Friendly Organisms … and then we will see if we can be friends is an art-science project exploring ambivalent sites and their systemic interplay with their environment by sound and other means.
In September 2018, Katharina and Till set out for a four-week long expedition to Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. Our intention has been to invite (non-)human beings on the site to create electronic sounds as a shared artistic intervention. But we soon found that we were confronted with something much more than just a place to make music at: Eden Project presented itself as a giant, living, and pulsating organism. So complex, so lively, that most of its aspects continuously escaped our comprehension. As these impressions slowly settled in our thoughts and work, we deliberately extended our invitation to the organism called Eden Project itself.
But how to make it aware of us? How to approach an organism consisting of structures as large and complex that we could stroll inside it without even noticing, lest comprehending, that those structures are part of, that we are are part of it?
When arriving, we tried to answer questions like “Does the official intention of Eden Project justify its existence?” or “Despite its official slogan, what does Eden Project really contribute for the bettering of the (direct or distant) environment and its future?”. The more we discovered the more these questions shifted towards: “Does our intention justify our existence (here)?” and “Who are we to judge?”
We developed and studied several methods, all of them based on, and most of them involving the act of listening.
Examining through listening
For the majority of the first week, we set out with microphones, sound recorders and cameras to observe and take in. We went to places both accessible to visitors as well as hidden from their ears. We listened to the inaudible, and consulted Eden staff members for their stories and got rewarded by very personal takes on why they are part of Eden Project.
Soon after the first week, we altered our strategy for being in the field. Instead of pure listening, we used our technical equipment to add our own sounds to the places we found. It again shifted our perspective.
Exploring the context
We spiralled outwards into the environment of the organism that is Eden Project, climbed the coasts and explored similarities between Eden Project and Cornwall’s cultural as well as its engineering heritage.
Throughout our exploration we made attempts to visualise the organism that is Eden Project as it appeared to us. Silently taking turns in drawing on a whiteboard revealed subconsciously formed concepts and ideas about the organism called Eden Project and served as a key component for our continuous discussions.
Opportunities to present our work where aplenty. Apart from talking to lots of people about our residency and its activities, we not only had the chance to visit FoAM Kernow for their annual get-together, but also to be part of two arts weekends within Eden Project: One being a lesson to be learned, one successful in a more direct interpretation of the word.
A path emerges
After four weeks, we concluded that, due to the sheer complexity of the organism that is Eden Project and its interwovenness with its surroundings, it is impossible for us to answer our initial questions. But maybe we can raise awareness of those facets of Eden Project that we found interesting and worth to tell about. Hopefully, for some, they will turn from amusing anecdotes into projects worth being explored in depth and in the best case being communicated to an audience — be it within or between departments of Eden Project, to school children, or the general public.