The Deep Listener (2019) by Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen (b.1987) is an audio-visual ecological expedition through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, a journey to both see and hear five of London’s species: London plane trees, bats, parakeets, azure blue damselflies and reedbeds.
Designed as an augmented reality and spatial audio work downloadable as an app for mobile devices, it is both a site specific public artwork and a digital archive of these species, using tools and platforms from a range of fields including video games, computer generated images and film. Inspired by ecological science-fiction and scientific research, Jakob Kudsk Steensen creates a form of ‘slow media’ that uses the technological to foster attention rather than distraction.
Kudsk Steensen has collaborated with the field recordist and sound designer Matt McCorkle to represent five species as sound. The audio and visuals within the project are drawn directly from organic source material gathered from a period of embedded research within Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. These organic materials are then transformed through digital processes to be re-embedded within the same context.
At the core of the work is the London plane tree, a hybrid of two sycamore and plane trees from different sides of the world, that functions, as Kudsk Steensen states, as ‘an early form of bio-architecture’. The tree can withstand extremely polluted conditions and the bark absorbs pollutants to protect the tree itself and clean the air we breathe. The bark becomes an archive of particles and pollution that connects our bodies to the species that cohabit the park.
Through The Deep Listener, Kudsk Steensen builds an experience that explores the sublime and vexing power of our ecosystem. The park becomes, as it has throughout history, the architectural backdrop to access the natural world that exists within the city.
Selected as the first Serpentine Augmented Architecture commission in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture and Sir David Adjaye OBE. The Serpentine Augmented Architecture Open Call was launched globally in February 2019, and applicants were invited to propose imaginary city spaces and speculations on the built environment to be developed and experienced in AR on site at the Serpentine Galleries. The commission was selected by: Virgil Abloh, Artist & Designer; Sir David Adjaye OBE, Architect and