Limerick, Ireland
Johanna Hällsten, Babbling Brook, 2007, sound installation, 2 minutes

Johanna Hällsten

b. 1973, Sweden

Hällsten’s practice is predominantly exhibited within public spaces and utilises sound as a key element of the interventions. Through working with sound, she has become interested in the perpetual cycle between words and speech, speech and the visual, visual and auditory, auditory and words and so on. It concerns processes of translation and mediation.

The relationship between the individual and the environment they find themselves in is continuously reassessed in Hällsten’s work. Understanding that movement and duration is key to this ambivalent and fragile relationship, thus creating precarious situations wherein the audience is positioned centrally in the performance of the artwork. Only through spending time with or in the place does the work reveal itself. It is often banal, yet at the same time hits a nerve – makes us laugh or want to flee, feel curious or simply walk past it. It is transient in character and often references and plays with the natural world.

Babbling Brook was created whilst standing by a river and directly translating the sounds heard, using Swedish words, to create a timeline and trace of that experience. It draws attention to the fallacy of language’s ability to portray and accurately describe the world around us. Even though onomatopoeic words can represent the sensations of sound to some extent, the relationships between words and the objects/events that they describe are fragile. Despite this, the words/sounds present the listener with an alternative view or experience, which creates a possibility for a new relationship to form.

(Text: e v+ a – matters catalogue, 2010)

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