Artist Lab Report:
Experiencing the World in Different Ways

by Christine Carr

Day One, Sunday, May 13
I arrived around 2pm, got a brief tour and then moved into my room and studio. I had to look around so I took a walk down to the water and looped back to the studio. Saw an eagle! The landscape has some elevation here, so there are more interesting compositional opportunities than where I live. I was told I might like the kettlehole (Freda Haffner Preserve), so I made a visit out there.

Observations/musings: love the campus, it’s peaceful here despite the nearby road
Mood: excited, anticipatory
Learned something new: kettleholes, why they are cutting down trees on campus

Day Two, Monday, May 14
I applied for this time slot because I was interested in sitting in on Alex Braidwood’s Acoustic Ecology class. At one time I pondered music/radio as a life path but eventually ended up in visual art. In addition, I have been interested in sound for the last few years, either as a stand-alone option or to accompany video, so this class sounded perfect. On the first day we took a walk and focused only on the sounds we heard along the way. It reminded me of when I began photography-like a new world was opening up for me. I had been wavering about how much time to spend with the class vs. my to-do list for the residency and it didn’t take long to realize the class and what I could learn from it would (should) become a primary focus of my time here. It has applications for a few projects I’m mulling over and will likely affect future endeavors as well.

That afternoon we went to Horseshoe Bend park where we recorded a sinkhole and the soundscape. We got some extreme geese noise (code word goosedog) and I found that the echo bouncing off the embankment sounds amazing. I tried recording on moving playground equipment since I’ve been thinking about air and how it moves and carries items. I love the park-it has an old school playground, overlooks a river, has some flat areas and a grove of trees.

After Horseshoe Bend we went to another area to record sound. The sky was getting really interesting so I started focusing on that as well. I was intrigued by the no horses/no snowmobiles sign as it was communicating in two different ways. The images include the crew walking in, a scape, recording and the crew walking out.

Observation/musing: I’m learning a new skill, experiencing new things and hanging out with fun and interesting people, so that makes it a happy day for me!
Mood: awwwww, yeah
Learned something new: how to make quality sound recordings

Day Three, Tuesday, May 15
Got up to fog so I scurried outside to attempt a time lapse. Not sure if I’m going to use it, but it’s worth giving it a try.

One of the things I was hoping to do while I was here was shoot a prescribed burn. We got word of one nearby, so the class went to do some sound recordings and I did mostly video and a little time lapse and a few still images. I’ve shot a few before but mostly still images. I’m thinking the video could be a helpful component of my In the Air project as it brings movement to it. Since the project is about particles floating in air it makes sense. The burn was slow moving so it gave me time to set up and move around.

Then we went back to the kettlehole to scope it out for the early next morning dawn recording. It was another good sky/cloud day so I was looking up and out again.

Observations/musings: ticks like crawling on me, good cloud day, saw three snakes today!
Mood: super excited and tick alertness
Learned something new: We learned about different types of microphones. It helps to know the difference so we can match the microphone to specific needs such as isolating a sound or picking up something farther away.

Day Four, Wednesday, May 16
We left at 4:30 am to record the dawn chorus at the kettlehole. I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant about jumping on board that trip, but experiencing the campus at that time of day was amazing. So dark and quiet and so many visible stars. We got to see the sun rise as an added bonus.

We listened to and marked our recordings when we got back after breakfast. Staring at the mesmerizing spectrogram I wondered how many artists have used it as inspiration for their work. I was thinking about using it to make a lumen print to see what that would look like. After lunch I attempted a nap, but that didn’t work. It was too beautiful outside for me to stay inside. Warm, low 80’s, crisp, bright light and big poofy clouds.

I went for a drive to look for burns or cigarette butts and found neither. However, I tried a few time lapses, saw some guys bow fishing carp (more on that in a bit) and found some dead animals, so that worked out well. As an aside, I photographed a dead bird last year at a residency and have been wanting to shoot more and ran across one here on Monday. I realized that I also photographed a dead bird a few years ago at another residency but haven’t ever done so while not at a residency. Not sure of the significance. But it got me thinking about the Tuesday night talk in which it was mentioned that Iowa Lakeside Lab is about studying nature IN nature and being in nature has given me the opportunity to see many animals, living and dead, since I’ve been here. I put together some images of animals in order from alive to somewhat alive to mostly dead to really dead. This isn’t a subject matter or approach that I normally use in my work, but I’ve taken on a “go with your instinct instead of your to-do list” approach to this residency. I suspect that being in a place where everyone is looking closely and intently at specimens has an effect.

