Susan Schuppli is interested in how the objects, technologies, and practices of science are narrated in ways that makes them ‘consequential’ for culture and society. Her audio work for the exhibition is based on the 20 hertz frequency of sand.
Following a site visit to HMS Courageous she wrote:
“Our tour was conducted by a retired Officer Alan Jones who had worked for decades on various nuclear submarines overseeing their engineering and navigation systems. The Valiant-class of submarines were primarily used for surveillance, especially during the Cold War, and were tasked with trolling the waters of the North Atlantic and monitoring underwater activity that might be indicative of covert operations. Alan recounted one such sortie in which a strange new frequency was picked up by the submarine’s passive sonar technology. This is essentially a mode of sonar directed towards attentive listening as opposed to active sonar, which emits pulses that bounce echoes back to the sub where they are logged and classified according to the kinds of objects that produce such sonic-signatures. However, unable to identify this particular frequency and thus its source of emission, the submarine began to chase the sound as it moved in ever-changing configurations, sometimes disappearing altogether and then re-appearing with more intensity somewhere else. When the submarine finally surfaced and returned to its base at Faslane, Scotland it was discovered that what they had been doggedly following for weeks was the sound of granular particles of sand being rubbed by the undulating motion of the waves.”
Susan Schuppli, 2014.
Sound of Sand will be exhibited at KARST in Plymouth, as part of the exhibition Material Nuclear Culture curated by Ele Carpenter.