
“You can never visit the same place twice”
We hope you enjoyed our project,
… …. .. / .- -. -.. / … .. — . -.
Credits, thanks and acknowledgement:
Bengt Malm, Yoav David, Kyrre Heldal Karlsen, Per Platou, Amanda Steggell, Skuta Christian Radich, Kristian Støvind.