Ground State 2018
acrylic ink on canvas and audio recording
Presented with support from CREATIVE NEW ZEALAND.
Sarah Callesen’s practice centres on processes of transformation and mediation. The two works that make up Ground State grow out of sound recordings made by the artist using a hydrophone lowered into the water off Queens Wharf, behind The Cloud. Recordings were made during the day, when the sounds produced by boat motors and other human activities were more prominent, and at night, when these were at a minimum. Responding to the recordings, Callesen created a large, handmade drawing using a system of ruled lines. The work looks like the product of machine logic (and indeed evokes the notion of the body as a machine), but it is as dependent on the artist’s intuition and momentary decisions as on a fixed, principled process of translation.
Next, the drawing was fed into a software programme that generated a new sound file. This was spliced with the hydrophone recordings and other sounds to yield a track that is of this specific location (coloured as it is by anthropogenic noise), of Callesen’s design (the artist can in some measure anticipate the effects of her drawing), and of the computer. Taken as a whole, Ground State embodies the ubiquity of digitally enhanced experiences. The result of complicated and largely opaque processes, it recalls the unknowability of so many technologies that we have easily absorbed as everyday (think search algorithms, Facetune). At the same time, it reflects on the broader question of the impact of us humans on the equally impressionable wider world.