6 July 2021

A fascination with sound

Award-winning artist Kathy Hinde shares the inspiration behind her immersive installations and sound-based workshops at Wakehurst this summer.

By Yosola Olorunshola

An image of the gongs and tubes used in Kathy Hinde's Water Balance installation at Wakehurst

Kathy Hinde is an Ivor Novello award-winning artist known for her reflective installations, performances, music and live visuals that combine nature and technology.  

Her installations ‘Water Balance’ and ‘Listening Horns’ will be on display as part of Wakehurst’s Summer of Sound.

She spoke to us about the inspiration behind her strikingly meditative work, and what it means to truly listen to the world around us.  

Sound and vision 

I’ve always wanted to bring sound and visual art together. I’ve always been interested in the natural world as well, so I started doing field recordings in nature as part of my practice.

An image of Kathy Hinde wearing headphones as she conducts a field recording
Kathy Hinde © James Cook / BBC News

I’d take out microphones and record the sounds around me. I don’t often use this material in my finished pieces, but the process helps me come up with new ideas and it’s a way to explore different locations. 

I was drawn to Wakehurst for the incredible landscape and the fact that scientific research is happening on site all the time. It was a chance to learn more about environmental science through the process of making the work.   

Balancing act  

I’ve been doing work around water for a long time. My installation ‘Water Balance’ was originally created for a show at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, to highlight the importance of water in peat bogs.  

But in a more global sense, I wanted to look at how important it is to balance our use of water. 

How do we respect the water systems of this planet? What impact might extreme weather have, if some places have too much water, and others have drought?  

A close-up of Kathy Hinde's Water Balance
Water Balance © Kathy Hinde

At Wakehurst, there are some streams that flow down from the top of the site all the way to the Wetlands. I loved the image of this watery vein running through the whole site, so I created a section of the piece specific to this landscape. 

The installation is made using metal tubes, or ‘tippers’, and a series of metal gongs and bells. Water flows through the tubes until it overflows and tips against the gongs or bells, releasing the sound.

A close-up of Kathy Hinde's Water Balance
Water Balance © Kathy Hinde
A close-up of Kathy Hinde's Water Balance
Water Balance © Kathy Hinde

All the tippers and gongs are different sizes, and the bells are different pitches, so the piece never repeats in the same way. 

It mirrors the way water is always changing form, flowing from one place to another.  

Deeper listening  

When you listen to sounds from underwater, you gain a whole different perspective on that ecosystem. It's a real surprise to hear what aquatic life sounds like.

When you look at the surface of a pond, for example, you can’t really see beneath it, so it might appear calm and serene, but then you put an underwater microphone inside and you realise there’s a whole world under there!  

All the invertebrates and fish make a whole load of sounds — even algae makes a sound when it photosynthesises.  

Listening Horns © Kathy Hinde
Listening Horns © Kathy Hinde

My ‘Listening Horns’ in Wakehurst’s Wetlands will give visitors a chance to hear these sounds for themselves. I love the fact that they can give people a different perspective on something that we experience all the time but don’t always notice.  

Listening is, in many ways, simply about paying attention. I wanted to share this experience of listening closely to nature on different levels, so I started hosting listening walks to accompany my art. 

I hope the Deep Listening Walks at Wakehurst inspire a newfound curiosity with what aquatic life might contain, or just a fresh perspective on how you might listen to the world around you — a fascination with sound. 

An example of a phytographic print
An example of a phytographic image by Kathy Hinde

To bring in a visual element, the Deep Listening Walks will also include a session on making images with plants. It’s a technique called phytography, developed by the filmmaker Karel Doing, which harnesses the unique chemistry of plants to react with photographic paper. 

Overall, I hope the workshops will help visitors become more aware of the unexpected details we can see and hear if we pay closer attention to the natural world.  

Kathy Hinde's Deep Listening Walks at Wakehurst will take place in September 2021.

Book today to experience the life bubbling under Wakehurst’s tranquil waters, guided by Hinde’s expert perspective. 

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