In January 2011 Stuart Bowditch was awarded an artists residency by Landguard Arts in Felixstowe, Suffolk to develop a sound installation. The premise of his idea was to build upon his previous work investigating location, but to articulate it in a new way. Familiar processes included leaving all of the result to be completely influenced by what he found during his time in the given location, (Landguard Fort, and the surrounding nature reserve on Landguard Point), working with local people and community groups to learn and discover historical and contemporary local folklore, being led and influenced by members of the public to local sounds and their reason for existence, and turning the sounds of everyday objects into musical representations of the mood experienced during his time there.
Building on work with Damien Robinson (Vibe Cube 2009, Signpost 2010), Stuart wanted to add a new dimension to his solo work, using NXT transducers to turn materials found at the fort into a resonating sculpture through which the sound would be played into the exhibition space. Using this technique, both the sounds and the medium through which they were played would be determined by what he found, and how they sounded by the acoustics of the room in which they were played back. Bastion was developed over eight months and installed throughout the month of October.
Throughout 2011 Stuart made many visits to Landguard Fort and during his time there accumulated many hours of recordings, of different spaces and activities, everyday and site specific objects and the different seasons and weather conditions. The duration of the project also enabled him to develop friendships with some of the people who use the fort for different activities and to engage with some of the local community groups, who donated sounds of their activities to the work. One such group were the Felixstowe and District Amateur Radio Society, who shared a mutual interest in sound and technology. They were very happy to discuss and demonstrate their activities and to provide a lot of source material for the project, some of which features in the final work. A group of military enthusiasts in period costume were happy to give a full demonstration of their muskets at the Darells Day festival in July. Slightly less fruitful, but equally interesting, was a night spent at the fort with Compass Paranormal during one of their ‘Ghost Tours’.
More personal relationships were formed during the project, most notably with Brian, a volunteer who dedicated much of his time to the maintenance of the fort, making sure it was open and closed on time and supporting the many people and activities throughout the year. Brian was a wealth of knowledge, both historical and current, revealing the deep and complicated currents, politics and personal viewpoints, that affect all who use the fort. He was also very supportive of the project, distributing postcards, sourcing equipment, and through experimentation with the NXT transducers enabled suitable materials, a disused shelving unit with particularly good resonant qualities, to be found for the final installation.
Stuart also became friends with Sarah, the ranger for Landguard Peninsular nature reserve, who helped to reveal local sound sources and shared her wealth of knowledge of the area’s flora and fauna, helping the project to expand into new areas. Sarah also kindly attended the sound walk that Stuart conducted in July and led the participants around the peninsular for double the allotted time on a very educational tour.
A white board and postcards asking for the public’s suggestions for sounds was employed throughout the busy summer period and volunteer Mollie helped enormously by giving out the postcards with each ticket bought. This effort resulted in a large variety of replies, some of which were hunted down and recorded, and added into the pool of usable sounds, whilst others would always remain unfound.
The collected sounds were edited and then used to compose a 35 minute piece, coloured by the emotions, experiences and knowledge gained throughout the residency. As with much of his recent work Stuart used only these sounds to compose the work, some left largely unprocessed and some heavily effected. He also expanded on previous installation work by using an Arduino micro controller to regulate the playback of the sounds, which was triggered only by the proximity of someone in the exhibition space. Some of the electronics used were hand assembled by Stuart and the code written especially for the project.
Made entirely from materials and sounds found at Landguard Fort and the surrounding peninsula during 2011.Recorded, edited and compiled by Stuart Bowditch.
Mastered by Antony Ryan at RedRedPaw.
Photography by Stuart Bowditch. Package design by Matt Leivers and Erica Gittins.