Augmented Materiality Laboratory

The research based artwork Bubalus bubalis /16HZ-40,000HZ is the first of a series of works which adopts a ‘creaturely perspective’ that at once elevate more sensual, elemental and cosmopolitical understandings of multispecies perspectives, while documenting a mode of human animal-nonhuman animal sociality in this unique post-domestic context of Hong Kong. The work is the first in the series of sonic ethnographies that explores the role water buffalos play in shaping human life and shared habitats which involve the production of a sound recording of these geo-engineering activities and aural experiences of the buffalo themselves in their experience of the landscapes. The work will create a binaural recording of the travel routes of the water buffalo as they feed, perambulate and wallow between various spaces in Lantau, sounds given to the buffalos experience of the shaping of the landscape that go into benefiting themselves and their interspecies cohabitants.

Binaural recording is based on the replication of the exact physiological structure of human hearing in the recording process that involves creating a mannequin of a human head on which two omnidirectional 360-degree microphones are placed that when mixed and listened to in headphones simulate the exact experience of human hearing. This piece transposes the binaural recording process onto a bovine ontology by creating a replica of a water buffalo head with high frequency range microphones placed at the positions where its ears sit on the top of its skull so that, when listened to, the audiences virtual ears literally become buffalo, morphing the shape of the phantom (human) head into that of the buffalos to approximate the experience of its hearing. The high frequency range of the recording mimics the range of the especially acute hearing of the buffalo, of 16hz to 40,000hz (between the low frequency rumbles of elephants and the ultrasonic screams of bats) as opposed to human hearing which falls between 20hz-20,000hz.

The ultrasonic and subsonic frequencies recorded are translated into a intelligible form through cymatics, or the visualization of sound, by creating a vibration speaker system which translates those unheard frquencies into physical vibrations on a acrylic plate filled with water. When the vibrations in the water reach exactly half of the vibrations produced by the speaker, the so called ‘Faraday Threshold’ is reached and standing waves appear on the surface of the water, visualizing the subsonic and ultrasonic frequencies which water buffalo experience in the landscapes of Lantau.

Collaborator: Daisy Bisenieks, Baptist University of Hong Kong