From the catalogue text.
Topography is a description of terrain conditions, altitude, vegetation, lakes, sea etc.
When we position ourselves in a landscape, we read and interpret the place's position, vegetation, uniqueness and character, as if it were a static and measurable thing that will last forever. The memories of this place may last "forever" within us, but the landscape and society around us are in constant flux. The boundaries between what was before and what is now are slowly being erased. Some local and specific changes are clearer than others, such as the colony of black-legged kittiwakes at Troms and Finnmark county hall, the wind turbines on Kvaløya or the absence of tourists in Storgata (during lockdown), other changes are more subtle and happen gradually, almost without us noticing. The retreat of glaciers, for instance, or the declining biodiversity of nature, the spread of microplastics in the sea, sound pollution from data centres or increasing air traffic.
During the period October, 2018–October, 2021, sound artist Alexander Rishaug has explored the sound of the Norwegian landscape, with a focus on northern Norway. While a research fellow in artistic development work at the Academy of Arts, The Arctic University of Norway, he has explored how sound affects us and changes our experience of place, time and space. This has resulted in an extensive audio and image archive, notes, audio experiments, a photo book and a series of objects. Rishaug has visited, and listened to, a buzzing bitcoin factory, Fakken wind farm on Vannøya, Hurtigruta's creaking hull, a closed down Tromsø city centre, an abandoned swimming pool, electromagnetic sound currents and the city's constant vibration.
With the exhibition Dissolving Topographies Rishaug examines our experience of time and place and how we can learn and understand ourselves through active listening and sonic mapping – how we can listen to history and a possible future. Is it at all possible to listen to the world from a non-anthropocentric perspective? Can we imagine a world without ourselves? We know today that there are different forms of consciousness; trees and fungi cooperate and communicate. How does a mountain or a tree stump listen to a changing landscape? Although such a thought experiment may seem foreign, it can help to give us new knowledge and insight.
Rishaug is concerned with how we measure, read, collect and preserve information, and how we give things value. What is a landscape? What is nature? What is knowledge? What defines a place?
In his artistic research, he came across a series of cassettes with bird sounds from northern Norway, produced by Tromsø Museum in the period 1980–1995. The cassettes were originally intended as a scientific contribution to disseminating knowledge about northern Norwegian bird species, but in retrospect they tell us something about a specific time period, a specific landscape, the specific aesthetics and the technology of the time. This archival work gives the exhibition a local anchoring and gives us the opportunity to listen to the Norwegian landscape in a larger historical perspective.