Carey Dodge


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

interviewing Botanic Gardens folk

On Sunday (Aug. 17th, 2008) I went around Botanic gardens interviewing people. I gave them a word and asked them to say the first three words that popped into their mind. Most people were eager to participate and enjoyed the little bit of quirkiness added to their walk through the park. I got some great words and good feedback. It was invaluable to put some of the ideas of the project in the hands of the people who visit Botanic gardens even if it was in a far removed, abstracted way.

The words I used were... sanctuary, haven, refuge, garden, secret garden, park, oasis, safe place, conservatory. I think the only word that was too removed from the concept of my installation was 'oasis'. It has too many connotations of the desert and the musical group. From the other words there was a lot of interesting associations. For example, from 'secret garden' there was 'key', 'safe', 'open', 'walls'...

One thing that was not too surprising but interesting to note is that the Botanic Gardens is extremely multi-cultural. Much more so than the surrounding residential area and Belfast in general. It highlights the enjoyment of gardens across cultural lines.

I still haven't decided for sure whether I will use these voices or whether I will go for the live recorded approach but these interviews have really grounded my work in the Public and in the Botanic Gardens.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

beginnings of idea

So I have some beginnings of my idea for the installation in the ravine. Actually, I am more in the middle.

The ravine is divided into two spaces like so:

In my highly technical diagram you can see the two spaces labelled: POOL and RAVINE. These spaces are separated by a wall which is represented by the dotted line.

In the RAVINE I will have speakers hidden in various locations. From these speakers I will have spoken comments on the topic of sanctuary, conservatory, safety, escape (i haven't decided the exact slant for the asking of words from the public yet). My original idea was to have an answering machine-type device at the entrance and/or exit and ask people visiting to record a message about their thoughts on the ravine (e.g. why they are there? what feeling do they get while they are there?). However, after discussion with Michael, I think a more direct approach will be stronger. Possibly interviewing people asking for three words that come to mind when I say the word 'sanctuary' or something along those lines. This approach I believe will be more evocative of the feeling I want to create in the ravine.

In the POOL I have a more 'traditional' concept for a sound art installation. I have made a patch that measures the frequency spectrum of the live recorded sound (probably of the RAVINE or the surrounding botanic gardens. this is not decided yet). It then uses this to create deep bellowing meditative chords much like an organ but different. The chords play heavily with the subwoofer so if you have one attached to you computer, it is better.

This example ( is from sound from a microphone placed out the window at SARC going through the patch I made.

This example ( is a combination of the same microphone out the window and a water sound. It is interesting to note the change in the chords when water is added to the mix. Also, later in the recording a plane goes by and this further changes the chords... they become more aggressive.

With this I am hoping to create a 'sanctuary' or meditative space. The sounds aim to heighten the sense of sanctuary in the space and and encourage a state of contemplation. As the chords are affected by the ambient sound, this also heightens the sense of place and looks outward. That is, grounding the Tropical Ravine in its place as a sanctuary 'in relation to the world outside' as opposed to, 'in isolation from the world outside'... if that makes sense?

I don't want to go too off topic, but this distinction comes from the fact that I don't think I would have found the Tropical Ravine to be a sanctuary if it was located in the middle of the countryside. The fact is, the Tropical Ravine is in the middle of a city with a not too distant history of violence and aggression, amongst other things...

until the next post...

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Monday, July 28, 2008

images connected to sanctuary post

plants growing through the cracks


example of the signs


So, I haven't posted for a while... I have been busy meditating and going to Glasgow...

Spending time in the Tropical Ravine has led me to contemplate sanctuary. When I first started walking about in the ravine and thinking about it, wondering what I could add to this place I asked questions such as: Why would someone come to this place? What does this place offer? What is special about this place? How does this place relate to the rest of the botanic gardens? to Belfast? to the world? What do I think of while I am here? What state of mind do I enter into when I visit the ravine?...

