Beneath and Beyond takes seismic upheaval to the Museum of Science and Industry

By Sarah Jackson | 22 March 2013

Exhibition preview: Beneath and Beyond, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, March 29 – June 30 2013

A photo of a seismic graph within a darkened room
© Stephen Hurrel,
Violent upheavals aside, we are generally unaware of the moving earth beneath our feet. Beneath and Beyond seeks to reveal how noisy our planet is, potentially triggering discussions about social, cultural and ecological issues.

Live seismic recordings of the Earth – including those beneath Greater Manchester – help create this unique sound and video installation.

A specially developed computer programme will monitor 50 Seismic Stations around the world, including ones in Greater Manchester and Stoke.

The raw data of these vibrations will then be speeded up to make them audible to the human ear. Six red speakers will broadcast the rumbles and groans of the planet along with a visual display of their waveforms.

Stephen Hurrell, an installation artist based in Glasgow, uses Beneath and Beyond to continue his inquiry into our relationship with the natural world whilst living in a technology-driven age.

By using computer software to bring real world environmental events into a gallery space, he is creating a meeting point between nature, culture and technology.

Hurrell’s art has been shaped by his surroundings in Scotland and the dichotomy between the countryside of the west coast and the nuclear submarines that are hidden in the depths of its lochs.

This contrast of new and destructive technology, next to the ancient landscapes created over a millennia and still evolving slowly, developed his interest in “the sublime” in nature.

According to Hurrell, the sublime is “a ‘greatness’ that nothing else can be compared to, and that is beyond measurement or imitation”. His interest includes a desire to explore how artists have attempted to represent it.

In this installation, the artist seeks to represent the natural world with 20th century tools in order to speculate a more symbiotic relationship between nature and technology.

Without the activity deep in the Earth’s crust, the speakers would be silent; but without seismic equipment and speakers, tectonic movements would be mostly unknown to us.

Beneath and Beyond reveals to the viewer a world that is usually beyond our senses, but does so using tools that we have developed.

Technological progression may be moving us further away from the natural world, but it can also brings us closer to understanding and appreciating the forces that shape the planet.

  • Open 10am-5pm. Admission free (£3 voluntary donation). Follow the museum on Twitter @voiceofmosi.
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