Sam Griffin: Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map

Work / Art

Sam Griffin: The Olduvai Cliff

We get some unusual invites here at It’s Nice That but a sound installation aimed at tackling the January blues, based on apocalyptic visions and neolithic communal experiences? You’ve charmed me. We spoke to artist Sam Griffin about his work, in an interview in which he used the phrase “archeo-acoustics” more than once. We were intrigued…

The Olduvai Cliff was set up at The Architecture Foundation on Monday night (statistically the most depressing day of the year apparently) and consisted of a specially-designed soundscape pitched at 111Hz. Sam and his collaborators Guy Wood and Jo Wills measured out the space to create what he calls “nodes and anti-nodes” around the room, so the experience is different wherever you are in the gallery.

Predominantly a visual artist, Sam has a longstanding fascination with the interplay between acoustics and physical spaces.

“I am interested in buildings as vessels for experience and the way different types of buildings are designed to facilitate communal, transcendental experiences, whether it’s a church, a night club or a concert hall.”

The idea for this piece – which was previously shown in Paris and in a central London gallery – came about after he was introduced to the research of Paul Devereux, who is at the forefront “of this nascent field of academia called archeo-acoustics.”

Devereux visited neolithic burial grounds with an oscillator and a speaker system and found this particular frequency – 111Hz – had a similarly significant effect on sites which were hundreds of miles apart.

“They all seemed to resonate at this same frequency which would be an incredible coincidence. These places could have been used for some communal chanting, with the correct frequency activating the whole place, making it shake.

“ I was interested in whether you could do that in an exhibition space.”

The sound is built on three levels, corresponding to the height, length and width of the room although in a previous incarnation in a much smaller room the overall effect was so oppressive visitors found they couldn’t bear to spend more than a few minutes inside it.

“It’s really a sort of theatre,” says Sam, manipulating sound to create an invisible structure.

With these kind of big ideas, it will be great to see what else Sam has up his sleeve.