Beneath & Beyond with Stephen Hurrel


The Beneath and Beyond exhibition takes real-time data from 100 earthquake monitoring stations around the World to provide an audio-visual experience, combining art, technology and nature. 


Here is what artist and creator Stephen Hurrel says about his exhibition...


What will I see/hear when I go to this exhibition?

The installation consists of a video projection and six speakers. Behind the scenes is a computer with software that allows us to access about 50 seismic monitoring stations around the world.

Visitors to the gallery will hear ongoing low rumbles from within the Earth as well as sporadic ‘event sounds’ coming in live from seismic monitoring stations around the world. Each event has a different sound quality and when these overlap a self-generated seismic sound is created.

The video projection displays an outline map of the world and, at the right-hand side, a series of trace lines represent the vibrations coming in from around the world.

These vibrations are analysed and then translated into sound. When an event sound is heard, its waveform appears on the screen, as well as the name of the country and the seismic monitoring station that picked up the vibrations.

The artwork is completely dependent on what is actually happening deep within the Earth - beneath our feet, and beyond our human hearing.


How would you describe this exhibition in 3 words?

Immersive. Relaxing. Dynamic.


How do the Earth’s movements translate into sounds that we can hear?

There are ongoing pressures, forces, heat, etc. just below the Earth’s crust. These ultimately create movements, which are picked up by seismic monitoring stations as vibrations. Through our unique software system we can analyse these vibrations and then, through a process of speeding them up, create sounds that are in the range of human hearing.


How loud are the sounds that are played?

The level of sound is basically controlled by the amplifiers and speakers. However, as it is possible for several sounds to overlap then the sound activity can build up when more than one seismic events are captured from around the world.


What inspired you to come up with this idea?

I’ve always been interested in relationships between nature and technology and the potential of digital media to make visible the inaccessible and invisible aspects of our world. Prior to making Beneath and Beyond, I had been exploring interactive media systems in relation to permanent public artworks. This included creating light artworks that used environmental feedback, such as wind and sound, to trigger activity in lighting systems.

For those earlier public art projects, I had employed the help of computer expert Bob Farrell to work on the technology and software programming aspects. It was through this process that I realised there was great potential in utilising digital media and software development to create environmental art.

I liked this idea of tapping into natural phenomena to create environmental feedback systems, which led me to think about other ways of capturing natural phenomena. I realised that there was an endless supply of data on the Internet that related to such things as weather, temperature, rainfall, climate change, etc. I was particularly interested in live data and that led me to look more closely at seismic activity.

I see Beneath and Beyond as being within the tradition of landscape art and ideas of the sublime, which ranges from landscape and minimalist painting through to land art and immersive installations.

By revealing the dynamic nature of activity within the inner Earth I think this underlines the fact that the Earth is a living, breathing organism, not a solid, static form. So with that in mind, there is an ecological aspect to the work also.                           


Stephen Hurrel, Artist



See the exhibition at Paisley Museum, open until 15th April, free entry.


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