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  • Sandra Volny, Silence starts at -425m, 2013.
    Sandra Volny, Silence starts at -425m, 2013.

Based on the progressive disappearance of the Dead Sea, Silence starts at -425m presents testimonies of the last sounds recorded at the dying sea in Jordan[1].

Since 1848, scientists have been sounding the deeps of the Dead Sea in order to gauge its depth and understand the composition of its seabed. Exploring new territories with aural technologies, scientists have made 162 soundings with a fathom-marked linen sounding line. In 2011, the Dead Sea Multi-beam Echo Sounder Survey recorded 7.84 million soundings over 30 days.  Although encountering high technical challenges – due to the unusually high speed and instability of sound in the Dead Sea – scientists collected enough information from these sounds to design topographical maps, which inform us on the development of the seabed’s stratification; in fact, they reveal our geological past through sound.

Drawn to these results because of my interest for sound as a vector into our past, I found several crucial questions to be missing from this scientific research: What does the Dead Sea actually sound like? Specifically, what is its resonance, pitch, tone, and texture? As a response to these scientific experiments, I left for Jordan to throw a sounding line into the water and listen to the Dead Sea.

The recorded sounds of the Dead Sea were imprinted on a dubplate. Each time it is played, the recording deteriorates a little bit, fading into smaller and smaller noises. Played over and over, the engraved lines of the Dead Sea’s recording slowly become muted, disappearing into the acetate material itself. 


[1] The Dead Sea contains the lowest exposed land on Earth, with its surface and shores located at 425 metres below sea level. Despite the name it was attributed, the Dead Sea is actually still disappearing, its level dropping at a rate of more than one metre per year.

Sandra Volny is a sound artist also working with video, installation and performance. Central to her research is the use of aural spaces, which she considers as vectors that allow for individual and collective imagination to emerge. In her work, she portrays spaces and people in situations where the intrinsic process of consciousness is built through sound into space itself. Volny is currently a Ph.D candidate in Sciences, Art and Aesthetics at La Sorbonne University. She is a recipient of several residencies and awards for artistic projects and academic excellence, such as a HLC Harvard University Travel Grant, Canada Council for the Arts Travel Grant and a Quebec Council Grant for Emerging Artists. Her work has been presented at international venues, including Raumlabor-267 Quartiere für zeitgenössische Kunst und Fotografie (Braunschweig, Germany), the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Montréal), Michel Journiac Gallery (Paris) and currently at Dazibao (Montréal).

Thanks to Bassam Halaibaba for guiding me, pursuing the aural traces left by the memory of a sea that once used to cover the whole valley. HBK Braunschweig for their logistical and financial support, Vincent Lafrance for transferring the HD images on 35mm slides and Simon Bélair my partner in life for his unconditional help. 

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  • Sandra Volny