Voice of God

An audio-based installation aiming to connect you with the supernatural - MERGE Bankside, London, September - October 2016

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Voice of God - MERGE FESTIVAL, Bankside, September - October 2016

For this year's Merge Bankside Festival, Bompas & Parr is collaborated with Hilton Bankside to present an audio-based installation so powerful it appears to connect you with the supernatural.

An epic carnival-sized soundsystem, built into a structure designed to evoke the look of a gothic cathedral, broadcasted infrasound at 19 Hz - a frequency below the regular hearing threshold of human hearing but curiously the resonant frequency of the human eyeball.

These low-frequency vibrations can cause the eyeball to distort and activate the rods and cones through pressure rather than light. Such infrasonic vibrations are considered by some psychologists to explain the odd sensations that some people attribute to religious and supernatural experiences.

In the natural world, large-scale natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides generate infrasound. The most powerful sound ever experienced by humans is directly related to volcanic activity; the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, a volcanic island in Indonesia. The power of the eruption was so great that observers on the island of Rodriguez in the middle of the Indian Ocean 5,000 kilometers away heard the explosion.

In fact, for much of recorded history there has only been one major form of instrument that can regularly and reliably generate infrasound – the pipe organ. With organs often located in cathedrals, churches and palaces, buildings notable for their architectural acoustic profiles it is thought that infrasound may be a contributing factor to the religious experience.

The effect is said to range from ghostly apparitions to sparkling lights and geometric patterns – akin to the effect generated by pressing your fingers into your eyes. Located in the echoey, basement poolside area of the Hilton, combining a sense of the sacred alongside excellent soundproofing, Voice of God will be all the more powerful: a world first, this will be the only time that infrasound has been creatively used to give people a spectral visitation.

With equipment created by TPI Sound, promised a sonically pure listening environment, guests had contributed to an emotive soundscape by composer Dom James, with their whispered messages being cleverly weaved into the installation, giving them the power to give others ecstatic visions. 

The physical installation would provoke questions about consciousness, our perception of the physical world and our understanding of the supernatural. 

Photography by Ann Charlott Ommedal and Jo Duck.