Whispering Places (2009)

with Dónal Donohoe and Stéphanie Bertet

Conceived more as a participatory durational performance than an installation per se, in Whispering Places three rooms in different geographic locations are acoustically superimposed onto one another, creating a shared environment. Using high-order ambisonics and multichannel real-time streaming, a sound in one place appears in the same spatial location in all the other places at the same time. But are we really in the same place at the same time? It may be the middle of the night in Ireland when there is daylight in America; we are thousands of miles apart. Instead of sweeping them under the rug, Whispering Places plays with the contradictions and paradoxes of sharing a virtual space. Pulled by gravity, sounds from one place move in space toward the direction of the others, just as the packets that represent them travel along wires. Visitors have to whisper to make their voices heard – we don’t want to wake anyone who may be sleeping.

Whispering Places sends uncompressed, 3rd-order ambisonic-encoded audio streams between sites via JackTrip. Different sites can decode the streams according to their local speaker setup, allowing for flexible but accurate spatial rendering on any multi-channel speaker system with known geometry.