Poetics of (Outer) Space review – The Wire

Poetics of (Outer) Space, my sound installation in Perrott’s Folly, Edgbaston is reviewed in this months edition of The Wire magazine. Excerpt below from Mark Hancock’s review in The Wire 376 Deep Cover issue:

It seemed appropriate to visit Caroline Devine’s installation for Poetics of (Outer) Space on the day of the solar eclipse and spring equinox: a day loaded with mythology that draws us away from our logical, empirical classifications of everything in the universe and back to our primitive reactions to it. In the darkening of the late morning sky, it was just about possible to imagine our own moon and sun as objects we could scale down and hold in our hands with pinhole cameras and other improvised instruments.

So it is with Devine’s installation at Perrott’s Folly, commissioned by Ikon gallery. Devine has taken data from NASA’s Kepler missions to create individual compositions that occupy each floor of the 29 metre high tower, built in 1758. Each composition can be thought of as a subset of data, and a mapping of the range of frequencies and information gathered by the missions to a more manageable, human scale. The compositions from each star’s data are positioned according to their age, frequency range and the number of exoplanets they host, moving upwards through the tower, which could almost have been custom made for the installation.

…As you ascend through the building, you’re also moving light years through the universe, outwards towards the different solar systems with their exoplanets and changing resonances. Just as musical instruments resonate with frequencies, so can the stars and planets, and it is this resonance that Devine has scaled for the human ear.

…The creation of the compositions and installation within Perrott’s Folly (and the effort required to climb the stairs) feels like a more satisfying response to the glut of data visualisation installations that have sprung up over the past few years. Poetics of (Outer) Space reminds you that it’s still possible to factor in human imagination and physical presence to our understanding of the universe, something that’s missing from so many other big data projects.

Mark Hancock, The Wire

Poetics of (Outer) Space at Perrott’s Folly

Poetics of (Outer) Space is to be sited in the extraordinary Perrott’s Folly in Birmingham – presented as part of the University of Birmingham’s Art & Science Festival in connection with IKON Gallery’s offsite programme. Open daily from midday to 5pm, 18-22 Mar 2015, the sound installation will transform the 18th century tower with a multi-channel composition developed from data collected by the NASA Kepler mission over the past four years.

Poetics of (Outer) Space explores the natural acoustic resonances of stars and the orbits of newly discovered exoplanets. A ‘vertical’ composition rises up through the tower and stars are positioned according to their age, frequency range and the number of exoplanets they host – frequencies from the youngest star can be heard on the first floor of the piece with the top floor hosting a composition derived from data on Kepler-444 – the recently discovered (but ancient) star system that hosts five rocky exoplanets. The work was developed during my artist residency in the School of Physics and Astronomy at University of Birmingham throughout 2014.

Poetics of (Outer) Space is supported by Arts Council England, Ikon Gallery, University of Birmingham and the Leverhulme Trust. Entrance is free. The tower can only be accessed via a steep staircase and only 8 people are allowed in the Folly at a time so there may be a short wait if the site is busy.


In conversation: art and science

I am looking forward to speaking about my collaboration with Professor Bill Chaplin and the HiROS team at the workshop In Conversation: art and science that takes place in London tomorrow.

Organised by AHRC in partnership with Arts @ CERN, the aim of the workshop is ‘to consider the extent to which bringing artists and scientists together leads to the opening up of creative spaces for each, and how this kind of environment challenges and transforms ways of thinking and working in both scientific and artistic practice.’

Collaborators speaking include CERN physicist, Dr Bilge Demirkoz and artist Goshka Macuga, composer Chris Chafe and Professor of Neurology, Josef Parvizzi, Professor of Comparative Cognition Nicola Clayton and Mark Baldwin of Rambert.



Leverhulme Artist in Residence

Next week, I will be starting a ten month residency with the Solar and Stellar Physics group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham in February, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate further with the BiSON research team headed by Professor Yvonne Elsworth and Professor Bill Chaplin, whose data I used as raw material for my 2012 sound installation, 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun.

I will be learning more about helioseismology and asteroseismology – the study of the sun and other stars by observation of their natural acoustic resonances. The residency will allow me to realise a new body of work using real Kepler data gathered over the past three years and develop my compositional practice in this area to the natural resonances of other solar type stars, including those that host newly discovered planets.

An exhibit combining extracts from 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun with information about BiSON research is currently installed at the entrance to the Planetarium of Thinktank Science Museum in Birmingham.

On Air

A lovely sunny day for On Air, my large scale sound installation throughout The Open University campus in Milton Keynes. On Air is a 60 channel work that floats in the air around the campus. More than 100 speakers diffuse an acoustic layer made from the voices of OU researchers, archive material, echolocations of local bats, musical elements, electromagnetic signals and field recordings gathered from around the site. The recordings are re-introduced back into the environment from which they came, as though the ideas, lines of enquiry and histories of The Open University exist permanently on the air currents throughout the campus and are made temporarily audible by the work.

On Air is one of four artworks commissioned across the regions for the University of the Air project, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Harold Wilson speech and OU research. On Air is the commission for England and focuses on design and technology research.


Recording of 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun

5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun was installed to coincide with the 2012 summer solstice and played in a dome in Milton Keynes Theatre District for six weeks over the summer. This excerpt drifts between a live recording in the Dome and the original composition. The project was made possible with funding from Arts Council England and support from MK Gallery.


Original data are courtesy of the Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON) research team, School of Physics and Astronomy, Birmingham University. VLF recording courtesy of Paul Nicholson and Wolf Buescher.


My new sound installation Autapia is playing in Milton Keynes Gallery Project Space until 27th November as part of the current exhibition on new towns, Community Without Propinquity. Commissioned by Claire Louise Staunton of Inheritance Projects, Autapia is a sound portrait of the new town of Milton Keynes. Comprising field recordings interwoven with thoughts, ideas and experiences, all the archive material comes from old tape cassettes found in public and private archives, including the Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre. The installation is diffused through speakers I modified that are more commonly associated with large public address systems such as those found in supermarkets.

Autapia, Caroline Devine 2011

Documenting Bletchley Park

I am collaborating with photographer, Rachael Marshall and installation artist, Maya Ramsay, on the documentation of buildings at Bletchley Park that are to be renovated. Our new blog is here.

We have been granted access to make work in Blocks C and D, previously inaccessible to the public due to their state of repair. Rachael has been photographing the buildings in their current state and will document the renovation process throughout. Maya makes works by lifting pigment debris and texture from surfaces in the built environment and has been working on surfaces in both blocks. I have been capturing sounds within and outside the buildings. Block C in particular is a really challenging environment – many of the ceilings have collapsed and several of the rooms are inhabited by pigeons who fly towards flashlights and head torches!

It is amazing to be granted access and, in spite of their inhospitable states, both blocks are strangely compelling due to their incredible histories. Block C is chiefly boarded up but a skylight near the back of the building has allowed enough light in combination with the damp environment for a “garden” to form. The pigeons seem to have established their individual territories and one in particular spends most of the day hopping around this garden space.

Photo by Rachael Marshall

Recording Contract Recordings – New Art MK

New Art MK opened with a well attended preview at Milton Keynes Gallery on 7th July.

The sound installation, Recording Contract Recordings has been an opportunity for me to work with various spaces in and around the gallery and to use those spaces as an element of composition. The main sound installation is situated in the cube gallery. Every 35 minutes, a section of the piece is broadcast simultaneously inside the cube and “through the walls” into the public square, connecting inside and outside space. The section consists of tiny piano fragments recorded within the body of the piano and diffused through horn speakers into the square.