International Residency Exchange Kate Fahey


During the residency period I worked on a large scale sculpture and electromagnetic sound recordings exploring my ongoing research into the notion of grounding, and the ways human and non-human bodies encounter and respond to electromagnetic vibrations in their lived environments. At Leitrim Sculpture Centre I focused on fabricating the sculptural elements, whilst at Detroit Stockholm I recorded and edited the sonic field recordings. The residency was an incredibly rich experience in terms of developing, producing and exhibiting this new work.

Grounding or earthing is the process in electrical circuits that provides a path for a current to flow to earth. It also refers to the notion that bodily contact with the earth’s natural electric charge stabilizes the physiology at the deepest levels by reducing natural and human-made electromagnetic energy in the body. Electromagnetic signals live among us, including GPS, wireless, mobile communications and radio waves. This growing exposure to and proliferation of signals in the air has fundamentally changed our atmosphere into what Dunne and Raby term, ‘a complex soup of electromagnetic radiation’ (2008).

Grounding can also refer to meditative exercises that create greater sensory states of embodiment and connection with the environment such as Pauline Oliveros’s deep listening strategies. Oliveros (2011) writes that ‘humans sense the sonosphere according to the bandwidth and resonant frequencies and mechanics of the ear, skin, bones, meridians, fluids, and other organs and tissues of the body as coupled to the earth and its layers from the core to the magnetic fields as transmitted and perceived by the audio cortex and nervous system.’ She questions why one would want to listen to sounds beyond our human range or sounds below our threshold of hearing: ‘Curiosity could be the answer and also for the possibility of expanding perception of the sonorous body that we inhabit’ (2011).

The work I made brings together early explorations of these ideas, and references momentary real and imagined extra-sensory perceptions, like when you close your eyes and see strange, inverted images of the world on the backs of your eyelids, like x-rays. Or, the scuzzy noise your speakers make when your phone is nearby. Whilst in Stockholm, I used an electromagnetic sonic receiver to collect infra-sonic sounds of the ‘electrosmog’ of my lived environment and journeys in the city, such as the airbnb apartment I was staying in, Detroit’s subterranean studios and the tunnelbana, and bus system, heard through an electromagnetic sonic receiver. Embedded in the biomorphic sculptural antennae, they were broadcast during the exhibition through resonant speakers, using the steel base to amplify- slips in our everyday sensory perception of reality so we can tune-in to an encounter with versions of the world beyond our daily experience.