Sounds From Dangerous Places

Sounds From Dangerous Places

Research Project

2003 - Current

Peter Cusack

Sounds from Dangerous Places explores the potential of listening and recording to reveal the effects of major environmental damage. A decade of fieldwork was devoted to the investigation of the Caspian oil fields, Azerbaijan; the Chernobyl exclusion zone; six UK sites including Sellafield and Snowdonia, where Chernobyl fallout affected sheep farming practice until 2012; and the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. This field research involved multiple visits to Azerbaijan (2003/4), Chernobyl (2006/7), UK sites (2006/10) and Kazakhstan (2015/17). On each occasion the primary focus was the recording of extensive audio and photographic material, contextualised through discussion with local inhabitants, officials and academics (such as anthropologists at Kiev University) and through relevant literature.

The attention attached in this research to pursuing evidence in local narratives where sound is prominent established the methodology that Cusack calls ‘sonic journalism’, which combines artistic and documentary modes.

The recordings created by Cusack have been developed as compositional material: for the double CD and 80-page book; for broadcast, including on BBC Radio 3; and for gallery installations that incorporate multichannel sound and photographic images that have been commissioned for the group exhibitions including (Un)Inhabitable? Art of Extreme Environments, Maison Europeenne de La Photographie, Paris, 2009; Atomic Surplus, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, 2013; Urban Sounds Haus für Electronische Kunst, Basle, 2013 and Staging Disorder, London College of Communication 2015.

Papers focusing on the Sounds from Dangerous Places project have been presented by Cusack in a number of academic settings and in international gallery spaces. The CD/book has been extensively reviewed, featured in two recent books The Great Animal Orchestra and Field Recording and has led to various radio interviews.