Mountains Underwater: Stroma

2019

wood, beeswax, stones, wire, plaster, 4-channel sound composition

The island in the stream – as its Old Norse name Straumøy indicates – lies motionless in the sea off the north coast of Scotland and looks out over the fierce waters of the Pentland Firth, watching the strong currents flow in and out as the turbulent events in our wider world also continue to ebb and flow.

As the silent observer of the everchanging landscape/seascape around it, Stroma has had its share of inhabitants from prehistory up until its abandonment in 1962. Although the island no longer supports a human population that made a living from fishing and the kelp industry, the surrounding waters of the Pentland Firth have become a valuable resource of renewable energy. The largest tidal energy project in the world (MeyGen) has plans to expand their array of four underwater turbines to hundreds by 2021. While the growing use of renewable technologies is exciting and essential, the long-term implications on the local environment are quite mysterious.

The sound you hear in this installation is an imagined, abstracted journey from Stroma to the sea floor of the Pentland Firth where the tidal turbine array is growing – it’s a sonic world that marine life could possibly experience as the grid of turbines gets larger. The kelp rising up from the floor is pulled by the currents and also reminds us of the changing role of Stroma; from fortress to fishing, crofting to kelping, and now the silent observer. In Mountains Underwater: Stroma the endurance of the island is put into the context of our collective ambition for renewable energy technology.

Stroma, the island in the stream, is a place where the serene meets the dangerous and the ancient meets the future. If a turbine spins under the sea and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Stroma runs from 6 July – 31 August 2019 at the Lyth Arts Centre in Caithness – LAC website

The installation was also presented at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in the spring of 2019.

Many thanks to Craig Dow

For the full-length soundscape composition in stereo, listen here:

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