Out from the flood is a continued collaboration between the UK based art studio Invisible Flock and Subzero, a collective of artists and scientists. The project will result in an online generative data visualization exploring the environmental data from the Oulanka Research Station during this unusual time. Artist and designer Victoria Pratt, Invisible Flock’s creative director told us more speaking on behalf of both collectives.
How did you get the idea for this project?
We have been discussing how we can interpret and visualise the many comprehensive datasets researchers are collecting at Oulanka research centre in Northern Finland to a wider public for some time now. We planned to gather high quality audio recordings of the flood through to the winter freeze. Due to Covid we could not physically be together to do this. The halt and shutdown of traffic and air traffic locally and worldwide felt like a really interesting and important time to both look at the existing datasets and how they might be changing but also to gather sounds on areas normally populated at this time. We thought that we should do what we can remotely.
Oulanka Research Station is a regional unit of the University of Oulu situated in Kuusamo, Northern Finland. How did the collaboration come about?
Subzero and Invisible Flock came together through a mutual passion for environmental art practice and impactful science communication on climate change and ecologies. The Oulanka National park is the research location where Subzero was founded. Riku Paavola is both the senior researcher at the Oulanka research station of University of Oulu, Finland and the leader of the SubZero network at the University of the Arctic. We were first introduced through a research trip supported by the Finnish Institute in London where we spent time meeting artists and curators across Finland.
Comparing the time before and after COVID-19, how does it feel to realise how considerable the impact humans have on the environment in the National Park of Oulanka is?
It feels ominous. The COVID-19 pandemic feels like a test for humankind. Will we be able to learn from it and correct our ways or will we strive back to our normal ultra-destructive ways. Right now would be the best time, maybe the last chance, to truly implement all those measures that were designed to enable sustainable development and societies.
You installed four sound field recorders in four sites in Oulanka National Park. Could you tell us more about these soundscapes?
The four locations are Kuusamo local airport, Ruka ski resort, the forest at Oulanka and underwater recordings at Patoniva river.
We chose the airport to capture the strange silence and lack of flights at this time and also when they start up again. Normally at this time of year the ski resort would be busy with tourists, so again it is unusual to be able to record it with no human activity. The forest will create the sound score that we will manipulate with the data. Also the river is flooding in full force at 464 centimeters, which is almost almost the highest level ever recorded.
Were there any surprises during the creative process?
We found it amazing how supportive the local locations, like the airport, have been assisting us with running and maintaining the research. Managing a huge amount of data across Finland and the UK is certainly a fun challenge.
What has been the best thing about this project so far?
Friendships and shared passion for this important subject matter, being able to continue to work together and make the space and time to create something tangible.
What would you like people to remember about Out from the Flood?
That this was a preview of what is to come, as we continue to disrupt ecosystems and exploit the natural world our perceived normals will in turn be disrupted. Our climate is changing due to human impacts and those effects will be felt more frequently and globally – we need to rethink how we use resources and live on this planet now, what this time has shown us is that change when needed can be orchestrated collectively.
Text: Estelle Leroux, Photo: Invisible Flock and Subzero