Meta.Morf 2022 – Ecophilia / K-U-K – Kjøpmannsgata Ung Kunst / Exhibition May 6 – August 14 /
Curator: Zane Cerpina / Co-curator: Espen Gangvik

Ingenmannsland / 2019

Frank Ekeberg [NO]

In his 1924 poem Stå vakt om naturen (Keep Guard over Nature), Norwegian poet and environmentalist Theodor Caspari (1853-1948) calls for “a shining `No-man’s-land ́” where “the creator is quiet” and natural forces roam. He warned against the threat posed to mountains, waters and forests and their inhabitants by “ill culture” and “fumes and roar of machines.” A no-man’s-land refers both to land undisturbed by human activities as well as to areas of conflict. The ambiguity of the expression reflects the discrepancy between the Norwegian myth of nature as plentiful, unbreakable and accessible, while at the same time it is subjected to fast-paced, destructive extraction and exploitation.

Ingenmannsland (No Man’s Land / Niemandsland) is a constantly changing, speculative soundscape highlighting issues of deforestation, resource extraction, habitat loss, species extinction and natural vs. artificial life. The installation is based on field-recordings made in old-growth forest that has been a constant for many hundred years and contributed to the Norwegian identity of closeness to nature, processed to reflect a contemporary reality of fragmentation and rapid change. The focus is in particular on the rainforest that once covered much of the west coast of Norway. Only scattered fragments remain of the rainforest today, and it is now on the red-list of endangered habitat types. 80 percent of the coastal rainforest has been lost only in the past 100 years, and it is predicted to disappear completely within the next five decades. Despite numerous warnings of species decline, loss of biodiversity and the importance of trees for carbon capture and storage, only 5 percent of Norwegian forests are currently protected, and only 3 percent of trees are older than 160 Years.

The sound material in Ingenmannsland is for the most part recorded in coastal rainforest areas in the southwest of Norway, using conventional as well as unconventional microphone techniques. Some sounds are easily recognizable, like bird calls, water dripping and rustling of leaves in the wind, while others are recordings of sounds that are normally not heard, like insects gnawing on logs and sounds of the inside of trees moving in the wind. The recordings are meticulously edited so that each component of the forest soundscape can be independently controlled and manipulated.

The installation starts off as quite a rich soundscape with sounds of birds and insects integrated with sounds of wind in trees and of water streams. Over time the sounds of wildlife gradually diminish, and many go extinct. As the day of the exhibition progresses, the sounds of birds and insects are reduced to a point where about 80 percent of the initial sound material is gone. This number reflects the assumed percentage of species that have been exterminated since the beginning of humanity, and also coincides with the percentage of the Norwegian rainforest that has been lost in the past 100 years. When a tipping point is reached, sounds start to reappear, but these are different – more static and artificial, as if we are entering another reality. The soundscape becomes a speculative environment based on projected future scenarios, and asks questions such as: What happens when forests disappear or dry out? Can our natural environment be replenished? Will it be replaced by artificial life? Is this the function of biomimicry?

Frank Ekeberg
Frank Ekeberg is a transdisciplinary artist, music composer and researcher working in the intersection of art, science and technology. He received an undergraduate degree in music from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) before he went on to pursue a master’s degree in electronic music at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he studied composition with Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Curran, and a PhD in electroacoustic music composition at City University London, UK, under Denis Smalley and Simon Emmerson’s tutelage. Ekeberg’s work explores issues of ecology, time, spatiality and transformation, with a particular focus on nature spaces, ecosystems and the interplay between human and non-human worlds. His research-based approach often involves collaborations within as well as beyond the art field. He has composed and designed sound for concert performance, dance, film, theater, radio plays and intermedia installations. His work is widely presented in festivals, exhibitions, concerts and conferences around the world, including venues such as Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany; The Peale Center in Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Kunsthall Trondheim, Norway; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, Germany; Foggy Bottom Sculpture Biennial in Washington D.C., USA; Seoul Arts Center, Korea; multiple times at the International Symposium on Electronic Art, and many more. Ekeberg was awarded the 2017 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and is currently Research Associate at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., USA. Most of the time he lives and works in Trondheim, Norway.

Header Graphics: “Ingenmannsland” field recordings by Frank Ekeberg.