Just like Polar Night, this project begins with an exercise in thinking and observation. It explores how the physical aspect of ‘looking’ can create a truth or reality that can be undermined by viewing it differently. Having been unsteadied by the persistent darkness, which is considered a self-evident and intuitive way of perceiving things, in 15 419ft we explore our ability (or inability) to look into the distance, a physical sensation that has come under considerable pressure due to increased urbanisation.
Our eyes are capable of seeing an immense distance: they can see a candle flame 15 km away. Distant views relax the eyes and give a restful feeling. Boudewijn de Groot called it ‘a promising nothing’. Since the advent of industrialisation and computerisation, we have largely been deprived of distant views and our gaze is increasingly caught between concrete and computer screens. What if there were a connection between no longer being able to look far towards the horizon and not being able to have visionary thoughts? Is it possible that both physically and mentally we are decreasingly able to look ‘far’? As the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote: ‘our eyes, thinking in tandem with the world’.
With a ‘distance composition’, composer Thomas Smetryns, soprano Els Mondelaers and tuba player Berlinde Deman pay tribute to the sensation of the panoramic view. Like our sight, our hearing is also extremely sensitive: if it is not masked by other sounds, it is said that a single sound would be audible from a distance of 564 kilometres. With self constructed analogue music instruments we explore how the music can sketch out the depth of a landscape.
15419ft is a musical installation where the public is invited to an extraordinary auditory and visual experience in the open air. Is a thing coming closer or going further away? And do you have to believe your eyes or ears? Together we discover the distant view offered by the location and how it disrupts our perception, as if it were its own Copernican revolution.