Artist residency and installation, Landguard Fort, Felixstowe [Suffolk Coastal District Council] 2011
In January 2011 Stuart was awarded an artist residency with Landguard Arts in Suffolk.
He spent 8 months visiting Landguard Fort and the surrounding peninsular (a Grade 1 listed building and Site of Special Scientific Interest) to collect sounds from the many and varied activities and spaces there. These became the only source material for the resulting 35 minute soundscape. Found materials were transformed in to an interactive sculptural speaker through which the sounds were played.
1-30th October 2011 - Landguard Fort, Felixstowe
9th July 2011 - with members of the public and Sarah Wynne, the Ranger at Landguard Point Nature Reserve
19th October 2015 - cassette on Awkward Formats
By David Valentine, 23rd December 2011
Sound artist, composer and DJ Stuart Bowditch is well known for using found sounds – noises recorded in their natural environments – in his work, whichever professional hat he may be wearing at the time. It is a technique he has employed for single releases, albums, live performance, art installations and even soundtracks for short films and dance. What sets Stuart apart, as an artist, in this field is the way he offers these recordings back to audiences with creative and unusual installations that generally employ at little bit of maker-style home electronics and some Linux friendly open source software. His previous installations (some made in collaboration with profoundly deaf artist Damien Robinson) have used weather to trigger sound playback, or have made use of vibrational speakers to make sound a touch sensitive experience.
For this solo piece entitled Bastion, Stuart has combined sounds collected in and around Languard Fort in Suffolk with a sculptural speaker fashioned from some simple audio electronics and a found object from within the Fort – creating a piece that is integrally related to the space environmentally, physically, historically and atmospherically. Languard Fort is an English Heritage site, maintained and run by a mostly volunteer team – all keen and enthusiastic supporters of this individual, iconic building from England’s naval past. There has been a fortification of some sort or another on this location for the Coastal Artillery since 1543, now decommissioned the fort is a popular tourist attraction for those interested in military history.
The sounds Stuart has collected at this historic location include visitors, wildlife, Morse code, tug-boats, a minute’s silence, historical re-enactment of battles, the Lord’s Prayer and even ghost hunters late at night in what is a rather creepy, eerie building after dark. These sounds have then been reassembled to create an ambient soundtrack that itself feels like a ghostly presence as you approach it through the corridors of the fort. Visiting the installation on preview night only added to this feeling, as shadows combined with sounds and an active imagination to bring the past, once more, to life. One sequence in particular aroused the atmosphere of pre-battle anticipation and the steeling of nerves, segueing seamlessly through the point of no return to when men throw themselves into the fight.
In an upper chamber of the fort, in a numbered room, was the source of the sound. An old wooden shelving unit, usually used to display pamphlets and brochures had been transformed into a speaker unit by an octopus mass of cables running across its surface, connecting vibrational devices to an arduino unit hidden inside a cigar box. This strange intermingling of wood and electronics sited within the heavy stone walled room was a curious but candid approach to presentation, creating a sculptural identity that marries different eras without integration but at the same time communicates a sense that the object is far less important than the soundscape it delivers.
Bastion is a piece that successfully adds to the atmosphere of the building from which it was created, recalling the ghosts of its past, combining them with the present, and steering the audience to reflect upon the many lives that have passed through there.