Canyon – Venice Biennale

A work exhibited at Palazzo Bembo, at an invited group show entitled TIME SPACE EXISTENCE as part of the XVI Venice Biennale

Canyon was a collaboration with Jules Moloney (School of Design, RMIT University) and Simon Twose (School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington), Anastasia Globa (Research Fellow, Architecture, Deakin University), Lawrence Harvey (SIAL Sound Studios, RMIT University) and Jesse Simpson (Associate Research Fellow Interdisciplinary Design, Deakin University).


The canyon landscape has unimaginable mass and scale, with water kilometres deep; it is figured by seismic jolts, turbid flows, pressures and intensities. Canyon imaginatively projects into this unseen marine landscape, distilling its ominous scale and power through evocative graphite sketches, soundscapes and the canyon-like boundless-ness of virtual reality(VR).

The Canyon soundscapes are built from sounds that create an unsettling feeling of motion in two layers. Six random cycling multichannel extended soundscapes are built from textures with fluctuating detail.

Durations of the soundscapes are 7:44, 12:25, 18:36,11:18, 11:13, 12:06 (total 73:20)

Static, smooth sounds rarely appear. Where smooth sounds do occur, they are usually the result of computer processing to slow down spectral evolution drawing the listeners’ attention to the internal motion of the sound. In other instances, spectral filtering and spatialisation splits off layers that orbit the space. Granular processing further breaks down sounds into smaller spatialised components. Overall there is a sense of being in motion subsumed by forces perpetually in flux.

The multichannel soundscapes are overlaid with sounds from four iPads. While slightly closer to the listening locations than the loudspeakers, the ipad sounds are organised sparsely and with reverberation to invoke distance from the listening position. Occasionally they synchronise with events on the screens.


One possible reading of the sound design would be to experience this textural motion with the flows of the tar paper. Or to connect the tar paper folds, dents, cavities with an unsettled continuum of forces. From a strictly spatial listening perspective the sound design doesn’t provide cues by which the listener can construct a stable reference point. There is no single place on which to stand and experience an acoustic vista, a privileged point where the electro-acoustic environment is ‘correctly’ delivered.


The ideas and installation are extensively discussed in the paper Canyon: experiments in Drawing a Landscape.


XVI Venice Biennale
Palazzo Bembo
Venice, Italy

Image credits: Simon Twose and Anastasia Globa