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contact: nolan.lem@gmail.com
nolan lem tristan telander kip haaheim
nolan.lem@gmail.com
mutatis mutandis is a multi-sensory installation that uses glaciological data to control an audio and visual environment.

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from CrESIS Site

about: In the 21st century, to be human is to be connected through the mind, body and machine. Advances in technology have now enabled our society to affect many of the geological and atmospheric systems governing the earth. With this new responsibility comes the difficult task of reevaluating our relationship with the natural world.

Perhaps our understanding of the natural world is rooted in our ability to perceive rates of change. Glaciological change, as it is applied in this installation, is related to the passage of time and our aural modus operandi where we find our cognitive perception of time to be quite elastic. As glaciological changes can take place over extremely long durations of time, we struggle to make sense of their rhythm. Within these periodic cycles, their quiet patience is made evident. Data is the medium through which we are able to examine their trends.

Mutatis Mutandis treats the raw, number-heavy data as an artistic medium in itself. Several computer algorithms, specifically programmed for this installation, control and modify the recorded sounds of glaciers by mapping sets of glaciological data onto the audio files themselves. As the computer interprets streams of data, we perceive gradual, glacial changes through the medium of sound. As this mapping occurs, different computational procedures enable the listener to experience thousands of years of recorded data in perceivable ways. The same data used within the sound installation is visually interpreted in the form of data visualizations on various walls of Spooner hall. The corresponding information graphics and sound labels provide more specific information on how the data is utilized.

The harsh arctic conditions at the ends of our earth are perhaps best experienced through its rich sound world, a sonic terrain difficult to access by the better part of society. The sheer visceral presence of glacial environments is testimony to their vitality and strength. Nevertheless, the steady murmurings of melting glaciers are a constant reminder of their exhaustion. A large ice block, slowly melting in the center of the space, symbolizes the glaciological reference point in the present moment. From this vantage point, the glacial sounds form a living, breathing arctic environment independent of time and reflective of the expansive contours of their history.

At the core of this intersection of technology and art lies the potential for our society to better understand the significance of the symbiotic relationship we maintain with the earth and mutatis mutandis, the relationship we will forge with humanity.


The data sets used in this installation are representative of a wide range of glaciological time frames as depicted in informational graphics located around the hall space. The data was obtained from various places throughout the world including the WGMS (World Glacier Monitoring Service in Switzerland), NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and CReSIS (Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets). The type of data employed in this installation includes glacial mass balance sheet records, ice-core analysis, glacier length changes and glacial imaging.

We would like to thank Michael Zemp from WGMS, Dr. David Braaten at CReSIS, Cheryl Leonard for supplying many of the audio files, Dr. Andrew Gavrilov at the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia for lending his glacial research sounds, Jean-Francois Charles for help with the programming, Dave Millstein and Cotter Mitchel, who prepared the wood logs for the installation, and Emily Ryan at Spooner Hall.
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