Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen perfected the art of listening underwater
Oslo-based Norwegian artist Jana Winderen advocates for the well-being of the planet through her immersive soundscapes. Born in 1965 in Bodø, Norway, and having grown up near forests, mountains and seas, and having read books about Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany and geography, she has always loved be in or by the ocean, rowing or swimming. “Below the surface, it’s so exciting,” she reveals. “There are so many unknowns and I have always loved exploring.” As a child she had spent every summer by the sea, often with her grandfather, Lars Winderen, ear, nose and throat specialist, idealist in protecting coastal areas and land from construction, passionate by plants. and animal life. He and his mother were environmentalists, which had a great influence on young Winderen. In the 1970s she was scared and outraged when she learned that a lake near her home was on the verge of death due to the algae blooms and the Norwegian government’s decision to build a dam. where the reindeer used to feed and where the indigenous Sami lived.
After studying mathematics, chemistry, biochemistry and fish ecology at the University of Oslo, Winderen graduated in Fine Arts from Goldsmiths, University of London in 1993. Initially creating sculptures at the school, she quickly turned to sound in 1992, refusing to make objects that would. later become a landfill and intend to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. “I made the decision very early on to work with the intangible material that is sound, however physical it may be,” she explains. “You get a pretty physical experience, but it doesn’t take up space and I reuse my recording equipment. If you see an item, you want to buy it. I prefer that people have an experience that they can take with them and associate with instead of owning an item, something that doesn’t necessarily cost anything to come and experience, just listening to yourself. .
In all projects, research is fundamental and Winderen will draw on local knowledge to uncover the issues in a particular place before bringing in its recording equipment. Then, she will think about the best way to express the work: a multi-channel art installation, a radio program, a live concert or a soundtrack for a film or a dance performance. To get the full audio information, it uses very good pre-amplification to record sounds as detailed and precise as possible, four hydrophones at a time on different channels that pick up a wide spectrum of frequencies underwater, a Soundfield microphone at the format B which records noises above water like airplanes and ultrasonic detectors which make environmental conditions accessible inaudible to unassisted human ears, like ultrasound located above our hearing capacity but through which many species of mammals and insects communicate that it takes away human reach. Drawing on an archive of sounds collected over the years, she will mix them with new recordings and compose a sound collage. “I often think in terms of stories, layers and sections, trips and up and down in the depths of the water,” says Winderen. The first layer describes larger areas with a lower frequency and greater range, then other layers zoom in and focus on the details. She hopes listeners feel in the water, adding, “I want them to listen to the situation, but I’m not trying to represent what’s out there. I’m trying to tell a story.
Believing that sound art is an effective way to raise awareness of environmental threats, Winderen concludes: “For me, communication is important. One of the reasons for working with sound is that you reach a large audience. The sound travels. I have done many interviews on the BBC and for different radio stations. You touch a lot of people, more than you would in the art world, if you exhibit in a gallery. I have also worked for many years with the Touch label in London, run by Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft for over 35 years. They have a worldwide distribution network, so I publish my work on vinyls, CDs, cassettes, digital downloads, and radio. I make small items, so it’s not entirely true that I don’t make items, but I reach a lot of people with it. It is important for me to tell you the story so that you can tell it too. “