Siren Songs is on display for Elevation 1049 in St. Moritz and Gstaad.
Siren Songs is an animated, immersive AR public art installation which appears in Gstaad and St. Moritz as a monumental call and response. The project addresses climate change, connecting the two locations in original soundscapes and related artworks inspired by their respective sites. Viewers access the experience through artist Nancy Baker Cahill’s free public AR art app, 4th Wall. As a medium, AR does almost no environmental harm. Both artworks will glow at night, providing a different but equally dramatic experience in the dark as during the day.
In Gstaad, viewers encounter an immersive AR drawing in 360 degrees. “Snow,” represented by crystalline, original, abstract marks, sparkles in hues of white, titanium and slate blue. The snowscape “falls” in reverse; particles floating up from the ground in an ongoing animation of a natural world gone awry. As the snow drifts upward, each particle casts shadows on the ground depending on the position of the sun during the day. The artwork refers to the ever-ascending snowline in Gstaad and the unpredictability of our current moment. Sound-wise, the drawing is accompanied by a chorus of alpine horns mixed with recorded wind sounds sourced from Gstaad, with added synthetic elements. The soundscape attempts to capture the region’s rich cultural past, its imperiled present, and possibly mediated, artificial future. At the end of the recording, viewers hear a brief pause, and then a fainter echo of the soundscape in St. Moritz (described later). This refers to the way sound travels in Alpine territories and further connects the two sites. Siren Songs invokes the affluence and irresistible appeal of the region, as both a draw and as a hazard for those that visit, given climate change’s rapid acceleration. The title literalizes the idea of a siren as a warning of inevitable environmental damage.
St. Moritz harnesses the unnatural beauty of the Gstaad installation, only in this case, the “snow particles” appear tinted with the pastel hues of local homes, in a dazzling but unnerving cyclone over the lake. This drawing underscores the exigencies of climate change that have impelled us to broaden our definition of what is “natural.” Responsive to the sun’s position, the animated drawing hovers and spins over the lake, casting shadows depending on the time of day. The soundscape for this location also includes an alpine horn chorus, recorded tracks of the frozen lake cracking as it melts, and synthetic elements, all to mirror a similar temporal lineage to that of Gstaad. After the soundscape has played, there will be a brief pause and viewers will experience the Gstaad soundscape more faintly as an echo and response to the call. This artwork refers to the celebrity and seductive allure of the location, while acknowledging its essential ephemerality and environmentally imperiled future. It further illustrates the idea of a siren as a warning, a signal, and a cri du coeur.
Siren Songs was commissioned by the Luma Foundation for Elevation 1049 in 2022.
Project page available here.