I’ve been thinking about the ephemeral for my In the Air project and have been wondering if there’s a link in there somewhere to the idea of fleeting life. Maybe that has something to do with this animal focus as well.

Back to the guys bow fishing. When I was driving around on the map I saw a road that ran right south of a lake (Loon Lake) so I wanted to have a look. As I got there I saw a few teenagers bow fishing and have been curious about that since I started doing a little archery some years ago. I slowly made my way over and found quite a few large fish all around them and became even more curious. Apparently they come out to shoot carp as it is a problematic invasive species. The whole process was fascinating. A conservation officer stopped by to have a talk with them-come to find out the issue was leaving the fish there and being mindful of traffic/crossing the road. He told me that a few years ago a young girl was hit by a car and died there.

Observations/musings: life and death
Mood: excitement>>zoning out>>too tired to be excited but happy to be looking around>>cranky
Learned something new: I don’t dislike 4 am, the existence of bow fishing to remove carp

Day 5, Thursday, May 17
Woke up early with something gnawing at me. Why was this time of May significant? I went through my mental rolodex of friend and family birthdays and finally realized-the anniversary of Mikey’s death is here again. Was that why I was thinking about death yesterday? Or was it because I found out that the flowers on the pole near the carp fishers were for a young girl who died there a few years ago? So, mulling all of that over it made sense that the Loon Lake area is a place I should revisit, do some sound recordings, photograph and ponder and write. I’ve been thinking about connection to place and habit and psychology with the Curb project and recording sound in a location certainly has a connection to place as well.

So that was my first stop in the morning. I scouted and started making photos and sound recordings at the Loon Lake spillway. There was one person shooting carp then so I mustered up some conversation. He seemed open to helping out so I recorded him shooting a fish and pulling it out. I made another recording of one flopping around and as a bonus got some fish blood on me and the equipment.

Got back to class and started marking up earlier recordings. After lunch we went to Kettleson Hogsback and Fort Defiance to make some recordings.

We were also scouting out Kettleson Hogsback for the next day’s dawn chorus recording. Then, I got the text from Matt around 5 pm that the burn on the ILL property was about to start! I headed over and shot stills and video and recorded sound for a couple of hours until it was done. I included images that give a sense of the burn progression.

Then I had a late dinner and did the class readings. There is so much interesting information in those for me to mull over.

Observations/musings: pulling together ideas for a podcast, making connections to the personal
Mood: Holding on for dear life-so much experience and ideas in such a short time!
Learned something new: It’s not a good idea for me to try a lot at once-attempted a time lapse, stills, video and sound at the burn and that didn’t go well. Leads to errors and lack of focus.

Day 6, Friday, May 18
4:30 am Kettleson Hogsback dawn chorus recording. Watched the sun rise. Learned about hydrophones, did some kayaking and recording in the lake.

Fascinating thinking about how to experience the world in different ways. I typically do it visually, but this class has opened up the option to do it aurally. I was also thinking about what people focus on depending on interests, education, or profession. A botanist, architect, etc. will be looking at, looking for and drawn to different things when they are moving through the world. We all have very different realities I think. I’m not sure what to make of that-you can be in the same place at the same time as someone else and experience it very differently. That has come up in photo-if I assigned students to photograph the same subject, place or experience their projects would all be very different.

I went for another visit to Loon Lake to look around and ponder, maybe shoot or record some sound. As I tend to do, I went exploring. I was wondering about the little park to the left and found a dirt road entrance. Back there were a few campsites, a dock, a three-story observation tower and a cemetery! I’ve been thinking about a life/death theme lately so the cemetery was quite the find. And not a regular cemetery-this one is for early settlers of the area. Perhaps I can tie that in to the podcast as well. Record in three places. Quiet-cemetery. Loud-road. Water-also loud, but maybe do below? What would the three places symbolize? The three places of death definitely, but what could quiet/nature, loud/road and rushing/gurgling or bubbling/water stand for? Mull that over, but regardless, the juxtaposition could be interesting.

Observations/musings: Wow, do I like kayaking! I’ve been canoeing on a river before, but this was very different. I drive or walk or hike to relax and process and feel that kayaking could be a third way to do that. It was incredible relaxing while also being physical and I was able to bask in the sun.
Mood: just taking it all in
Learned something new: How to use hydrophones to record sound underwater!!

“Artists and scientists are both asking questions about the world, they’re just doing it in different ways”
Alex Braidwood
Director, Iowa Lakeside Lab Artists-in-Residence Program
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