In 2008 Sound Threshold commissioned and produced two cross-disciplinary projects and partnerships: Cima Verde, a CD by British sound recordist Chris Watson, made in collaboration with the Centre of Alpine Ecology of Monte Bondone (CEALP) and As Below So Above, a double mirrored collaboration with The Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV), a project by Swedish artists Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren.
As a Parallel Event to Manifesta 7 (July - November 2008), the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Sound Threshold was inaugurated on the 16 July 2008 with live concerts by Fovea Hex and Blind Cave Salamander at the astronomical observatory at Terrazza delle Stelle (Terrace of the Stars) on Monte Bondone (1600 m. above sea level).
Focusing on the media of sound and music, the challenge for us was to think about sonic art within a context embracing not only experimental music or field recordings. Similarly to Chris Watson's approach to the site – in his words "This is sound into light..." (Cima Verde, CD booklet, Sound Threshold) – we wanted to look at the specific topography, history and wildlife environment of the alpine landscape as a whole resonating living space. And the direction we followed was that of combining text-based research with site-oriented works.
Through a residency at the Centre for Alpine Ecology and an inaugural concert at Monte Bondone, the project embraced a performative approach, looking at new forms of artistic expression and cultural production beyond the gallery/museum context and the music industry, as well as enhancing – on a local and international scale – cross-disciplinary research.
Cima Verde, for instance, specifically addressed both issues of research within the Centre for Alpine Ecology – climate change, human ecology, biodiversity – and our own literary and anthropological field research; investigating the spirit of the place.
A space for artistic and creative resonance took shape by means of close contact with scientific research: ecology met audio recording, literature met critical writing, each of them retaining their own scope. We did not seek an immediate, synaesthetic correspondence, but rather reciprocal, diagonal and unexpected clashes between disciplines, shared trajectories; mutually enhancing each other's characteristics by means of contrasts and dramatic linguistic juxtapositions.
As Below So Above was a performance and sound installation created in response to the natural and cultural environment of the archaeological site of Monte San Martino near Lake Garda and involved a close collaboration with the Heritage Office of Trento, as well as the participation of the local communities of Pranzo and Tenno.
As Below So Above further situated our investigation into site and sound at the meeting point of different fields – the field of art/curatorial practice, the field of academic/scientific research, the field of social and environmental activism. Here the personal and the public, the absolute and the particular, the high and the low blended with layers of history, memory, sublime references and, not least, conviviality.
What we ultimately learnt from this experience was a crucial challenge for us as curators: we shifted from a mode of production and distribution that increasingly calls for objects to be displayed or events to be documented, to a more impalpable process which created and asked, most of all, for a shared, and yet intimate, space for listening.
The ways in which this space for listening might be critically recollected and how it distances itself from traditional forms/formats of exhibition making are what we intended to investigate in the next season of Sound Threshold.