Searching for sound, distracted by colour...What’s the sound of an abandoned place? Over a period of five years, sound artist Peter Cusack explored the former Soviet military base Vogelsang and used sound recordings and photographs to document the changes of a place that was abandoned almost 30 years ago and has been falling more and more into ruin ever since. In a lecture performance as part of the online series "New Empathies - Far from a distance" at radialsystem, he presents the material he collected there as a combination of stories, sounds and images. Through the approach of listening, he draws attention to the complexity of transformation processes that follow a crisis... How has our reality changed during the crisis, can we hear this change?
Situated 60 km north of Berlin in a forest, Vogelsang, at the height of its time, housed not only nuclear weapons, but also more than fifteen thousand people with the army personnel of all kinds and their families stationed there. Once a thriving town with cafés, schools, sports halls and cinemas, this place was abandoned by the military in 1994 and has been left to decay ever since. Today, the area is a nature reserve, but the ruins remain. Some buildings have been demolished, others have fallen of themselves, and some are today almost still in their original state. It is a powerful, atmospheric place that is constantly evolving. Ghosts of the past entangle with possible futures. Slowly nature is returning to this deserted place: owls, cranes, deer and woodpeckers make homes there, wolves have recently returned, ants, worms, fungi, nematodes, mosses, bacteria, seeds, roots, seedlings, trees, winds and water are constantly active. At the same time it attracts a bizarre selection of people: birdwatchers, photographers, drug addicts, GPS game players and US soldiers in search of Cold War memorabilia... they all leave traces and stories behind.
New Empathies – Far from a distance
In June 2019, radialsystem launched “New Empathies”, a series of programmes spanning two years, consisting of concerts, installations, choreographies, workshops, and discussions on the practice of the empathic and their potential with regard to artistic, technological, political and ecological questions.
Due to the current situation, the fourth “New Empathies” weekend at the beginning of May 2020 couldn't take place as planned – and the question of how we can create resonance among ourselves as a basis for community, solidarity and social awareness despite keeping a minimum distance and the ban on contact has suddenly become a noticeable challenge.
At the end of April, we therefore launched our new online series "New Empathies - Far from a distance", in the course of which, over a period of several weeks, we will explore, shift and reflect on the possibilities and limits of virtual spaces as places of empathy, as well as create spaces for encounters and shared aesthetic experience.
Peter Cusack is a field recordist, sound artist and musician with a long interest in the sound environment. In 1998 he initiated the “Favourite Sounds Project” to discover how people interact with the soundscapes of the places where they live. Starting in London it has travelled to other world cities including Beijing, Prague, Manchester, Hull and Berlin. His project ‘Sounds from Dangerous Places’ investigates the soundscapes of sites of major environmental damage such as the Caspian oil fields, the Chernobyl exclusion zone and the Aral Sea, Central Asia, and asks the question, “What can be learned about dangerous places by listening to their sounds?”