Along the coastline of southern England several giant concrete dishes where erected as an experimental acoustic detection system right after WOI. These Acoustic Mirrors were to reflect the sounds of inbound enemy aircrafts and focus these sounds into a microphone-like receiver setup in the middle of the dish. Manned continuously the sound would be picked up by a listening guard, who would in turn sound the alarm if necessary. However ingenious, the Concrete Ears –as they were referred to by locals– would never leave the experimental stage being overtaken by the far more efficient electronic RADAR system.
What remains are a number of obsolete monuments of a per-electronic time, slowly dissolving in their habitats.
In the project Concrete Ears notions of (anti-) monumentality and functionality are investigated departing from the Acoustic Mirrors and various other mobile listening devices. The project was initiated in the context of the Pompgemaal Residency (Mondriaan Fund), set in the coastline and military city of Den Helder, the Netherlands.
Installation view of Point /Loops/Blooming
Video: Katherine McBride
Microphone modeled after an original listening device. This setup is placed on the highest point in the area of Den Helder, pointing straight at one of the Acoustic Mirrors on the shore of England. The Microphone is a symbolic gesture to act as the missing counterpart that made the Acoustic Mirrors functional.