Louise K Wilson
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Contest Behaviour | 2007

A sound work in two parts: an evening composition with synchronised illumination and fountain and a 'sub-aqua' audio installation audible only to Lido swimmers. This was commissioned by the Sonic Arts Network, in partnership with the University of Plymouth's i-DAT (Institute of Digital Art and Technology), for Expo 2007.

Contest Behaviour was prompted by the unique physical (geographical and maritime) position of Tinside Lido, with its subtle relationship of natural and manmade forms and strong architectural visibility. This site is equally important for swimming and watching (known for beauty contests in the 1960s), it remains an ideal vantage point to observe the changing panorama of the Sound. Contest Behaviour asks how far are Lido swimmers aware of the soup of adjacent aquatic sounds, immersed in this contained body of seawater?

The use of hydrophone (underwater) recordings to bring the outside in to this contained volume of seawater, dovetailed the presence and proximity of shipping traffic in Plymouth Sound and the game theory-derived study of marine life. The territory of the Sound becomes an arena for the playing out of contest behaviour at different scales:  naval sounds vie with the aggressive repeated 'rapping' made by a hermit crab (shell against shell) as it attempts to coerce another into an 'eviction' during a shell fight.

Additionally discrete activities are broadcast: such as the rasping sound created by a limpet as it grazes on microscopic algae and a 'melodic' tank of dogfish in a feeding frenzy.

Contest Behaviour also acknowledges anomalous sounds (tagged 'babbling brook', 'frying fat', 'laughing man' and so on) made audible when an array of hydrophones is placed in deep water. These have been gathered from the places the Plymouth-based Naval vessels travel to (data supplied by Qinetiq and the Royal Navy).

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