Week 3 Response: Noise Pollution Art

In Information Arts, Stephen Wilson summarizes that science and art must be linked in ecological art: “Artists, often in collaboration with scientist, undertake research to understand the nature of the problems and to search for new solutions. They then design ecological actions whose integration of science and art enables public action. Other artists seek to heighten awareness of ecological concerns but are less certain about remedies” (Wilson 146). Going through Wilson’s links to art projects related to ecology, one that stood out to me was something called Tripwire.

Tripwire deals with noise pollution created by aircrafts from a nearby airport in downtown San Jose, CA. The site-specific installation features hollow coconuts filled with sensors that monitors noise, which then triggers automated telephone calls to the airport’s complaint line. I was intrigued by how it is such a simple device, but is very effective for its size. Although Tripwire does not really raise awareness of the issue of noise pollution with its camouflaging appearance, it manages to somewhat address the problem on the behalf of the city’s residents and wildlife.  The airline can try to resolve the issue by making their planes fly higher but the truth is that the noise from aircrafts will always exist. I can vouch that this is also an issue here at UCSD, especially when these loud rumbles prevent students from hearing what their professors are saying during class. The problems with noise pollution have yet to be solved; however, I understand that these issues aren’t high priorities.

Upon further research about any art that dealt with noise pollution, I found an interesting (although unsuccessful) Kickstarter that put forth some thought-provoking ideas. This project called Silent Nights would have been a public installation that responded to the environmental noise at a busy intersection in Red Hook, Brooklyn. There would be a series of gates that frame a pedestrian pathway and be decorated by shadows or patterns of light reflecting the surrounding noise. Microphones would pick up the sound from traffic and be processed by computers which will trigger the gates to respond accordingly (like the vibrancy of the gate will intensify as the noise increases). Art in this case is dealing with the environment, but rather than attempting to address or fix the “issue” in some way, it is embracing it. This project in a sense would have raised awareness of the problem of noise to those who experienced it by provoking them to connect the behaviors of gates and lights to the environment they are in. However, in this context I feel like the problem would cease to be a problem and just a part of the world we live in and are so used to.

– Crystal Nguyen



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