Oslo-based sound artist Jana Winderen comes at her work with genuine authority. She studied fine art at Goldsmiths, University of London and has a background in mathematics, chemistry and fish ecology.
Her work is dedicated to largely inaccessible environments, from which she produces sound installations and other work that has been presented in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone is a striking example of what she does, and the multifaceted impact of her art.
The album begins with a distressing spoken-word recording featuring marine science professor Carlos Duerte.
Armed with that context, we’re then presented two mixes (a 37-minute version for headphones and a 35-minute take for speakers) of an intensely detailed presentation of field recordings gathered from the marginal ice zone.
It’s in that space between sea and sea ice that phytoplankton – micro-organisms that provide half of the world’s oxygen – blossom in the spring.
Winderen takes us to Barents Sea near Spitsbergen, by the North Pole. We hear the mix of water and ice most prominently, along with a variety of under-water sounds: bearded seals, migrating orca and humpback whales and various other sea creatures that feed on the blooming phytoplankton.
It is an intense, fascinating recording, sometimes calming, other times ominous. While both versions stand up as beautiful sound installations, it’s difficult to detach their aesthetic appeal from the environmental significance of the marginal ice zone. The result is powerful, both intellectually and emotionally.
Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone was commissioned by Sonic Acts and Dark Ecology. It was premiered in 2017 as a seven-channel installation at the Sonic Acts festival in Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam.