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 Trustee of the Serpentine Galleries; Yonca Dervişoğlu, VP Marketing, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Google; Amira Gad, Curator, Exhibitions & Architecture, Serpentine Galleries; Ivaylo Getov, Technical Director, Serpentine Augmented Architecture; Freya Murray, Creative Lead, Google Arts & Culture Lab; Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries; Yana Peel, Former CEO, Serpentine Galleries; Amit Sood, Director, Google Arts & Culture; Ben Vickers, Chief Technology Officer, Serpentine Galleries; Kay Watson, Digital Curator, Serpentine Galleries; Jon Wiley, Director, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Google; Greg Williams, Editor-in-Chief, WIRED UK.
Jakob Kudsk Steensen (b. 1987) is a Danish artist based in New York concerned with how imagination, technology and ecology intertwine. His works range from immersive VR ecosystems to mixed reality installations bridging physical and digital worlds, which invite audiences to enter new ecological realities.
Kudsk Steensen collaborates with NGO’s, residencies, scientists and artists from different fields and ventures on excursions where he collects organic material, which is digitised and converted into digital worlds with 3D scanners, photogrammetry, satellite data and computer game software. Inspired by ecology-oriented science fiction and conversations with biologists and ethnographers, his projects are ultimately virtual simulations populated by mythical beings existing in radical ecological scenarios.
Kudsk Steensen has exhibited internationally at the 5th Trondheim Biennale for Art and Technology, the Carnegie Museum of Art, GUEST, GHOST, HOST: MACHINE! Marathon, Serpentine Galleries, Jepson Center for the Arts, Time Square Midnight Moment, MAXXI Rome, FRIEZE London, Podium, and Ok Corral. He was shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize 2019, and he has received awards from the Danish Arts Foundation, The Augustinus Foundation, and the Lumen Arts Prize. His work has shown at Sundance, TriBeCa and Cannes among other film festivals. Steensen is an alumni of NEW INC, a technology and culture incubator by The NEW MUSEUM, in NYC.