Cox and Carlyle

Air Pressure
Audio and Video

Artist Statement

Air Pressure is a collaboration between anthropologist Rupert Cox, sound artist Angus Carlyle, and the acoustic scientist Kozo Hiramatsu. The sound-film ‘Ki-atsu: the sound of the sky being torn’ shown here is part of the Air Pressure project, which explores the clash between traditional farming life in Japan and the technology and economy of an international airport through the sounds generated by their everyday life. It uses sound recordings as well as on-site and archive film to represent the sonic experiences of living and working on a farm that is surrounded by the airport’s infrastructure and constantly monitored by surveillance and sound measuring mechanisms.

Two remaining farming families – of the estimated 360 who arrived after WWII – still live at the end of the runway at Narita International Airport in Japan. This project follows one family, the Shimamuras, who refused to move elsewhere despite pressure from the authorities. The original farming community of Sanrizuka had spent 20 years turning cedar forest and scrub into productive arable land, the fertility of the soil derived from the weathering of volcanic ash sent up by the eruptions of Mt. Fuji. In 1966 the Japanese Government set about securing the Sanrizuka farming land in order to build what was then called the New Tokyo International Airport. A bitter struggle played out over the next 12 years until the airport opened in May 1978. Farmers and their supporters built tunnel complexes, “fortress towers,” and chained themselves to trees. The police used water cannons, baton charges, and at one point more than 200 construction vehicles in an effort to clear the site. There were deaths on both sides.

Air Pressure is primarily based around two periods of field work in Japan, one scheduled to coincide with the harvest in 2010 and one coinciding with the sowing season of 2011. All the recordings were made on the site of the Shimamura farm, a family who continues to make their livelihood from an organic small-holding with fields of fruit and vegetables, pens of pigs, and a barn with egg-laying hens. The farm where we lived and worked is almost completely engulfed by the architecture of the airport. More than this, the environment is frequently submerged beneath the blurring din of taxiing jets, a din that is punctuated by the roaring descent of planes shuddering through the sky some 80 meters above ground. Amidst all this, the farmers – Shimamura-San, Fujiko-San and their two sons – continue to grow their 50 varieties of vegetables, supported by feelings of solidarity and committed to a ‘slow life’ movement and making things oi-shii (“delicious”).

 Air Pressure has been an installation at the Whitworth Gallery (Manchester, UK) in 2011-12, exhibited as the film ‘Ki-atsu’ at the Albuquerque museum in New Mexico (2012-13) and part of the ISEA 2012 festival of electronic arts and the International ‘Bideodromo 2012’ (Bilbao Spain) festival of experimental film. The project is also available as a book and CD through the label Gruenrekorder.

This project was generously funded by a grant from The Wellcome Trust Arts Awards scheme.

Rupert Cox is an anthropologist working in Japan carrying out research into questions of sensory knowledge and using art practices as a form of research. His current work is on the anthropology of sound, investigating questions about the politics of noise from the perspectives of acoustic science, sound studies and sound art. His most recent project ‘Air Pressure’ (2010 -) about the effects of aircraft noise resulted in a sound installation, sound-films and CD. His original research (2005-6) into sound matters arose from questions about the nature of Zen experience. Current research for 2012 and beyond uses sound recordings and film in investigating the idea of military aircraft sound as a ‘Sound of Freedom’ focusing on the effects on environment and health of aircraft noise generated from US military bases in Okinawa.

Angus Carlyle is a researcher at CRiSAP at the University of the Arts, London. He is curious about how we make sense of our environment, through sound and through our other senses. He edited the book “Autumn Leaves” for Double Entendre (2007), made the sound work “51° 32 ‘ 6.954” N / 0° 00 ‘ 47.0808” W” for the “Sound Proof” group show (2008), co-curated the exhibition “Sound Escapes” at Space Gallery in London (2009) and produced the CD “Some Memories of Bamboo” (2009) for the label Gruenrekorder. He recently (2012) completed a sixth month residency project called “Viso Come Territorio” / “Face As Territory”, a collaboration with 7 photographers based around a village on a Southern.