Meanwhile Hydrosiren Art Commission

Project: Research

Project Details


This is a commission for the Rivers and Canals Trust to create an unique artwork celebrating the qualities of the Meanwhile Gardens and the Regent's Canal.

Layman's description

A privately funded participatory commission for the Canal & River Trust, London in collaboration with Rob Godman.

Hydrosiren makes explicit and brings to awareness the voices and points of view of the multifarious inhabitants and users of Meanwhile Gardens, human and non-human by use of acoustic mirrors. Composer Rob Godman created a soundscape and musical score based on his Meanwhile recordings.

This sculptural boat is intended to heighten critical perception and listening and awareness of the properties of place that make Meanwhile unique. We see Meanwhile as a manifold of natural, cultural and social forces, structures and networks including all visitors, and inhabitants hugging the Regents Canal which connects to a complex canal system that reaches north south east and west to much of the UK mainland and also connects to many of England’s ports and harbours thereby implying connection with all the oceans and ports of the entire world.
The temporary and permanent inhabitants of the gardens and canal (humans, animals and micro-organisms) are transitory beings who live variously in the water, earth and air.
The water has always occupied our imaginations. A nymph is traditionally seen as a female deity associated with a particular location or landform. Unlike goddesses and other spirits, nymphs are generally regarded as divine beings that animate nature. However, sirenswere dangerous creatures, who sang beautiful songs to lull sailors to sleep, and then attack and kill them. Hence, those who allow themselves to become lost in worldly pleasures and the underworld will be vulnerable to evil forces…
Alongside Meanwhile Gardens, the canal forms an analogue super-slow-way. It lives alongside the digital super-high-way of the fibre optics embedded in the towpath. Hydrosirn explores our perception of time (from the very slow to the very fast) and our perception of scale (from the imperceptibly small to the human and to the urban). Hydrosiren whispers and ‘sings’ with the sound of the voice of these multiple communities, underwater and other sounds invisible to the naked eye; making the invisible audible.

Technologically speaking, there are some significant research areas that have been explored to make Hydrosiren what it is. The sound mirrors (hyperbolic microphones and speakers) are based upon the principle of acoustic sound mirrors used in the first half of the 20th century as early warning listening devices to detect enemy planes flying over the English Channel. Whilst the systems at Denge, Kent and elsewhere were soon rendered obsolete due to the much more effective radar, the concept still functioned and has an imposing structural impression. Underwater and micro recording techniques have been explored allowing us to hear the inaudible. It should be noted that the considerable challenge of creating a high-end audio system using 12v on a floating structure have been over come. Whilst the technology is always largely invisible to an audience or viewer, the research should not be underestimated.
The music consists of manipulated samples of 'the sound' of Meanwhile Gardens. This includes recordings of the humanoid residents, plus aquatic and insect! A score has been created for soprano Elizabeth Karani, who on selected dates will sing live from the structure as it progresses down the canal.
Short titleHydrosiren
Effective start/end date1/07/171/12/17


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