Kerstin Ergenzinger

HIDA Fellow

Kerstin Ergenzinger︎︎︎ is a visual artist working across the fields of installation, electronic arts, sound and drawing. The inextricable relations between body and world, perception and the perceived, sensing and sense making are central themes of her practice.

Climate change and the ecological crisis are the defining challenges of our time, yet it seems that people find it difficult to discuss. As the subject is so vast and complex – a planetary climate system that is ever changing – it often evokes an emotional response – denial, grief or even aggression. Focusing on the Arctic, Common Grounds explores methods for listening, sensing and understanding climate change from an embedded perspective by taking novel approaches for performative sonifications of data through the theatrical apparatus.

Common Grounds is a twofold project, artistic and scientific, that develops digital instruments for data sonification, as well as a performative sound installation, using the digitally amplified theater space as a microcosm for a planetary scale phenomena. Based on a data set collected hourly for more than twenty years at a high arctic permafrost research site in Svalbard, Norway, by a team of scientists, lead by Julia Boike at the Alfred Wegener Institute Potsdam, this current research sonifies the processes that the permafrost layer is undergoing.

In the theater context, these sonifications are presented as an immersive environment of various sound emitting devices including also a local input of a CO2 sensor, hence exposing the fact that change happens across many different scales and that scale itself is a continuous spectrum rather than a collection of discrete points. Oscillating between sensors and the sensed, human and mechanical personas, it dissolves the theater walls and includes the audience members as active, embodied participants within this environment.

Eventually, Common Grounds hopes to establish a listening perspective across a local-global scale, making tangible that our bodies are part of the biosphere and hence also take part in the process of climate change. Environment is ‘in here’ rather than ‘out there’.

Common Grounds is a collaborative research project by Kerstin Ergenzinger, Bnaya Halperin-Kaddari, Tobias Grewenig and Julia Boike.

Bnaya and Kerstin are long-time collaborators as part of the Sono-Choreographic Collective.