Wave Form – Impressions

By Bernie Bell

There are various kinds of wave – the waves of the sea, sound waves, light waves, waving hands!

On the evening of  Friday 26th January, at the Pier Arts Centre, Orkney Experimental Music Project members Gemma McGregor and Anne Bevan, plus Dr Mike Bell of Heriot-Watt University (ICIT, Stromness), and film-maker Mark Jenkins, got together, because they’d put together, a work, installation, experience, based on…..waves.

We began with music, the music of Gemma McGregor on flute, and Gillian Morrison on double base, supported by a sound track of sounds of the sea-side – children, birds, the sea – then, I realised, that the ‘children’ were, in fact, seals – selkies, connecting us with the People of the Sea.

Anne and her helpers then proceeded to make waves.  Pouring water into water, adding sparkles, stirring, shining lights through it all, which produced shadow-ripples on the floor and the walls, some of which were like the Merry Dancers – waves of light across the sky.  A cube of light – light, cubed.

Then, making gentle waves with a rope across the floor, flowing past three sculptures of wave-forms.

wave sculpture B BellAll the while, two films were playing on the walls – one of wavy lines of sea and sand?  But the sand was moving too?

The other film, of forms emerging and submerging, through water.

We had experienced the forms of waves, and Mike then led us to consider the energy, the power, which these forms can produce, and what can be produced, from that.

wave power badgeI have a badge which says “I ‘heart’ wave power”.  I don’t usually go for the ‘heart’ replacing ‘love’ thing, but – I do  ‘heart’ wave power, in its many forms – the idea of waves, what they can do, the complications and implications of what the different kinds of wave, can produce – sometimes beneficial, sometimes not.

We then re-entered the world of wave-form-ation.

And, all the while, the sea was rippling in the harbour outside the Pier Arts Centre window.

Stromness harbour waves B Bell

I could have happily ‘played’ there, by the sea, with the lights, the waves, the twinkling water and flowing sounds, again and again.

This experience sent me home, thinking.

One thought which occurred to me, was, that the evening had been very much like a ‘Happening’ – those events which took place in the 1960’s, where people got together to – experience. I had just taken part in a ‘Happening’!  Which I think may have been the idea – not to just present ‘art’ or ‘music’ to a static audience, but to engage us in the world of the sea, in the company of this group of people, with the help of substances and objects which could connect us to that world. The world of the waves and their forms, and what can be ‘formed’ by the energy they produce.  We didn’t just see and hear, we also felt, as the wave form sculptures had been handed round among the audience. Yes, definitely, a Happening –  an experience.

I was reminded of a project entitled ‘Cape Farewell’,  which included an exhibition and talks by Annie Cattrell  at the Pier Arts Centre, working in part with scientists from Heriot-Watt University who are involved with research into renewable energy using wave power.

Here’s  Annie’s piece entitled ‘Currents’– which I, mistakenly, have stuck in my head as ‘Ripples’ – you can see why……………

The Cape Farewell Project considered many aspects of wave power, including how the use of renewable energy devices could cause  a possible change to the ‘fetch‘ of the waves of the sea, and how that can affect the coastlines that the waves end up washing against.  This needs to influence how plans are made by the organizations which place these devices to use wave power for  energy production.

I see these two Pier Arts Centre events, as being linked, and  I’m now going to directly  link the idea of how the waves of the sea, have the power to produce energy, and how sound waves –  how the movement of air  – produces sound, and the power of sound, which is a considerable power! The power of music, to settle, un-settle, cheer, calm. The effects of music are profound, and varied.

And there’s how sound waves can be used for our benefit.  Modern medicine uses ultra- sound to detect and alleviate some health problems.  There are also practitioners of complementary medicine who can direct sound to re-balance and heal.

Admittedly, the healing aspect of sound, apart from as music, didn’t come into the Pier Arts Centre event, but we did receive and experience  information, ideas, sounds, and art works linked to waves – both the watery kind and the kind that move the air, to make sound.

And there are all those other kinds of ‘wave’, such as  radio waves , which are un-seen, but, they are there and may influence us and our behaviour in more ways than we are aware of.  Electricity – magnetism – light waves – like the ripples on water, and here, I hand you over to Mr. James Clark Maxwell –

Watch : Maxwell’s Light

Waves.  All around us – let’s be aware of them, and try not to drown in them, with constant noise and light pollution!  Let’s use them well, and constructively, as the Orkney Experimental Music Project do, and the renewable energy folk  do.  And as Mr. Clark Maxwell did.

With wave movement, comes flow.  It must have been quite difficult to orchestrate the flow of this event – from music to film, to sculpture, to words.  But, it worked , and sent me on my way – thinking.


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2 replies »

  1. Something I wrote to Annie (Cattrell) about her ‘Ripples’………..

    “We finally got to see your exhibition in the dark! We went a few weeks ago, and had a look at the pieces in ‘real life’ which we’d only previously seen as photographs. I very much wanted to see the piece which I think of as ‘Ripples’, when it would be dark outside the Pier Arts Centre. I’d had this image in my head anyway, and then someone I was talking with, who saw this at the preview, said that the effect was much as I was imagining. Anyhoo, on Saturday, we went into Stromness, and did various things, ending up at the Pier Arts Centre at about half past 4. This was the last day of your exhibition. We had another look at the whole exhibition, and the light was just right for viewing ‘Ripples’. I was afraid that it might have been lit up too much, but the sideways slanting light, caught it just right. The light caught the ripples, then this carried out into a reflection in the window, which made it look as though it flowed out onto the terrace, then that continued out into the sea. There is a lamp across the water, on the little pier, and the light from that, reflected back, across the water, to reflect the light reflection from inside the Pier Arts Centre. You’ve probably seen this yourself, so I needn’t go into it more. The whole thing, flowed, out and in, across and into each other. Viewed from different parts of the room, different effects were achieved, and different hints of colour in the reflection, in places pinkish, in places blueish. The whole thing made me very happy. It made me feel very happy and…..up-lifted, that’s the only word that I can think of to fit what I felt. It was great.
    Thanks, Annie. The whole exhibition is extra-ordinary and interesting. I like the idea of ‘Senses’ best, but the ripple effect of light and water, is something I could have stayed and played with, endlessly. Also, the water conditions outside, were just right. If it had been rougher, or smoother, it would have still been effective, but the water had exactly the same ripply effect, out side, as inside. Just right.”

  2. Great piece! Also reminds me of Margret Tait’s poem, ‘Light’:

    Did you say it’s made of waves?
    Yes, that’s it.
    I wonder what the waves are made of.
    Oh, waves are made of waves.
    Waves are what they are,
    Rhythmical movement which is the inherent essence of all things.
    Ultimately, there’s only movement,
    Nothing else.
    The movement that light is
    Comes out of the sun
    And it’s so gorgeous a thing
    That nothing else is ever anything unless lit by it.

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