River Garden: Fishes' Lament

June, 2024
In a tryout for new work, River Garden: Fishes' Lament (working title), an eight-channel soundscape featuring collected scientific recordings of fish in Dutch waters is juxtaposed with 3D animated collages of the Rhine Meuse delta underwater scenery. Records exist of ancient descriptions of loud humming or intense thunder-like sounds along riverbanks, inspiring local ghost stories or signifying the herald of spring as the fish call out to mate in big numbers.
Installation view at Zone2Source, Photo by Thomas Lenden

In Western scientific discourse, fish acoustics have long been overlooked and so little is known about the exact reasons for why fish produce sound and what sounds belong to what particular fish. This composition brings together rare recordings of freshwater fish species occurring in the Netherlands, some of who are on the brink of extinction, intending to invite thought over what might lead a fish to produce sound. Might their grunts and hisses signify distress, a warning not to invade their territory, a --possibly in vain-- call for a partner? Their bodies are at risk everywhere in our riverine underwater world dominated by industrialization, toxins, and traffic. In an unfolding history of extinction, will their calls be answered? Will we listen to their lamentation?

The installation is accompanied by 3D animated riverscapes based on found footage of leisure divers. The distorted images give a glimpse of the Dutch underwater riverine ecology with its peat banks, flood plains, and adopted, overgrown trash that ends up on the river floor. The generally poor visibility is translated in the abstraction of the animations, inviting you to consider the importance of other senses for those who call this habitat home.

The setup is a first trial that continues and reinvents methods and technology used in prior important works such as Ghost Reef and Seasynthesis; aiming to investigate if they can be further developed, re-used and deployed as tools for becoming.