2 March to 29 March 2012
‘climate is recorded, weather experienced’1
When documenting and recording climate change science focuses on quantifiable and empirical aspects of the environment— temperature, precipitation, wind, chemistry, biomass, solar activity and sea levels—whereas local and everyday experiences of climate change are encountered through weather and specific conditions at particular places and times. Importantly, these experiences are understood through the body: what does it feel like to be hot, cold, saturated by the rain, dusty or burned by the wind. Such personal observations activate the ways we encounter weather in different environments and spaces.
Perceptions of weather are shaped by multi-sensory encounters and experiences: auditory, visual and tactile. These are not isolated phenomena, but rather they form a complete and total experience of the environment. For example, eyes are not just instruments of sight, they are haptic portals through which we experience environmental conditions: grit and wind on a dry dusty day, or the glare of sunlight reflecting off the water. The shrieking sound of machinery at work in subterranean water-storage spaces is not just an isolated auditory experience; it coexists with the musty smell of stagnant, potentially toxic, water and the feel of a silty floor under protective rubber gumboots. Dialogues between the senses can also create strange and disorientating encounters with the environment: sitting in an air-conditioned hotel listening to the sound of machinery cooling the air while staring out at heatwaves and sweaty bodies on streets. These sensorial interactions identify specific conditions of weather in space and time, creating a sense of place. The combination of interconnected perceptions experienced in and through the body is what forms our understanding of climatic conditions. It is through the sensory experience that we orient our bodies and mind in the world and in space.
Artists in Borrowed Landscapes have created surround-sound compositions, performances and video installations in response to a variety of specific meteorological events encountered during fieldwork in Japan and Australia. By concentrating on acoustic and visual phenomena over different times and spaces this project interrogates the variation and effects of climate change and develops an understanding of how weather events shape specific environments and bodily experience.
Borrowed Landscapes is part of an intercultural collaborative project, The Representation of Weather within a Synthesised Material Space, curated by Philip Samartzis (RMIT University, Melbourne) and Christophe Charles (Musashino Art University, Tokyo). The project creates an open framework for a range of artists to respond to the effects of weather on the built and natural environment through fieldwork. Borrowed Landscapes investigates specific weather conditions through sound and video recordings of environmental conditions conducted on-site in Japan and Australia: the Sumida River, Tokyo; the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, Saitama; and the Bogong High Plains in the Australian Alps.
The title, Borrowed Landscapes, is adapted from the Japanese term Shakkei 2 or ‘borrowed scenery’, which interconnects distant vistas and garden objects into a cohesive view. These relationships link the specificity of the garden into a larger contextual space. In a similar way, the diversity of the Borrowed Landscapes project—across different spaces and times—allows for a variety of voices and perceptions of weather to emerge and to be experienced.
Dr Kristen Sharp
1. Tim Ingold and Terhi Kurtilla (2000) Perceiving the Environment in Finnish Lapland, Body & Society 6 (3-4): 187
2. Shakkei is a central practice in Japanese landscape design that brings foreground elements into relationship with background space and distant views, such as surrounding mountainscapes.
Borrowed Landscapes is part of the research project The Representation of Weather within a Synthesised Material Space, led by Philip Samartzis and Christophe Charles.
Philip Samartzis is a composer, musician and lecturer in sound at RMIT School of Art. He researches in the areas of sound art, acoustic
ecology and spatial sound practices, with a specific focus on art and emergency medicine, and environmental sustainability. His PhD,
Surround Sound in Installation Art, examined the place of sound in contemporary art practice through a range of site-determined
sound art projects. In 2010 Philip was awarded fellowships by the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Antarctic Division
to document the effects of extreme climate and weather events on the human condition at Davis Station in Eastern Antarctica.
Christophe Charles (born Marseille 1964) is currently a professor at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan. He works with found
sounds and insists that each individual sound functions autonomously and non-hierarchically; his compositions are made using
computer programs. Charles has released work on solo CDs through the German label Mille Plateaux / Ritornell (“undirected”
series) and on several compilations, including Mille Plateaux, Ritornell, Subrosa, Code, Cirque, Cross, X-tract, CCI, and ICC. Group
exhibitions include ICC “Sound Art” (Tokyo, 2000) and V&A “Radical Fashion” (London, 2001). Charles has also created permanent
sound installations at Osaka Sumai Jouhou center (1999) and Narita International Airport Central Atrium (2000).
This exhibition acknowledges the support of the RMIT Foundation, MUSABI, RMIT iAIR and the Bogong Centre for Sound Culture.