I first thought of secret gardens as the ravine is hidden away. It is set aside. (You would not necessarily find the entrance unless you read a map directing you to it.) It is secret in a way. Which also makes it special. There is seldom more than a few people there.

It is very beautiful and rich and full of life. It is also warm which is very welcome on the cool summer days here in Northern Ireland ;)

Why would someone go to the tropical ravine? When I first started visiting the ravine it was around the time of July 12th and I really felt the aggression that is still a large part of Belfast's culture. The botanic gardens and the Tropical Ravine in particular were a welcome contrast to the rowdy urban celebrations surrounding the 12th night. The celebrations left the streets littered with garbage, filled the air with the smoke of burnt tires, wood and couches and made many people so uncomfortable or fearful that they either hid in their houses or left town altogether. If you lived in a beautiful serene place perhaps you would not need a sanctuary like the Tropical Ravine but I think any urban environment needs a place(s) like the Tropical Ravine.

This led me to study what makes a garden special or become a sanctuary. I read about Japanese and Chinese gardens where garden making is a high art. I read a bit about gardens in general. I thought about the novel, "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett and similar works such as the recent film "Pan's Labrynth", etc. The most interesting concept I came accross was shakkei or “a landscape captured alive” as translated by Teiji Itoh in his book, Space & Illusion in the Japanese Garden. I will write more about this in my next post.

Then I was forced to ask, what is a sanctuary?
I think Japanese gardens, the secret garden, monasteries, churches are sanctuaries but what is it about these places that make them sanctuaries? especially a peaceful sanctuary. i.e. Some of us find sanctuary in heavy metal music or cooking or some other such activity but what struck me about the Tropical Ravine is that the place instills a sense of sanctuary. Perhaps it is its rustic aged appearance. It is not finely kept with shiny new boldly coloured plastic signs that label each plant with its scientific name and origin (there are some but they are printed on metal plates that are fading and some of them are missing). There is rusted metal and plants that seem to have been there since the time the building was built.

There is also the fact that it is a living place. It is bursting with life. In that sense it is an inspiring sanctuary as opposed to a nostalgic sanctuary as a church may be. Anyone who has walked into an old and seldom used church might be filled with a sense of sanctuary but there is also a sense of nostalgia and the past. The Tropical Ravine is a living thing and lives still when you are not there.

until the next hopefully sooner post...

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

the site! (almost confirmed)

So, here is the site...

For a variety of reasons... logistical, political, insurical, artistical, temporal, securical, collaboratical and clerical... I will be doing the installation in the Tropical Ravine in the Belfast Botanic Gardens. I am just waiting on some formal insurance papers and I can get started.

There is a walkway around the entire enclosed gardens that looks down into the 'tropical ravine'. There is also a meandering path that goes through the ravine itself which is only open to the public once or twice a year! This picture is just inside the front door. There is another smaller room in the back with some ponds and more tropical plants that is separated by a door.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

David Kier Building

Another possible site! This is another site that caught my eye. After revisiting today, I am liking it more and more. There is a nice possibility for placing projectors high in the buildings surrounding the site. The walls are not parallel so even though there are echos, they aren't standing waves. It is also a site that is easier to control technically as there are no residential aspects and I could keep most of the equipment in a secure room or rooms surrounding the site... hmm... check out video at ( I am thinking the installation would focus at the intersection pictured above. Lots of interactive possibilities.

