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The Quietest Place on Earth

According to acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, there are only seven or eight naturally quiet places left in the United States; places where the sounds of nature are unbroken for intervals of at least 15 minutes during daylight hours. None exist in Europe anymore. But if you travel far enough, to remote corners of the Earth, and listen carefully enough, you can still find them.

The installation comprises four pieces of grey acoustic foam which are placed on the floor to create a symbol of the Earth. Through headphones, one can hear a binaural recording of a place in the Amazonian rainforest which, according to Hempton is probably the naturally quietest on Earth (i.e. free from any man-made sound). Participants can lie still, in physical contact with the ground and become immersed in this unusual moment of quiet. The whole body becomes an ear attuned to an acousmatic listening experience, where the sounds of nature can be appreciated as sonic objects, liberated from their mysterious sources.

Created in collaboration with Gordon Hempton, the work draws on a consideration of the radical changes which the human race is inflicting on its acoustic environment. Referring to Pythagoras’ philosophical and mathematical assumption that the universe is held together by the balance of a specific acoustic design - Guzzo’s research poses a question. What are the consequences of a significant alteration in the original relationship between man and the sounds of his environment? An alteration that began with the industrial revolution….

The notion of ‘the quietest place on Earth’ thus becomes evidentiary of the relentless process of extinction, working to drown out the original ‘voice’ of our planet. 

This piece is a development of Guzzo’s ongoing research into the contemporary meaning of human nature and the tension between nature and culture. Linking together, art, philosophy, science and anthropology, Guzzo’s research focuses on aspects that relate to the effect of collective action upon the planet, upon humanity and upon the (inter-connected) individual subject.

The project has a direct thematic link with the idea of The Anthropocene – a new epoch in which humans have become a force of nature that is reshaping the planet on a geological scale, but at a far-faster than geological speed. The implications can be felt at a  social, cultural and economic level and this startling fact moves us to consider the impact of humanity’s collective actions on the planet and its/our future.

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