Have you ever tried to listen to a sculpture? Or a plant? Or the ground beneath your feet? You'll be able to do those things at the Walker Art Center's World Listening Day event in the Sculpture Garden tonight. The evening features a listening meditation, a sound scavenger hunt, and various sound experiments that will allow you to experience the garden in a different way than you ever have before.
Photo courtesy the artist
This is the first year that the Walker has participated in World Listening Day, which has been in existence for about four years, according to Abigail Anderson, who works with the museum's education and community programs. The event originated from the World Listening Project, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago that was founded in 2008 through support of the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology.
The World Listening Project is all about participating and advancing practices around listening, especially the natural world around us, but also in other areas such as sound art.
The Walker's event focuses on examining the Sculpture Garden as a soundscape, with a number of guests leading different activities designed to bring attention to the sound that's already present. Other artists will be capturing, replying, and remixing those sounds.
The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a mindful sound walk led by Buddhist practitioner Mark Nunberg, a guiding teacher at Common Ground Meditation Center, who approaches listening from a point of view of meditation and mindfulness.
At 6 p.m. Mark Bee, an animal communications scientist from the University of Minnesota, will lead an activity that creates a kind of playlist of popular songs that have been interpreted into how they might be heard by different animals. From Beethoven to Michael Jackson, you'll get to hear how their music is heard through the ears of a frog, a fish, or a cricket.
Sound artist Philip Blackburn will be leading two projects. In one, he has created a set of wind harps made out of fishing line and cat-food cans, which "coaxes music from the invisible," Anderson says.
Blackburn has also created an experiment called Talking Plant, which he originally presented at the Flint Hills Children's Festival with students from Patrick Henry High School. Using brain-wave sensors attached to a plant, the data collected is then transferred to a MIDI device so listeners can actually hear what's going on inside. You can also interact with the plant, creating an imaginary dialogue as the plant responds to light and vibration. "It's part psychology experiment, part vegan experiment," he says. "It almost seems that plants have consciousness."
Finally, the evening includes a self-guided activity designed by sound artist Viv Corringham, with leaflets that contain prompts for listening to the sounds of the Sculpture Garden.