Based on a True Story: From Rural Northwest Iowa to Downtown Des Moines

Based on a True Story

May 18 – August 11, 2018

Octagon Center for the Arts – Sweeney Gallery

Sound is an important aspect of the world around us. It tells a great deal about our surroundings when we take the time to listen. Listening requires time to experience because sound requires time to exist. In today’s fast-paced culture, deeper levels of engagement have become increasingly rare. Add to this the common positioning of sound as a background element or object of distraction and what remains is little opportunity, inspiration, or perceived value in the act of listening to what’s available. People today focus on blocking out or covering up unwanted sound while at the same time, finding it difficult to both engage with and protect what quality soundscapes exist. Modern society is well practiced at protecting nature in visual and territorial ways to ensure high quality experiences with a variety of landscapes and vistas. Only recently have efforts begun to protect valuable soundscapes. The soundscape of a given environment can be an indicator of its status and vitality. Sound has the ability to communicate in a variety of ways and experiencing these stories provides insight into the value of protecting these spaces. If we are able to protect the natural soundscape, we will be able to help many other things along the way.

The goal of this exhibition is to provide a space for pause, for reflection, for a slowing down of focus. Each visit to the exhibition will be a unique experience because the audio works presented are not fixed compositions but are instead, composed as dynamic systems that respond to a variety of conditions. Works of sonic fiction based on naturesound recordings are presented as a way of both documenting the natural world and connecting with otherwise familiar sounds through a different means of interaction. Data of regional significance is presented as audio to create a listening experience designed using high-frequency data collected from sensors monitoring the quality of the natural world. Through installation-based performances of a naturesound archive and the sonification of environmental data, listeners can shift their attention to the natural world and reconnect to places that are differently familiar.

Sound has the ability to tell us a great deal. We just have to be willing to take the time to listen.

Visitors of all ages experience the installation during Ames Art Walk

Part of a Listening Instruments Invention Workshop supported by the Octagon Center for the Arts summer youth art camp.

Part of a Listening Instruments Invention Workshop supported by the Octagon Center for the Arts summer youth art camp.