AtmoSpaces (2009)

A colloboration between Rolf Giegold and Åsa Stjerna

Public, site-specific sound installation made for

Akademie der Künste, Pariser Platz, Berlin

28.10. - 6.12.2009

Realized with the kind support from the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, the Akademie der Künste und the singuhr – hoergalerie · Konzert des Deutschen Musikrats. Technical realisation: Manfred Fox · programming Andre Bartetzki.

AtmoSpaces (2009) is an artistic intervention project developed by Åsa Stjerna ) and Rolf Giegold  for various selected interiors of public buildings in which acoustic elements are considered to be fundamental to the creation and perception of a characteristic atmosphere. AtmoSpaces is a fusion of the two terms atmosphere and space.

This ongoing project makes the acoustic design of a selected interior perceptible by means of sound. One of the intentions behind this exploratory project is to sensitize people to their everyday environment and to cause them to reflect upon the active process of listening – as opposed the passive process of hearing – within the actual acoustic situation in which they find themselves. A specific place always has a specific acoustic atmosphere that is basic to our perception and to our subjective interpretation of it. Through deliberate yet minimal acoustic changes and interventions, the place now makes its “appearance” as a consciously perceived phenomenon.

Using the existing “live” acoustic situation of the room, sounds are recorded via various microphones and fed back into the room via loudspeakers. A computer-controlled, fortuitous mixing and filtering of the recorded sounds between input and output effects a subtle change in the existing acoustic environment and, by the same token, triggers a change in our perception and awareness of the audible phenomena that help to create the room ’s atmosphere. The subliminal hum of a lighting installation, the steps and voices of visitors, the noises of people at work – these are the acoustic elements utilized and transformed by the installation.

The chosen venue for the first presentation of AtmoSpaces was the public passageway through the Academy of Arts on Pariser Platz, Berlin, an enclosed space distinguished by its unique acoustic/architectonic atmosphere. Located in the part of the passageway between the Behrenstrasse entrance and the cafeteria inside the academy, this artistic intervention sought, by emphasizing the passageway’s actual though normally not consciously audible qualities, to guide the visitor’s perception beyond obvious complexities towards an atmosphere conditioned not only by the history and architecture of the place but also by the activities of the visitors themselves.

As an historically established thoroughfare, the “corridor” chosen for the intervention may be characterized as an acoustic “non-place”, its spectrum of sounds ranging from the hustle and bustle of the cafeteria to the hushed conversations of the visitors to the consant trample of outside groups of visitors taking a short cut through the Academy between the Holocaust Memorial and Pariser Platz. Not just architecturally but acoustically, too, the passageway is a clear contrast to the adjacent exhibition and utility rooms of the Academy of Arts.

The characteristic noises all along and beyond the “corridor” were recorded “live”, processed digitally and then fed back into the room. The resulting minimal changes in acoustic structure, its barely noticeable surging and receding and the calculated superposition of recorded sounds not only generate an atmosphere that reflects the actual tonality of the room but also render the collective structures of the immediate social environment – the Academy – acoustically visible.