Aquatocene – by Robertina Šebjanič

»Aquatocene / The subaquatic quest for serenity« by Robertina investigates the phenomenon of underwater noise pollution created by humankind in the seas and oceans.  The sound compositions are a re-mix between the bioacoustics of marine life (shrimps, fish, sea urchins etc.), the aquatic acoustics and the presence of human-generated noise in the world’s oceans and seas. Underwater noise effects a great number of marine life forms which depend on the sub-aquatic sonic environment to survive.

The audio compositions of the subaquatic soundscape encourage us to reflect upon the anthropogenic sonic impact on the underwater habitat and marine life, as well as illuminate awareness and underscore the importance of maintaining safe sound environments for animals living in the world’s oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers.

at bandcamp: Click here to hear 

Despite the broad availability of popular aquatic sounds, we aren’t really aware that the underwater soundscape is as rich as the one heard by terrestrial creatures above water. Aside from lacking experience in terms of the fascinating diversity of marine sound, we are also not aware that sonic pollution caused by humans is already changing the soundscape of the waters and even the communication of its inhabitants.

When we look up to the sky, look into space and wonder about what is up there we sometimes forget that there is still a lot left for us to explore the planet we live on. We know more about space than we know about the world’s seas and oceans, especially when it comes to sound perception underwater. We are usually unaware of the vibrant underwater acoustics, the sounds of the ocean’s depths. Our familiarity with these sounds is usually limited to the sound of a wave crashing into the land. Whales, shrimp, seals, dolphins, and a variety of other creatures of the deep live in a watery ­sonic environment.

Technological interventions into the ocean soundscape by ships, sonars and sound cannons (used in oil exploration) can create huge disturbances in fragile marine habitats and have been connected to a number of effects ranging from the beaching of whales to the »Lombard effect« where certain species themselves become louder to overcome background noise, thereby gradually increasing the intensity of the entire habitat.

Water habitats cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface. 97% of the world’s water is saltwater, 2% is fresh water in the form of ice and only the remaining 1% is drinking water, which is distributed around the planet very unevenly. The exploration of an ecosystem requires detailed study and observation. The ocean is the most complex, challenging, and harsh environment on Earth and accessing it requires specially designed tools and technology. The technological advances have finally reached the point 50 years ago that enables us to examine the ocean in a systematic, scientific, and non-invasive way. Our ability to observe the ocean’s environment and its resident creatures has finally caught up with our imaginations and helped us to understand it in ways we could not even envision them before.

The lively sound image of the underwater environments, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans still represents the big unknown for the majority. In recent decades, advanced tools and the latest technology enabled us to explore underwater environments in a systematic, scientifically relevant and non-invasive way. We are thus able to identify the anthropogenic disturbances and noise that affect the underwater environment, as well as analyze their impacts.

Artist (development / sound recording / sound editing): Robertina Šebjanič
Production support (2016 – 2018): Kibla, Bunker, Zavod Praksa, Piksel festival, MoTA, residency program at Roscoff Marine Station, Sektor (Aquason)
Special thanks to: Annick Bureaud, Miha Ciglar, Acouspade™Directional Speaker, MY studio- Yann Jaffiol, UR Institute, Slavko Glamočanin, PORTIZMIR#3, Miha Colner
Project supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and MOL – Department for Culture, Foundation Daniel et Nina Carasso

Robertina Šebjanič’ work encompasses audiovisual installations and noise/sound performances that tackle philosophical questions of our modern society unfolding her passion for understanding living systems and how they interact with the environment. With a background in traditional media like video and sculpture, sound and electronics quickly became powerful means in her research of the surroundings. Robertina’s work deals predominantly with cultural, (bio)political and biological realities of aquatic environments. Her previous projects range between rethinking of future speculations of new trans-species (Humalga), animal-machine-human relationships, regenerative medicine and the “hunt for eternal youth” and inter-species communication (series of works Aurelia 1+Hz), sonification of the chemical process (Time Displacement)  and pointing out underwater noise pollution and its potential ecological consequences / challenges (Aquatocene).

She is a member of Hackteria Network and Theremidi Orchestra. She received an Honorary Mention @Prix Ars Electronica 2016, was nominated for STARTS2016 Award and White Aphroid Award. Robertina is a part of SHAPE platform 2017.

She performed / exhibited in solo and group exhibitions as well as in galleries and festivals: Ars Electronica (Linz), Kosmica Festival (Laboratorio Arte Alameda, Mexico City), Le Cube (Paris), Art Laboratory (Berlin), ZKM (Karlsruhe), re:publica (Berlin), Mladi Levi (Ljubljana), Strictly Analog (Ljubljana), Piksel Festival (Bergen), Device Art 5.015 (Klovičevi dvori, Zagreb, Croatia & Eastern Bloc, Montreal), Eyebeam (New York), PORTIZMIR#3 (Izmir), Kiblix Festival (Maribor), Kapelica Gallery (Ljubljana) and more


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