Sound artist exposes hidden networks while at Sussex

Sound artist Wesley Goatley (left) and technology anthropologist Georgina Voss brought planes, trains and cargo ships to a Brighton gallery as part of the Brighton Digital Festival.

Ever thought about the network of ships, planes and trains that works silently to make sure our supermarket shelves are stocked and re-stocked? How about the invisible chorus of Wi-Fi signals constantly echoing around us?

Sound artist Wesley Goatley has been helping to expose these overlooked aspects of modern life while studying for an MA in Music and Sonic Media at the University of Sussex.

Wesley, who graduates on Thursday (21 January), has combined his studies at the University with art exhibitions in the UK and on the continent, including a recent installation exploring the transport infrastructure that supplies and underpins our cities.

Familiars, a collaboration with Dr Georgina Voss at the University of Sussex, translated information from harbours, airport control towers and railway hubs around Brighton into an immersive sonic and visual experience.

Commissioned for Brighton Digital Festival 2015, the exhibition used a large-scale projected map to display the movements of nearby ships, trains and planes in real time, while sounds of shipping and air traffic control followed these movements through the gallery.

Wesley said: “The vessels that make up this system often operate at great distance from us.

“It’s a system that is constantly in motion yet somewhat hidden, with a very material impact on our lives.

Familiars appealed to anyone interested in experiencing these huge and obscured networks surrounding us.”

Wesley also participated in 2014’s Brighton Digital Festival, this time exploring a different unseen element of our daily lives: wireless networks. 

Wireless Fidelity featured special devices that turned signals from operators such as BT and TalkTalk into a range of sounds including piano melodies and crashing waves.

Participants were invited to take these devices out onto the streets of Brighton, making their own sonic maps of the city’s wireless networks and their corporate ownership.

Wesley has now taken up a position as a PhD student at the University’s Sussex Humanities Lab, a major new research centre at the University that explores what it means to study the humanities in the digital age.

He is planning further exhibitions, including another collaboration with Georgina Voss next month in Belgium.

As Above Not Below is a sonic and visual installation, showing how European aviation regulators divide our airspace into a complex system of open and restricted zones. 

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Monday, 18 January 2016