Monday, June 23, 2008

other possible sites for outdoor installation

here are some other possible sites that didn't strike me as much

this one has a lot of interesting sonic possibilities... there is a stream running beside the path and there are alot of turns, crossroads and openings through a wooded area... lots of opportunity for surprises

this is very stoic and rock rock rock with creeping vines. it is in the centre of a large rose garden so it smells amazing. i found this interesting but lacking dynamism. more zen. i don't know if i could add anything to it.

the overhangs over the path might offer interesting sonic possibities... e.g. highly directional speakers playing the sound of rain as you walk under... or the sounds of an hour in the past...

this is the quandrangle at queen's university belfast. i thought it might be fun to have tendril-like things hanging from the trees where people are invited by curiosity to pull on them, explore them and thus creating a relationship with the trees in the square...

latest project

I am now working on a site-specific outdoor installation. I am just in the brainstorming stage. I want to have interactivity at multiple levels... audience, environs, birds, wind, passers by, airplanes? I want to sample and process the sound of the environment as well as create a fantastical place. Like the secret garden or the Japanese-style strolling garden. Below are a few photos of possible sites:

entrance to large space

side view of gazebo and possible entrance/exit of small path


small path behind gazebo

Monday, November 19, 2007

walking to SARC

This is the view as I am walking out the gate in front of my house...
and this is the dog I often see at the corner. He usually barks but today he didn't notice me until I walked passed. There must have been something really smelly?

I round the corner and the barking fades away...

hmm? This pile has been there a while. Lots of renovations and gutting of houses in the 'hood. Usually they use 'skips' but these folks use the side lawn.

down the road
They are doing lots of work on the waterworks in Belfast now. They are replacing a 'main vein' on the next street over to mine.

Condos are coming to Belfast. You can barely make out the construction on 'the Bakery' in the distance.

A house, an alley, a lampost, oh my!

still walking down the road, neat coloured curbs. I don't know if it has anything to do with loyalist colours but they are?

coming up on an army barracks

a thing by a hedge

no drinking near the army

ormeau river... almost halfway to SARC

There is a really interesting light that happens when the sun peaks out of the clouds. This picture captures it somewhat.

I don't have a boat and it's too cold to swim so I have to use 'King's bridge'. There are lots of rowers on the river. I have seen some rowing in pitch black night with blinking bike lights on the coxy, "STRRRROKE"

it's hard to get to the shoreline. lots of fences around natural areas.

the river bubbles?

Let me in!

almost to SARC... here is a local theatre

the garbage trucks pick up garbage in the alley but the alleys are too small to go in so they leave the bins at the end.

one of a few side streets I can take to get to SARC

an interesting sidewalk splatter. Sometimes the sidewalk splatter is more scented

more sidewalk

no alcohol here either

the barbed wire business is big in Belfast but it is hard to tell how long it will last?

These folks have spruced things up a bit

more streets

almost there... it is just around the bend

here's the bend

This church is across from SARC

wait a minute! I thought they said no drinking!?

I'm sure they immediately went in and asked for forgiveness.

aha! I'm a student! There are some perks!

well, the soup is tasty... and hey beggers can't be choosers

and ping pong, too!

This is my turn. There are two pubs (the eg and the bot) across the street from eachother... dangerously close to SARC.
my feets have taken lots of steps but it only took around 10 minutes

here it is!

during the day I don't need to key in but come night time it's lockdown!

I am here? You are here? Maps are confusing sometimes.

notice the brick wave?

up the steps

hey, who's that?

again, it's day so no need to key in

but the light numbers are so pretty :)

who is that guy watching me?

the lobby
nice light but it needs a couch or two and maybe a fireplace and tea and little bears that rub your feet...

the talking elevator is always very welcoming

to get to the MAlab there is one final security check point but all you have to do is rub your thigh on the square and it lets you in. It was a little awkward at first but now I can't get enough.

a kitchen to call our own. Hot water for tea 24/7!

down the hall to the MAlab

my locker where I keep things like headphones, teabags and dulce

the MAlab with all the MA's hard at work

my computer... or at least the one I use most of the time.

no fear of being lost at SARC. Now where is that Sonic Lab?


some musicians sitting around. Hey wait a minute! They're not sitting around! They are about to start a concert on those crazy instruments here in the sonic lab!

the crazy instruments

Look closely and you can see pianosaur

Some folks chatting after the concert

Off home... the view from SARC entrance/exit at evening (4pm) time

After eating up it's time to clean up...

...and there is no better helper than: