'Ghostwood a/v' is an audio-visual installation which investigates the psychogeography of Ontario's northern wilderness. It is primarily focused on the use of infrasound, provided by specially-constructed tactile transducers, and is supported with a single-channel video component.
It is part of an ongoing series of sound-art projects which investigates the liminal spaces which exist between humans and their natural environment. Previous iterations have focused on peripheral suburban developments, urban environments in states of disuse and decay, and dead malls or 'ghostboxes'. The project title is a reference to those suburban neighbourhoods in which the sole memory of what has been displaced or eradicated as a result of their construction survives in the now-prosaic street names ('Valleyview', 'Forest Hill', etc.).
This version of the project focuses on the 'near north', rural areas where the encroachment of civilization has clearly begun, but in which nature has yet to be suppressed as a dominating force. Drawing from precedents such as the work of the Group of Seven, the stories of author Algernon Blackwood and First Nations mythology, it seeks to invoke their notion of the natural environment as a fearsome, awe-inspiring force imbued with quasi-mystical powers. In doing so, however, it also looks to contrast this mythos to the hackneyed Canadian conceit of this milieu as a paradisal mechanized playground for the wealthy.
The primary component of the installation consists of the use of field-recordings shifted to both the infra- and ultrasonic frequencies. Infrasound, frequencies that are lower than 20 Hz (Hertz) or cycles per second, tends to be felt rather than heard, and is known to have unusual effects on people (scientists have suggested that this level of sound may be present at some allegedly haunted sites and so cause people to have odd sensations that they attribute to a ghost). The natural environment thus begins to 'haunt' the protagonists via sound in a disconcerting, but not overtly malevolent way. Implied is an intent: a tenebrous, inscrutable message that the environment is trying to sonically impart upon the travellers. Sound's already ephemeral nature, its ability to exist without a defined projecting body, provides a clear parallel to the notion of spirits or ghosts.
This project was made possible by a major audio arts grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.
Project by Michael Trommer
Videographer: Brent Bostwick