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White Sound: An Urban Seascape

Thursday 22 September 2011 - Sunday 16 October 2011


This autumn, noise from the gridlocked traffic on the Euston Road in Central London will be replaced by the sound of waves breaking onto pebbles with White Sound: an urban seascape, a newly commissioned work by Bill Fontana at Wellcome Collection.

For three weeks a live audio feed of the Dorset shoreline plays out of speakers mounted onto the façade of Wellcome Collection. Sounds of crashing waves envelope the building and the surrounding public to create an entirely new acoustic architecture that challenges our sense of place and dissolves the physical sensation of being in the city within an experience of the tidal rhythms of the sea.

Sitting in traffic queues, time can appear to slow painfully, but the seascape evokes a natural activity that moves towards a deeper time: a continuous cycle carried over thousands of years. Placing the hypnotic sound of Chesil Beach on the congested Euston Road, White Sound raises questions about our understanding of stillness and movement, in both urban and natural environments.

Chesil Beach is formed of a unique 18-mile pebble bank, with the Fleet Lagoon on one side and the sea on the other. Its stones, largely chert and flint, are graded neatly along its length, such that fishermen arriving by night are said to be able to locate themselves by the size of the pebbles beneath their feet. The beach is part of the Jurassic Coast, and a UNESCO designated World Heritage site.

Film footage from the beach will play in Wellcome Collection throughout the installation’s run.

Presented with support from Camden Council, Haunch of Venison and Socially Responsive Art and Design Hub.

Film © Bill Fontana 2011

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