Artist Records Sound of the Earth 5 Miles Deep

Lotte Geeven's "The Sound of the Earth" seismograph (all images courtesy the artist)
Lotte Geeven’s “The Sound of the Earth” seismograph (all images courtesy the artist)

The sound of being more than five and a half miles under the surface of the earth is something like a yawning, rumbling roar. Or at least that’s what Amsterdam artist Lotte Geeven captured in her “The Sound of the Earth” project, for which she descended into one of the deepest holes in the world.

Geeven is pretty brief about the 2013 work on her website, stating plainly that she traveled so far to find out about the world’s “mysteries and to record the sound of the deep earth.” A Designboom post on the project refers to the place as a “mysterious location […] on the Czech border,” although it appears to actually be the German Continental Deep Drilling Program (or Kontinentales Tiefbohrprogramm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), as indicated by the “KTB” on the photograph of the assisting engineers; the KTB superdeep borehole is also mentioned on the list of those who made the project possible. It’s not actually the deepest of the boreholes — that honor goes to the Kola Superdeep Borehole drilled by the Soviets — but it is the deepest one that’s accessible (the Kola site made it down some 7.6 miles before being abandoned and welded shut). The KTB borehole project was stopped for a time in the 1990s, until the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences started using it for seismic observation, and also collaborated with Geeven on her work.

Engineers at the surface of the borehole (courtesy Lotte Geeven)
Engineers at the surface of the borehole

The astounding engineering behind these sites could be a story on its own, but Geeven’s project is much more about this isolated sound itself. The artist — who has an upcoming residency and exhibition at May space in New Orleans — has previously created works that similarly examine the alterations of seemingly static space; for “There is a hole inside your eye” (2013), she chronicled the changing colors of a white-walled gallery through photographs, which she then plastered paint swatch–style over those walls. There’s also an earnest playfulness in her work, in the way she creates a human response to the inanimate in an attempt to understand and shape how we perceive the world. For “In Rarefied Air” (2013), she secretly propped an orange on a rooster-topped cupola 213 feet above a Belgian village to inspire a new myth.

“The Sound of Earth,” as captured in the video below, is presented not with looming images of borehole towers or photographs of Geeven descending as if in a Jules Verne epic into the darkness of the earth. It’s just the strange, aching sound and the swishing of a seismograph, recording the invisible, ever-shifting ground beneath our feet.

Read more about Lotte Geeven’s “The Sound of the Earth” and other projects on her website.

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