Animas: Disaster, Data, and the Resonance of a River (2019)

Brian House
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open exposition

About this exposition

In this paper, I discuss the conceptual framework and development of Animas, an artwork which links sounding materials to the Animas River in Colorado. The Animas River is heavily contaminated by leakage from abandoned gold mines, including a 2015 spill in which three million gallons of wastewater were accidentally released into the river by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), turning the water a bright orange and threatening agriculture, tourism, and an already “disturbed” alpine ecology. Animas draws on precedents in sound art and explores transduction as a means of relating to more-than-human agencies and avoiding over-simplified representations of environmental degradation. Changes in the clarity of the water, invisible indicators of the dissolved metals within it, and the dynamics of its daily and seasonal flows all become sound in the gallery, producing timbral "color" from the river's continually changing composition—these data are provided by the Southern Ute Water Quality Program and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The piece acknowledges how our limited temporal sensibilities are challenged by the imbrication of the geologic time of minerals, the historical time of extractive industries, and the immediate urgency of equitable responses to ecological change.
typeresearch exposition
keywordssonic studies, Journal of sonic studies, sound art, robert smithson, animas river, extractive industries, animacy, Transduction, materialism, sonification, Gold, animism
last modified08/07/2019
affiliationBrown University, Department of Music
published inJournal of Sonic Studies
portal issue18. Issue 18

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