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Rural Mental - a residency project with Binaural Nodar, Portugal

Over a three week period in September 2021 I will be hosted by Binaural Nodar to develop a new Traceable Echoes project within their theme of "Rural Mental", exploring and responding to the village of Alva in the Viseu region of Portugal.

Below the photograph shows one of a number of springwater fountains in the village. These are always active and still seem to be meeting places and sites of social interaction within the community. While recording the one below I met with one resident who was collecting water in a small bucket, although I have no idea what the reason was, as apparently it is not safe to drink... I have also witnessed a woman cleaning clothes in a nearby fountain, during which every person that passed by stopped to chat. These points of contact centred on water capture and storage will be the focus of my part of the project.


Week one was spent exploring both Alva, the village where we will make our projects, and Castro Daire, the town where we stay. Sharing time with Luís Costa and Nely Ferreira of Binaural and the artists Sol Rezza (AR) and Franco Falistoco (AR) was also an important part of the week. I spent time at both in the village and the residency house exploring ideas and methods of translating sound into movement, as well as reversing certain expected processes...

Please click on it to see the week's activities in more detail.


Week two saw Josefina Fuentes (CL) and Daniel Melim (PT) join us, expanding the residency team. Both seem to be working much more with music and performance, which is interesting in combination with Sol and Franco's soundscape works and my own endeavours...

Materials are being gathered for a more concentrated work period next week...

Please click on the image (feat. Sol) to read about the week's activities.


Week three: With some intervention, five sources of springwater in Alva will leave material traces of their water energy in the surface of clay tablets. The resulting traces will be left at each site for the villagers to find, and subsequently fired in a kiln to remains as a permanent installation.

Please click on the image for more details.

Week one

Week one: 13th-19th September 2021

I'm the first to arrive in Castro Daire after a 4 hour bus ride from Lisbon. I am met by Luís Costa, who I have been in contact with for many years but never met before. I settle in and in the evening we meet and dine with Sol, who I met and was hosted by in 2012 in her home in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, and Franco who both came here from Argentina.

We spend the next two days being introduced to Nely, who also works with Binaural, and the village of Alva where we will make our works, or at least take inspiration from there. We meet many locals, with Sol and Franco interviewing them or recording their stories. I take time to explore Alva for some feature or aspect to work with and am once again drawn to water. Here there are a number of fountains that feature two or three pools of water, each with a specific purpose. Although I am not sure if it is completely safe to drink, it seems one is for domestic use, one for feeding animals and one for cleaning clothes. Each also has a flat slab or paving stone nearby that could be used as a working surface.

Other tests include utilising a speaker as a microphone (or at least some sensor), waterproofing motors and constructing crude hydrophones.

Week two

Week two: 20th-26th September 2021

The week begins with more tests and experiments with speakers, microphones and motors while I await access to the repair shop near the residency house. Luís and I have chatted about the materials available in the local area that are used in arts and crafts, and I have discovered that there is a black clay found in the area that is used by a local maker to make bricks. This is the material I would like to make trace works with somehow.

The hydrophone I have constructed with an old electret microphone capsule covered in heat-shrink tubing glued to a rock seems to work surprisingly well in tests and as of Wednesday I have motors and 2 old car cassette players to use in the work.

The week ended with a trip around the area stopping at Reriz and Nodar, the original base of operations for Binaural, and calling in to the atelier of local ceramic artist Jorge Ferreira in nearby Ribolhos. I explained my project and that I required some clay, into which water would inscribe traces, and he kindly donated a generous amount!! The results of my tests involving the motors given to me by Cerca Electrónica and thin sections of the clay can be seen below.

Week three

Week three: 27th September-2nd October 2021

There are five sites in Alva where natural springs flow to be collected by the residents for everyday use... three of them are situated in the main street that runs through the village, two in close proximity to each other, and the other two are tucked away in less obvious locations. The water energy of these sites will generate physical traces in clay that will be left at each to be discovered by the villagers from the end of the residency on 2nd October. 

Nely Ferreira of Binaural Nodar kindly transported me and the clay tablets to Alva and helped document the process of making the works at each of the sites, using the DIY hydrophone to amplify the energy of the flowing water through a battery powered amplifier to the hanging motor 'pen'.


To the right I present the video that shows the works being made in situ, and below slideshows featuring each of the works produced to the left and some detail images of each to the right.

'A Escrita das Fontes' became the title as it was exclaimed by Christine Almeida, who during the presentation volunteered to pour water into a bucket to activate the system. As Luís helped me translate and explain the process she uttered this expression - literally "the writing of the fountains" - which received an affirming response from the audience. As the work is for them, it stays!

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